Special occasions and holidays are joyful times of reunion and overflowing love and support. I bet you just can’t wait to get back to see everyone so they can ooh and ahh over the changes you’ve made, and encourage you to go even further!
Well, we can dream.
Visiting family can be… interesting.
Your loved ones knew you when you were different. You’ve come a long way since the old days, but sometimes, family members don’t know how to act around that kind of change.
They haven’t seen you all this time you’ve been changing and growing. Because they haven’t seen you make the sacrifices to get where you are today, they don’t know exactly how hard you’ve been working. They don’t experience the growth first-hand along with you.
This conundrum often leads to a disastrous outcome at family gatherings. Feelings are hurt. People get frustrated and angry. And quite often, goals derail due to the overwhelming pressure from family members to go back to old habits.
My personal training clients would often come back from family gatherings with heads hung and wilted energy. Their skin sallow and dull, their eyelids hanging heavy.
“I was committed to staying healthy when I left,” they say pleadingly. “But when I got home, my family wouldn’t let me.”
Sound familiar? How about this:
You’re not even going to have one? But you always have one of everything!
Oh, just skip your workout today and spend time watching TV with the family. The clicker burns calories, too!
Come on, it’s a special occasion. You’ll lose it all in a week.
I made all your favorites. ALL of them.
Don’t hurt Auntie’s feelings. You have to try it. One bite won’t hurt… well, now you may as well eat the whole thing.
You haven’t even lost that much weight anyway. What’s a cookie gonna change?
You’re just being difficult.
This love-based attack is unfortunately quite familiar to just about all of us. I believe family members truly do want the best for you, but they don’t realize that the best is the result of every choice you make… including the ones made during holidays and special occasions.
In addition to that, the people who knew you when you were different expect you to always be that same person, never growing, never changing. You know how you grow up with little siblings and you always expect them to be the little 13-year-old you knew…. then you come home and they’re 28?! It’s the same case with you and your family members.
Their comments can be disheartening or even downright hurtful. Here’s the good news: they do not decide the choices you make. It may be harder to make the choices that are right for you when your family is unsupportive, but you can still make the decision to keep the commitment you’ve made to yourself.
So how do you stay healthy through the holidays or when you go home for a visit? I suggest starting with considering where their comments are coming from. It could help you better understand their perspective (rather than thinking they’re just doing it to push your buttons… which may also be a little part of it ;)).
Usually, when family members express their disappointment or annoyance about you choosing not to over-indulge, it’s because of one of these issues:
- They love you and want you to fully enjoy your life. They think that you avoiding sugar and processed junk may hinder your fulfillment.
- They knew you when you were different, and expect those old actions from you now.
- They may be a little jealous of the changes you’ve made, and would feel more comfortable if you were your old shape and mindset. Maybe they feel guilty that they haven’t changed as much as you, and they wish they could do the same thing. (and they can!)
None of these reasons have to do with your worthiness of their love. You don’t need to show them that you love them, or earn their love with unhealthy choices.
But that doesn’t mean that their comments won’t hurt. You’ll care what they say because these people matter to you. You want to please them because you love them so much.
Here are some tips for fielding the comments in a way that might prevent further barbs…
Explain why you make these choices. If you’ve become healthier over the last year, let them know that this result has come because of making the right choices. You don’t feel the need to eat all the things you used to eat. Let them know that this matters to you, and you’d really like their support.
Let them know how overeating sugary non-foods makes you feel. You know that over-eating this crap makes you feel lethargic, fuzzy-headed and regretful afterwards. Let them know that you feel good, inside and out, when you eat healthy and clean. Blatantly inform them that overeating foods that make you feel horrible won’t make you happy; it will do the opposite.
If something hurts, say it. Say Uncle Ned says something that does more than rub you the wrong way; it feels like a punch in the stomach. Let him know it hurts. Let him know you love him, and that comments like that make you feel like you’re getting drop-kicked. He might not know how hurtful he’s being. He might think twice next time he takes a jab like that if he knows how much it bothers you.
…OR don’t worry about explaining yourself. Smile. Know they love you anyway. Know they’re making these comments because they love you, or because there’s something going on with them that prompts them to remark on your choices. Then, do what makes you happy.
If you have to resort to the final tactic because of stubborn family members, don’t worry. It’s entirely possible to stay on track even if you’re getting bombarded from all directions.
When family pressure rolls in, ask yourself this one question:
What do you care about more: your present and future, or making them feel more comfortable?
Your then is not your now. You are not here for other people’s comfort. You are here for you, and your why still matters, even when you’re without the support you’d hope for from family members.
All this pressure can lead you to that frantic should-I-or-shouldn’t-I state, which often leads to bingeing and regret the next day. When you feel your anxiety rising up and threatening to throw you right back into old habits, pull out your why again.
Why are you eating healthy and exercising in the first place? Why does it matter so much to you?
Remember what’s important. This is what matters. This is why sticking to your guns is worth it.
In the end, know how you feel and why you do it. Breathe into your center and remember that you don’t need to let go of everything you’ve worked so hard for in order to earn their love. They love you anyway. The new you just may take some getting used to. And that’s a good thing.
You are strong enough to handle this holiday and come out no worse for the wear. Don’t be afraid. You can do this. Make the commitment now, and refuse to let it go. It is yours.
pic by mynameisharsha