November 28th, 2015 | Posted By: Magdalena Wszelaki | Posted in Adrenals, Anti-Candida, Articles, Estrogen Dominance, Menopause, PCOS, Thyroid

You Don’t Need to Apologize at the Dinner Table When You Change Your Diet

You Don’t Need to Apologize at the Dinner Table When You Change Your Diet

The holiday season can trigger many emotions. My friend who is a New York-based psychotherapist says that November and December are her busiest months. Most of the stress can stem from family relations.

In my closed and close-knit Facebook group, there was a long and heartfelt conversation about feeling odd and unsupported during family get-togethers when we change our diet.

These comments stirred up a lot of emotions and the life coach in me rose up so I wrote the following note this morning; I hope it will help you to think about family interactions in some new ways.

Because really, you should not apologize or feel bad for having chosen to honor your body.

1. Share how are you feeling and why are you doing it

Many of my clients have found it useful to tell a family member: “You know, what I’m doing is not another fad diet to lose 10lb. It’s a way of eating that makes me feel really good – my pain and brain fog are gone and I feel like I can be a better mom/wife/person. I hope you can support me on this journey.”


“I’m dealing with an autoimmune disease which is serious and the latest science shows that targeted nutrition can really help. So, what I’m doing is not another fad diet to lose 10lb, it’s a therapeutic protocol. And, I’m already feeling the benefits — my pain and brain fog is gone and I can be a better mom/wife/person. I would really like to keep going with it.”

Change the wording so that it feels good and natural to you. These are just examples.

2. Ask for help and support

Typically, when we ask someone for help, not many people would say “no.” Right?

This is another angle to explore: “Can you help me with something? I’ve changed the way I’m eating because it makes me feel really good. I don’t want to be on meds for the rest of my life and I am already starting to feel good for the first time in years. I know it’s maybe not what you are used to eating but I really need your support and help on this healing journey. Can you do that?”

3. Validate their skepticism

First and foremost, we all love to give opinions. Every time I post a question on Facebook when I need an opinion, this post will have ten times more replies and comments than any other post. Giving an opinion makes us feel heard and important.

The same human desire for self-importance is what drives people to give an opinion on what and how you are eating. Let them have it. In fact, take it further and validate their feelings. Make it about them and not about YOU this time. Validation normalizes their feelings.

What would validation look like? Here is one example: “I know that this new way of eating might look odd to you and it is normal as you have been seeing a lot of fad diets [or insert whatever push-back are getting from them]. I totally hear you and it’s OK that you feel this way. Having said that, this is what I need to share with you (…)” and then proceed to tell them how it’s helping you and that you need their support.

Don’t use the word “but” after you validated them – it undermines everything you just told them. This means don’t say “I hear you *but* here is how I’m eating” but rather: “I hear you *and* this is how I’m eating.”

4. Bring compassion – because it’s their fear, not yours

Did you know that often times people project their fears on us? The classic example of a husband who is overly jealous and accuses his wife of infidelity when he is the one with a mistress on the side. Sometimes when a person is lashing out at us, they are just projecting their own fears.

What fears? Well, many people know they should change their diets (the doctors told them or they have enough intuition to feel it) but they would not do it. Why? Because changing the way they are eating is one of the hardest things to do (you know that, too!) and many people are just too scared to change their diets.

So what do they do? They project their own fear on you which is a natural self-defense mechanism (just like the cheating husband).

Fear can be a powerful trigger of our behavior. Once you understand and realize this piece, you can bring more empathy and compassion to the table and not let it affect you as much.

5. Become an example and inspiration of health and transformation

Gail in our Hormone Thrivers group (a closed group for anyone who had joined any of my programs) wrote: “People take me seriously now. I have lost 85 pounds and have 35 pounds to a healthy weight for my age and height.”

Sometimes talking about the changes we plan to make can be tiresome for others. “Oh, there she is again, another project or diet. Have we not heard this one before?”

If you have been talking in the past about diets and projects that never happened or produced results, then stop. You need to act and not talk about it.

Do what you need to do, get the results, and let people come to you and say “Wow, you look amazing. What have you done?”

Time and time, I’ve found this to be working wonders with family and friends. They see the results for themselves and it inspires them to either do the same or respect you.

