Congratulations! You have decided to eat healthier; you are logging the food you eat, watching your portion sizes, and making healthy ingredient choices, including the foods you bring home to prepare for your family. If you have a supportive family, that’s fantastic, since research shows that support is key in maintaining long lasting health change. But there are many who want to make healthy changes and find that they are not supported in their efforts by their family members. This is common since one person in the family changing can cause waves that affect the rest of the family. But with some awareness and preparation you and your family can learn to surf these waves of change instead of being tossed about by them.
Easy Does It
Most people will be more agreeable to change if there is gradual transition rather than sudden change. Keep this in mind and aim for subtlety. For example, instead of completely removing all salt from your cooking all at once, try gradually decreasing it. For canned foods use half a can of low sodium mixed with half a can of regular sodium. Then gradually change the proportions to favor the low sodium and the taste buds will adapt slowly. Or, try one or two new healthy recipes per week or introduce one new vegetable per week as opposed to overhauling your entire weekly menu. Whatever will help your family feel invited to come along for the ride instead of feeling run over.
Ditch the Drama
Walking into the house one day and making a bold announcement that “This is now a healthy food home” may not be the best way to get your family on board with changes you would like to make. Just serve a new dish without fanfare and without extolling its’ nutritional benefits and continue on with your meal as usual, without any fuss or anxiety. If someone reacts negatively, don’t react to their drama with more drama.
Keep a Sense of Humor
Maybe a new recipe simply turns out awful and you can all just have a good laugh about it.
Take a Back Door Approach
Have some family members who are resistant to eating vegetables? Sneak ‘em in! Chop up things like carrots, peppers and celery and add them to things like tuna salad. Puree cooked eggplant, carrots, and zucchini and add to marinara sauces. Add shredded veggies to your meatloaf, cauliflower to your mashed potatoes, etc. etc., you get the idea, have fun and get creative in your sneakery!
Speaking to Saboteurs
The easiest way to get someone to change is to change your own behavior. Considering the viewpoint and emotions of the saboteurs can be difficult but it will be helpful in reaching your goals. Their behavior might be unconscious or they could feel threatened by change. Don’t assume they know what your intentions are or that they know that what they are doing is affecting you. Ask them if they have concerns about the changes you are making and what they are. Tell them you need their help. Tell them why what you are doing is important to you and also let your behavior do the talking by sticking to your guns with your food logging, portion control and healthy ingredient choices. When they engage in behavior that sabotages your efforts, you may need to say out loud, “This is not helpful to me.”
Making food related changes can be a complex and delicate issue and every family situation is different. Focus on the benefits of improved health and longevity that good nutrition provides to all of you as opposed to what is being taken away. Express to each family member how these benefits relate specifically to them in order to to get as much as much buy in, participation, and support from your family as possible.