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Just One Bite Won't Hurt (and Other Annoying Things People Say)

(What's with all the burger pix, Traci? Are you trying to trigger us?)

I became a vegetarian in 2008, a year after my oldest daughter had announced that she was no longer going to eat meat. She went back to eating it, but the transition for me wasn't hard at all. The toughest part, honestly, was the effect it had on the people around me. "But, I come to your parties just for the food, Aunt Traci!" (Gee, thanks.) "Where are you going to get your protein?" (There have been vegetarians since Biblical times, Mom). And my favorite, "If you were on a deserted island, would you eat meat, or starve?" (Believe me, I'd *love* to be stranded on a deserted island sometimes.)

When we adopt *any* kind of change--especially when it comes to food, dieting, weight loss, or the like--we can trigger extreme reactions in others. People can get really weird about it, too!

I had a client just this morning tell me a story about her in-laws--specifically her mother-in-law-- that reminded me of how some people will go to extremes to control other people's behavior. In this story, my client and her husband and his family went on a tour of Ferry Farm, where George Washington grew up. It's a self-guided tour and the establishment offers iPads to use during the tour to get additional information.

My client shared with me that she didn't want to lug the iPad around, but was content looking around, reading and seeing "in real time." She didn't want it to be an electronic experience, and just didn't want to have to carry an iPad around the whole time.

Unfortunately, her mother-in-law couldn't let go of her own expectation about the way everyone should experience the museum. Instead, she kept bringing it up ("Why don't you want to use it?"), drawing attention to her own iPad ("Look at this!") and generally being obsessed by the fact that my client wasn't using one.

The thing is, my client was the one who was told she was "being ridiculous" for not giving in. "It's just an iPad. What's the problem?" Why was no one looking at the fact that her mother-in-law wasn't respecting her boundaries?

This happens ALL THE TIME with food. When I first became vegetarian, people would offer me a bite of their food and say, "Just one bite won't hurt." We go to the office and everyone is having cake, and if we say, "No thank you" everyone else gets butt hurt about it. "What's wrong with cake?"

As we begin to achieve our health goals, the pressure gets worse. "You've lost so much weight already. Just one donut isn't going to hurt." "You're getting too thin." Or the toughest one of all, "Aunt Edna made this just for you because she knows it's your favorite."

So how can we handle it? There are two core ways to address food pushers and control freaks. One is to be VERY clear about our boundaries and stick to it. The other is to "give in" for the sake of the relationship.

Which one is best? It depends. It depends on which one is going to feel best to you after its over. For me, there is no world in which I'll ever take "just one bite" of meat again. It's a core value of mine. But, I absolutely would take a piece of Aunt Edna's lemon pie (even though I'm now vegan) to save her feelings. But, if I had a history of conflict with Aunt Edna always judging me and trying to control my behavior, I'd likely hold firm to "no."

The main thing is to do what I call "see through to the other side of the choice." If you eat the thing, how are you going to feel? If you don't, how are you going to feel?

I often tell my clients, "We teach people how to treat us." If we violate our own boundary for the sake of someone else, you can absolutely count on them continuing to push our boundaries. If they learn that "no means no," then most folks will give it up and stop pushing.

Get okay with the fact that other people aren't going to like your choices. This way, when you DO choose to compromise, you're doing it for YOU and not them.

December Gratitude Challenge Day 7: What is something that makes you smile?

You Teach People How To Treat You.
Traci Shoblom
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