5 Tips to Stick to a Healthy Diet When People Around You Eat Differently
Why Do I Try So Hard?
Two weekends in a row now I found myself bitter with my husband for eating what I like to call “junk” while we were on hunting trips. I’ve been eating a Paleo diet for a year and two months now without “cheats.” At first, when I began my journey I insisted that my husband eat only what I could eat because otherwise I felt tempted. But now, I’ve learned not to even be tempted by those around me, and my bitterness stems from my desire to see him achieve the same health benefits I have.
My bitterness also comes from an irritation deep within when I work so hard to provide nutritious meals for him just for him to finish eating and proceed to top his stomach off with Oreos and Rockstar energy drinks. When I see his lack of concern for his own health, I sometimes wonder why I personally try so hard. Why not throw in the towel and eat an Oreo as well? The bloating and pain it would cause would be temporary—no one else cares, why should I?
Ever have those thoughts? The thoughts about “off-limit” foods that literally make your mouth water? Sad thoughts while remembering old favorite foods that now leave you in pain if you eat them?
Yes? Well, let me just reassure you—you’re normal!! I haven’t met anyone who did a major diet overhaul who didn’t struggle for at least a brief period of time with thoughts like this. I usually tell people that diet-change involves literal grief—there is a process of grieving favorite foods lost and accepting a new lifestyle and learning to find joy in it.
But, how do we get there? How do we move beyond the negative thoughts, the bitterness with friends and family, and the temptations and learn to stick to a healthy diet even when everyone around us seems to be eating differently?
5 Tips to Stick to a Healthy Diet When People Around You are Not
Well, I propose five tips, tips that have been tried and true over here in the Kirkpatrick household—1) Pray and Meditate on Scripture, 2) Change your Focus and Attitude, 3) Meal-Prep, 4) Put Distance Between Yourself and Food You Don’t Eat, 5) Embrace Cooking and Baking.
Let’s dive into these tips in more detail. Because if you can work on these five tips, I so strongly believe that you can stick to your healthy diet regardless of what ANYONE is doing around you.
1. PRAY AND MEDITATE ON SCRIPTURE
Were you caught off guard here? Hoping I’d give you the “Five easy steps to curb cravings and reach your diet goals?” Well, I can’t do that. Because, if you’ve gotten to know me at all, then you know that my faith and the power of the Holy Spirit is intertwined in everything I do. And I firmly believe that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that anyone can break their addiction to food and live truly free lives.
So, if you want to stick to a healthy diet when the world around you is throwing every single delicious temptation in your face on every street corner, every television ad, and at every restaurant; then you’d better arm yourself with your only offensive weapon—the Sword of the Spirit.
What does the Bible actually say about eating healthy though? –A LOT. It says plenty. All of the following verses come from the ESV Bible, and I encourage you to look them up for yourself. Read them over and over. Write them down. Hide them in your heart (aka: memorize them). Tape them on your fridge. Pray them! Use them to fight the cravings and resist the temptation to cheat on your diet and the temptation to wallow in self-pity (we’ll get to that a little later).
1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
2 Corinthians 10:5: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
1 Corinthians 9:27: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Romans 13:14: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
Proverbs 25:27: “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”
1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”
Friends, this list is just a starting place—the Bible is full of so many verses that can help you conquer your cravings and temptations. Google verses specific to your temptations. Look through your Bible for wisdom that applies to your exact situation. Take your thoughts captive, think about the things of Christ, focus on these things, pray to God for help, and plead for Him to take control.
This is the most important thing that you can do to help you succeed in your lifestyle and diet change. I promise. It would be foolish for me not to point you to Jesus first and foremost. If you follow no other tips of mine, do not ignore this one to pray and meditate on Scripture.
2. CHANGE YOUR FOCUS AND ATTITUDE
Remember earlier when I told you to use Scripture as a weapon to fight the temptation of “self-pity?” Well, here’s where that comes in.
I’m not going to sugar coat this—giving up your favorite junk food just plain sucks sometimes. It can literally feel like it has taken all the fun out of life and lead you to feeling deprived and bitter.
It then becomes easy to pity yourself—to feel sorry for yourself.
My functional medicine doctor used to always say to me (and probably would again if I reverted back to my old ways)—“Sydney, we don’t throw pity-parties in this office.” You know what? That was hard to hear. But, that was exactly what I needed to hear.
If we want to change our diet and not be left feeling like it sucks the fun out of life, then we need to change our idea of “fun.” We can’t deny that food is a part of celebration in our culture. It was in the Bible too, so I highly doubt we are going to get away from elaborate, delicious meals as a central part of life and relationships anytime soon.
But, do we really need food to have fun? Probably not. Do we need to go to a restaurant to enjoy a night out with our spouse? Not if we think creatively. Do we need to eat ice-cream before bed every night to unwind? Definitely not.
It’s time to learn new hobbies and skills, develop new passions, and change your focus if you want to stick to eating healthy. It’s time to start cooking healthy food in your home and inviting friends over instead of going out to a restaurant with them. It’s time to find comfort in eating nutritious food, or maybe even learn to dissociate food with comfort at all.
Now, I understand that if you have legitimate sugar cravings, or greasy-food cravings, these things can seem very, very overwhelming. Easier said than done—right?
Well, kind of. I get that. Boy, do I ever get that. I gave up all sugar—literally in all forms, even natural sugars like honey, maple sugar, and Sucanat for 8 months with NO cheats before I reintroduced it. Will I deny that it’s a challenge? No. Can I PROMISE you from experience that it gets easier after about two to three weeks? YEEEEES!!! Yes, yes, YES. Can I offer you tips on how to do it? Absolutely.