“Well, I got off a few foods that were sabotaging my health and I learned to cook with a few new things and it’s working!” Bam! This will make you the biggest agent of change and inspiration in your immediate and distant family.

Actions, not words.

6. Don’t preach and dispense unsolicited advice

The worse thing is dispensing unsolicited advice like “Stop eating gluten, it will help you with ABC, just the way it helped me.” It just never works with family and close friends. Strangers in online forums are more likely to take your advice than family and close friends. Ironic as it might sound, that is the truth and I’ve experienced it with my own family members. Instead, try approach 5 above.

7. Inspire others with your own food

The worse I’ve seen are people with many food sensitivities who join a dinner party without notifying the host, and then they announce that they can’t eat most of the dishes. That’s passive-aggressive behavior which you should not have to tolerate.

If you are this person with many food sensitivities, bring your own food. And, I don’t mean just your own plate of food, I mean: Bring a few dishes that you can eat and share with others. And! Make them super delicious. This way more people will be inspired by how tasty healthy food can be.

Inspire with wonderful food and many people will follow.

Speaking of inspiration, here is a recipe collection we’ve put together for Thanksgiving. All the featured recipes are free of gluten, dairy, soy, and corn and are [fairly] low in sugar, or so we tried :-).

8. What else are they judging you for?

I find that when someone harshly judges us by our food choices, they most likely judge us on everything else – how we raise the kids, how we dress, how to behave, what we earn, where we work and the list goes on.

What if you use their judgment as a filter to gauge how close you want to be to them? You can’t choose your family but it’s within your power to decide how close you want to be with them. You can use the same filter with friends. The good thing about friends is that we can choose them and true friendships are based on unconditional love and acceptance.

The same thing goes for our life partners. We marry to form a union. What kind of union is that without unconditional support and love? (This is assuming you clearly communicated that you need that support). What else is your partner not supporting you with? Is it just food or other things that feel uncomfortable for him? Is your partner the right person for you in the long term?

These are tough questions but they should be asked as they can be a great filter and create plenty of clarity where you are headed to next.

9. Hold on to your power

We possess incredible power and desire within our hearts and minds to change and thrive. Find that confidence and strength in yourself to stand up for your dietary changes and don’t let others dim these lights.

If the people close to you are not supportive (maybe not yet) and you feel like you need that support, find a partner – in person or online and let them be the beacon of light that you need. Remember, nobody can take that power of change away from you.

10. Stop apologizing

When people go vegetarian, vegan or eat kosher or halal food, we accept their nutritional or religious choices with no questions (other than the ones to clarify what food they can eat). I don’t ever remember my vegan friends apologizing for their dietary choices before coming for dinner.

Why should people question the dietary choices that we adopt not on a whim but to honor our bodies?

Do not apologize for your choices. Explain why you do it (see point 1 above) so it gives them a sense of context (the brief “why”) but doesn’t feel like you need lengthy explanations. Or apologies. You do not.

 11. Rehearse before the gathering

Visualization is a powerful tool to prepare for the final performance. I used to be a competitive junior skier until age 15 and our coach would make us close our eyes, focus and visualize the whole race from start to finish. Every turn, every possibility. The results were stunning. Every time I raced, I felt I’m doing it the 3rd time, only way better and with way better time.

Table conversations can get tense and what you thought you were going to say might not come out the way you wanted. This is why it’s very helpful to practice beforehand. You know what each family member’s tendencies and snarky remarks might be. Using the tools in this article, pick one or two that resonate with you and practice. Visualize the situation in your head. Rehearse what your reply (not reaction) will be. Be kind. Be empathetic. Remember, it’s often them projecting their s^&% on you and your family.

12. Be selfish, this one time

As women, we are born givers. We give and give and give. We give to please. We give because we love. We sometimes give to get something back. Some of us give for the fear of not delivering what’s expected. “I will make that pumpkin pie with gluten and dairy as they all expect to have a ‘traditional pie’ and they don’t want gluten-free.”

The problem with giving so much is that we create a habit where constant giving becomes the norm and we lose the sense of self. Running around and cooking for everyone else becomes the norm. And the result? Our sense of importance and respect for self-diminishes. We lose ourselves in giving. Our bodies suffer and we feel bad yet again for not eating the way our body and spirit feel the best.

