“You’re so boring now.”
I think that statement was one of the hardest ones for me to hear in terms of a reaction from someone towards me doing the Whole Life Challenge.
The comments, ‘So what do you eat?,’ ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing.’, and ‘Just one bit won’t hurt,’ were all ones that I had heard before, and I could deal with those. (You can read about how I handled those questions/comments here and here.)
Hearing that I had become a boring person?
That was something different.
I’m glad that I heard this comment when I was on my 3rd Whole Life Challenge. Had I heard it during a previous challenge I think it would have thrown me off track. However, having the experience of successfully completing the WLC and seeing what a positive impact it has on my life overall, I was able to handle this a lot better.
The statement bothered me for sure, but I didn’t let it sway me. Instead, after a couple days, I wrote an email to my friend and told her that what she had said hurt me because I did not want to feel like my choices in terms of what I ate or drank would make me a boring person and that I was making a conscientious effort to better myself and I would have hoped she would have been supportive no matter what my choices were.
She of course felt terrible that she had made me feel that way. She apologized. I accepted. We moved on.
My attitude and the way I interact with people has gradually changed over the past few years. I can break these changes down into 3 phases.
Phase 1: Before the WLC or maybe even during my 1st round — I would have probably let that comment influence my behavior. Instead of sticking to my plan, I would have probably given in and joined the crowd … and later felt bad/guilty for not having stuck to my guns.
Phase 2: As I stuck to the WLC and saw positive results — I would stick to my plan but feel a bit awkward/uncomfortable about not joining in. When asked why I wasn’t eating/drinking I’d explain what I was doing and it would often feel like I was trying to justify my choices/actions. People wouldn’t always understand.
Phase 3: Well into a few rounds of the WLC — I would stick to my plan without hesitation, but I would be smarter about how I ‘handled’ the crowd. The pivotal moment for me was when I traveled to Germany for my best friend’s wedding. The first event was held at a bar and I knew I didn’t want to drink. Instead of making a big deal of it or even saying anything to anyone, I went up to the bar and had the bartender pour me a glass of water ‘on the rocks’ in a highball glass. I ‘nursed’ my glass of water and had several refills throughout the night. When people would ask – you got something to drink, I would nod and raise my glass. I realized that it really didn’t matter what I was drinking, it was more of a social thing – I should be holding a glass of something. Having that glass of water allowed me to participate in the scene; it also allowed me to say ‘no thanks I’m good’ when someone offered to buy me a drink (without saying I’ll just have water). I didn’t stand out. I realized that people’s reactions to me doing the WLC didn’t have anything to do with me, it was just about them and their interpretations — and I wasn’t going to let that bother me.
Now it’s not always about ‘playing the game.’ I never really had to use that ‘glass of water illusion’ again. However that whole circumstance was eye opening to me and it helped me move on and try to figure out how I would make social occasions easier for me — how to make it so that I wasn’t hiding what I was doing but I also wasn’t ostracizing myself by being different.
Here are a few strategies I use – I hope you find them helpful:
If you’re invited out to dinner/going out to eat:
1) If you’re invited out to dinner and you can choose the place to eat, research a few places that you know will accommodate your choices and go there.
2) If you’re invited out to dinner and you can’t choose the place to eat, explore the menu before hand and see if there’s anything compliant or anything you can adapt to suit your needs. If there isn’t a lot of choice, eat something before hand and customize what you can at the restaurant.
3) If you’re invited out to dinner and you can’t do any of the above – make choices that you’ll be happy with. Know that circumstances won’t be perfect all the time. Losing a ‘point’ isn’t the end of the world.
If you’re invited to someone’s house for dinner:
4) Call them in advance and tell them what you’re doing and that you wanted to know what was going to be served. If it’s something that you can’t eat, then tell them that unfortunately you won’t be able to partake in the dinner but that you would still love to come and enjoy their company if that would be ok. I’ve found that this personal call works wonders! It’s not a big deal when you get to the party. The host/hostess knows from beforehand so they can be supportive of your choice. Handling this before hand also means that it doesn’t become a big talking point at the party. I have no problem talking about the WLC, but a party when people are drinking and chowing down on all sorts of non-compliant foods is not the right time or place. People don’t want to feel guilty about their choices, even if your intention is not to make them feel guilty that’s how a lot of people feel (or uncomfortable) when you talk about eating healthy as they eat party snacks.
5) If it’s a sit down dinner it can be a bit more awkward. However, again, I call the host/hostess and tell them what I’m doing. A lot of times I’ve found that they’ll ask me what I can/can’t eat and they’ll prepare something for me. Those gestures have meant the most to me. They’ve really gone above and beyond to help me stay true to something that’s important to me.
6) If they can’t accommodate your choices (which is absolutely fine) but it’s still a sit down dinner, I’ve asked if I can bring my own food. I explain that I don’t want to be an inconvenience and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable at the dinner by having an empty plate in front of me, but I do want to enjoy their company. In my circle of friends I have become known for bringing my own meals. From salads, to chicken and sweet potatoes, to my own slice of apple cake — it’s been done and it has worked! Sometimes I’ve eaten out of my own tupperware box and other times they’ve plated my food for me.
Anything new and unfamiliar can feel intimidating. Anything out of the ordinary can be met with skepticism and criticism.
The more I continued to practice and tweak how I dealt with social circumstances, the easier it became. When I believed in what I was doing and I truly felt positive and happy about the choices I was making it became a lot easier for me to relax and enjoy myself. This also meant if I wanted to partake in my best friend’s birthday celebration and enjoy a piece of cake, then I would do that too. It was all about figuring out exactly what I wanted, which in itself isn’t easy because it wasn’t really about what I wanted at that moment, it was also about what I wanted in the long-term (overall health, overall happiness).
Briefly, here’s what I have learned:
1. Figure out what you want and decide to stick to it without feeling guilty or upset or uncomfortable.
2. Understand that things don’t always go according to plan; learn to accept that without feeling guilty or upset or uncomfortable.
3. Private explanations vs. public declarations of what you are doing and why your choices are important to you are much better received. Let your host in on your ‘secret’ and they’ll appreciate your consideration.
4. I have the right to be happy too. Many times I would compromise my own happiness/comfort for the sake of making someone else happy. No more. My decisions are my decisions. While I do not want to make someone uncomfortable or upset, I also know that I deserve the same consideration.
The best part of all of this is that now people associate the Whole Life Challenge with me. They know that when they’ll come to my house they’ll be eating a compliant meal, and they’ve become curious about how they too can navigate within the parameters of the challenge. My friends now ask me if there is anything that they can prepare for me – without me having to take the first step. Is everyone on the same page? No. That’s fine too. Again, figure out what you want and what will make you happy and stick to it without hesitation.
It feels good to know that the ‘challenge’ aspect of the WLC is lessening and instead it really is very close to being my ‘whole life.’
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