Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

One Common Health Mistake Smart People Should Avoid In 2012

By Jamie Koonce @charcuterielove

One Common Health Mistake Smart People Should Avoid In 2012The most common health mistake I see intelligent people making that must STOP in 2012 is…

being critical of friends & family members who don’t eat the way you do.

This goes both ways, whether you’re the health nut or the health rebel.  There is nothing more detrimental to a relationship than criticizing another person’s food while they are eating it or saying something negative about a person’s appearance and blaming them for looking that way because of a particular food that person eats (or doesn’t eat).  For instance, if your loved one has adopted a vegan diet and you don’t agree with it or understand it, the wost thing you can do is try to convert the person into a meat-eater at the dinner table.  Likewise, if you’ve recently adopted a healthier way of eating (real foods diet, vegetarian, vegan, paleo, juicing, mindful eating, macrobiotics, or other non-Standard American Diet styles of eating), trying to proselytize to your loved one while he or she goes through the McDonald’s drive-through is not the way to turn him or her on to real foods, gluten-free, juicing, or whatever it is that you think your loved one should be eating.

How to Get Others to Change

The only effective way to get anyone to change their ways is to lead by example.  It’s okay to share your “before” and “after” story about how getting grains out of your diet, eating only real foods, going raw, juicing, etc. improved your life, but it’s not a good idea to say things like “You should or shouldn’t eat X,” especially if the other person is sitting across the table from you eating it (or not eating it) right now!

Be aware that some people are not looking to change their diet right now, or if they do want to change it, they may not want to do so in the same way that you want them to.  The most powerful motivator for someone to change their diet is for weight loss — not for reversing diabetes, eliminating chronic pain, getting rid of asthma and allergies, decreasing risk of heart disease, or repairing their tooth enamel and healing cavities without going to the dentist.  And most are only willing to change their diet for a finite number of days or weeks in order to lose weight.  If you have someone in your life who enjoys an occasional trip to McDonald’s for a burger, fries, and Coke, or if you have someone in your life who’s stopped eating meat in lieu of tofu, or is doing some other style of eating that you don’t think is healthy, accept the fact that the other person may not want to change anything right now — especially if the person does not perceive that he or she needs to lose weight.

Coaching Versus Policing

There a difference between what I do as a health & nutrition coach, and what many people do in acting like the “food police” to their friends and family.  When I’m out with friends or at a family gathering, do you think that I critique what everyone is eating or notify them that I don’t like their appearance and think it’s because they’re eating unhealthful food?  Heck no!  If my best friend wants to go to Taco Bell for “fourth meal” on a Friday night, who am I to judge?  It doesn’t mean I have to participate in eating a Mexican pizza at 2 AM, but I can still hang out and have a fun time with a good friend (if I’m even awake that late at night, which would be kinda rare).  But if that same friend came to me and said they were having heartburn at night and struggling to lose 10 pounds of fat around their waist, and are wondering if I have any suggestions, I’d be more than happy to mention that late night trips to Taco Bell may not be in their best interests.

It would be the same for a friend or family member who has decided to go vegan.  Although I was a vegan for 5 years, and found that it did not work for me over the long-term, I’m not going to critique vegan friends or try to sneak meat onto their plate and tell them it’s a new kind of seitan or Quorn that is surprisingly meaty.  That would just be mean and disrespectful.  But if that vegan friend came to me and said they were feeling unusually cold all the time, are noticing an increase in dental problems, and are lacking in energy and stamina despite a daily juicing regimen, I will of course put in my two cents about how the vegan diet can slow down your metabolism, make you cold, and ruin your teeth.*

So in 2012, do yourself and everyone around you a favor by leading by example instead of playing the role of food police to your friends and family members.  You might notice that people will stop avoiding you on weekends, you develop closer friendships and better relationships with your family, and you might start getting invited to more social events in 2012.

*At least for some people, this is true.  Others may not notice these side effects of a vegan diet, or these problems may not occur until being on the diet for several years.

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