I will ask you just this one time: when it comes to your food choices, stop giving what others want and be selfish. This one time. Do what your body asks for. Find the time for what your body needs. Learn to cook what you know agrees with you so you heal and thrive. (Which by the way, will benefit the whole family.) You can give in so many other ways. But not this one.

How do you feel about these points? If you were to try one of two, which ones would you try?

35 Comments to You Don’t Need to Apologize at the Dinner Table When You Change Your Diet

  1. Thank you so much for this post! Since changing the way that I eat 6 years ago I have struggled with in my family to explain my choices and mostly I have felt unsupported. Your post has now given me the tools to verbally express myself and to feel strong.

    • Magdalena,
      As I’m reading your post, I’m thinking, “are there really women who apologize about how they eat”?
      I remember when my son was little and I’d pack his food when my husband took him to his mothers.
      His family made all sorts of nasty remarks, like I was some sort of freak, but they ate nothing but junk food and I wasn’t allowing my son to eat any of it.
      I finally had enough of the comments and asked, ” why is feeding my son healthy so offensive to you? No one asked for your opinion and if you don’t like it, too f’n bad, it’s my son and I don’t want him to be like you, fat and unhealthy.” That was the end of that! Why is it ok for someone to question you and you just sit back and take it? You are grown women, you don’t need to explain yourselves to anyone!
      I would never feel weird or ashamed about what I do with my life and neither should anyone who makes a positive change.

      • Hi Julie,
        Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you stood up for what you believe in. It’s a great lesson.
        Warmly, Angela HB Team

    • Hi Amy,
      I’m so glad you shared your experience. Thank you for letting us know that the article was helpful. Keep eating well and being proud if it, no matter what!
      Kindly, Angela HB Team

  2. I hesitate taking on hormone rebalancing because I cannot have any form of soy for health issues. Any comments?

    • Hi Joanne,
      Magdalena works with hormone balancing nutrition. No soy at all 🙂

  3. Really good points. I like the examples you give to respond to critics. Very helpful.

  4. Thank you for these helpful suggestions how to get along with other people while you do for yourself what you need to do

  5. Magdalena,
    Thank you for that article and the sheer wisdom of it. I believe that most of those 11 points can be applicable to almost every situation where there is some confrontation because we are not in total agreement with the status quo. But that’s OK we are all on different levels and different paths. How boring if we all had the same thoughts, filters, thoughts, ideas and desires.
    Bless you for doing you work.

  6. Thanks Magdalena for your timely insight. I love all of your points especially #7. I always enjoy my families reaction when they eat “my food” thinking its going to be blah, but then they want the recipes!

    • Hi Sally,

      Exactly or do not even realize is a “healthier version” and gobble it up! ~Deanna HB Team

  7. Hi Sally, I am so glad you enjoyed the article and keep surprising them with healthy AND delicious food:-)

    Customer Support

  8. Every holiday season I get better and better at controlling my food choices. This Thanksgiving I honored my body by avoiding gluten and desert sugar, and not overeating. But the saving grace in ALL situations is my internal voice saying “..that’s not really food;it’s just dressed like food…”
    I do see a shift in consciousness around food though — I can have health conversations with more strangers now, and even Costco is beginning to carry organic choices. I am grateful for that.

  9. Thank you thank you thank you!!! I tend to preach about my food choices with negative responses from friends and family. Thank you for giving me a more productive way [#1 and #2] to explain how I feel , why I do it and to ask for help. That last one has always been hard for me as a Do-it-myselfer. I am gonna memorize those statements! Excellent informative article!

    • Hi Donna,
      So happy you found some good tips in the article.
      Angela HB Team

  10. Great post. Being plant based my entire life, I’ve found it helpful to have a sense of humor about what I choose to eat and not get offended by what others choose. Usually if I say nothing about the food I bring to occasions no one notices it’s “healthy” as long as it’s delicious. Extended Family went three years eating and loving my vegan pumpkin, rhubarb pie, mashed potatoes before I told them. Proclamations are seldom productive. For guests coming to my home, I ask if they have any allergies, and also let them know how we eat and that if there’s something they can’t live without to bring it for themselves… (the caffiene addicted, the meat eaters have to bring their own meat and pan, etc). So far only one has ever done so. The rest stay and enjoy a different (healthier) way if eating.

    • Thank you Nancy! and thank you for sharing your story too and inspiring others. 🙂 ~Jen HB Support

  11. Wonderful, empowering coaching, Magdalena. Thank you!
    As with deep convictions we hold in our spiritual faith, there is never a need to qualify, or apologize for, our beliefs toward living a healthy lifestyle.
    Diet, exercise, whole-body care…whatever it is you’re doing, if it’s working, then your results will translate to friends and family who are poised for inspiration.
    Not to over-simplify, but as with exercise and fitness, “Just do it!” Your results will speak volumes. Your success is the essence of motivation; be patient, and wait for the comments and questions to come to you.
    Feel confident, be at peace with your choices, and be ready to share the love. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

  12. God, this is huge. I do try to do these things, but still end up feeling like the black sheep and not treated with any respect. Its like they (my family) have no interest or concern. I have had comments such as “well we all have sensitivities, just sleep it off”. Right… it can take me weeks, even months to get feeling better. I know when I’m not there they make jokes about me. And when I am present, the judgement is so thick, you could cut it with a knife sometimes. I have multiple diagnosed autoimmune challenges incl colitis, celiac, Raynauld’s, hypoT, and many more un-diagnosed AI challenges, numerous food sensitivities, MCSs, and chronic pain mostly due to past surgeries and sports injuries, inlc two major concussions. I’m really not complaining here, I am on a healing journey (and have been for many yrs now) that I’m trying to keep positive, but when holiday or birthday celebrations come around, geeze, it can stress me out so much. If dinner is at a restaurant, I tend not to eat, or will call ahead and ask for a naked steak. If it is at someone’s place I do always bring a dish, but these people are so far-removed from what healthy eating is, never mind health challenges. If I had more energy and help I would have family over more often, but realistically it takes more money, time, and energy than I have.

    Wishing you a blessed holiday, soon turning into another holiday season. We had our Thanksgiving here in Canada already, and there is already too much talk about Christmas and five family birthday celebrations in Dec.
    Thank you Magdalena, this post most certainly resonates with me.
    One thing, I will be more conscious of is to not feel I have to apologize this Christmas.

    • Thank you for sharing Dolores! We so appreciate it. Peace to you as well. ~ Jen HB Support

    • So glad someone else said it! Energy, time, money, and being pain free to make dishes to share, that’s often more than I can handle on a schedule, can’t really reschedule thanksgiving. And with family that survive on fast food and think pills are cures they just don’t get that food is healing, or understand multiple auto-immune diseases. It makes me want to go camping alone for the holidays, (if only I could afford it), rather than have to recover from an allergic reaction like this week to food made with my allergens and nothing else. The reality for some of us is there is no getting through and finding support from those surrounding us. But there are people who understand what that’s like and how tough it is. We just have to hang in there and persevere, which we’re used to.

  13. Sometimes, I just get fed up with all the mockery and go into gruesome detail about what happens if I eat certain foods- the vomiting, diarrhoea, thick mucus from my sinuses etc. That shuts people up right away.

  14. If you are 100% all in with your health journey, everybody else has no choice but to accommodate you.
    Once I stopped stressing about how I would respond to other people’s opinions and made the choice to put myself first, things started to change.
    Of course there will be minor speed bumps along the way, but at least there are no mountains to climb.
    When you believe that your choices are right for you, you don’t care if other people have a different opinion and you stop trying to talk them around to your way of thinking. Hope this helps someone.

    • Hi Ann,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience on how you have managed to handle your choices within your circle. ~HB Team

  15. Thank you so much for this uplifting article. One of my family members recently told me what a pain it is for me to be gluten free and my reply was ‘Yeah, tell me about it! Do you think I enjoy having all these restrictions?!? I’m not doing this because I’m picky or trying to be difficult! I don’t have a choice. If I don’t eat this way I will be sick and I’m not willing to do that so it’s convenient for everyone.” I usually cook and bring my own food to get togethers. I go out of my way to not put people out. However I can’t eat much fast food and we have very limited choices of restaurants that have options I can eat in our town. I’m tired of feeling like an inconvenience and not having people understand my choices. This article provides some great ideas of what to say in these scenarios.

  16. I find that if you handle things the way you describe that although people make fun of you to your face, later on they talk about you with admiration and some are inspired to change their own diets. By the way this doesn’t just apply to diet but to parenting style, political opinions, etc So secretly people admire those who stand their ground.

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