That’s where the attitude and focus change comes in handy—when you spend less time thinking about what you can’t have, you give more time in your life to discover what you can have. PINTEREST, my friends, is a beautiful thing—you just type in your dietary restrictions and like magic, a million approved recipes pop up.
If you crave sugar—try sautéing fruit with a little coconut cream on top and some cinnamon. Perfect the art of making banana “nice-cream.” Eat a spoonful of coconut butter. I promise that as time goes on without sugar, your taste buds will learn to appreciate natural sugar in fruit.
If you crave greasy, fried things—that’s ok too!! Just fry them yourself!! Plantain “fries” in bacon grease—it’s to die for! Push back against what the government tries to tell you about nutrition—because the thing is (and go look it up for yourself if you don’t believe me)—saturated fats from animal sources, coconut oil, or unrefined palm oil are actually very good for you. It’s the transfat that’s bad! So, you like fried food? GO FOR IT—Just fry your favorite veggies in some lard or tallow, your favorite fruits in unrefined palm or coconut oil, and your meat battered in cassava or coconut flour then fried in lard!
The possibilities to satisfy your cravings are endless—IF you change your attitude and your focus.
So, no more pity-parties. It’s time to move forward and find JOY in this lifestyle change. Don’t think about the past you left behind; instead, reflect on the good this will do to your body and the doors of health it will open so that you may enjoy life and relationships to the fullest. Think about how much better you can serve our Lord and Savior when His Temple (our body) is taken care of properly!!
Prayers for you. Because this tip is critical if you want to bring the “fun” into your lifestyle change. But I know, through Jesus, you CAN do it!
3. MEAL PREP
Ok, ok…You get it—sticking to a diet over the long term involves a lot of personal and spiritual development. But what about the practical day to day things that can help?
MEAL PREP—I cannot stress this practical tip enough. We are all very busy people, and unfortunately, there just aren’t a lot of truly “healthy” convenience foods out there—at least not many that won’t break your bank account.
One of the key things I’ve had to learn this past year has been to have food ready and available when I’m hungry. This includes foods in each food group and to satisfy all my cravings—proteins, carbs, fats, treats, snacks, etc.
I like to always have leftovers in my fridge at all times. So if I’m hungry while I’m preparing dinner but I have nothing to snack on—I can snack on the meat or veggies (change your view of what a snack is) from the night before. If I run out of time to cook lunch—it’s leftovers to the rescue.
Likewise, having veggies peeled and cut in advance is life-saving. Wash your produce right away when you buy it before you even load it into your fridge. Pull out meat to thaw a day or two in advance so it’s ready to go when you need it. Search PINTEREST for healthy freezer meals and always have two or three ready to pop in the oven on a moment’s notice.
Plan snacks in advance and keep them on hand. Make homemade trail mix and put it in individual baggies to grab on your way out the door. Get gutsy and make homemade granola bars or muffins. Have fruit ready and available. This is the area that I often splurge on the more expensive “convenient” snacks from whole foods. Learn to read ingredient labels and choose easy snacks that are truly healthy.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time here diving into the ins-and-outs of meal-prep. There are many, many blogs written on this topic. And truly, I could write an entire post detailing this process alone. The key here though is that you understand the weight of this endeavor. Success with healthy eating when no one else around you is eating the same involves strategic, careful planning.
It doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to be a burden. Just think ahead—are you busy tomorrow? Do you have appointments? Many extracurricular activities? Or are you home all day and able to cook? Do you have easy snacks on hand? Or do you need to grab some fruit and nuts from the store? If you have time to cook, can you double the recipe to throw some in the freezer or store leftovers in the fridge?
A little planning and front-loaded work can make your life run so much more smoothly in the long-run!
4. PUT DISTANCE BETWEEN YOURSELF AND FOOD YOU DON’T EAT
Listen closely before I begin—I have many friends who do not value health the same way that I do. I have many best friends who want to make changes, and are still in a different part of their journey and not ready to dive in head first yet. Some of my friends eat very different forms of “healthy diets” that I respect but don’t personally choose for myself and my family. I do not judge a single person for what they choose to put into their bodies, because we all have to make decisions based on what our body requires.
I need to eat low-FODMAP, but I’d never suggest anyone else eat this way unless they need to. I don’t eat any grains, but my kids eat gluten-free grains. Some of my favorite people are vegan because animal products don’t sit well with them. On my low-fodmap diet and with my food sensitivities to so many fruits and veggies, I’d literally starve or live every day in pain if I gave up meat. You get the point—every body is different and we all need to make educated decisions for ourselves.
With that said though, it is perfectly acceptable to put distance between yourself and food that you don’t eat if it is a huge struggle for you. I love my family, but I recently skipped a birthday party because I was having a very hard, emotional day and I knew my heart couldn’t bear seeing a buffet of food that I couldn’t enjoy.
I regularly turn down going to restaurants with friends, not because I’m antisocial or I think they are awful, but because I don’t want to put myself in a situation to be tempted or struggle. Most times, I invite them over to my house instead and offer to cook for them. That way I can still invest in the relationship, while not stumbling over food. Otherwise, I’ll suggest seeing a movie after and catching them for just the second half of the night.
This past weekend when my family was indulging in Oreos and my mouth started watering and the internal pity-party started hoppin’, I excused myself to my bedroom to pray and go to sleep early. It wasn’t disrespectful, they know I love them, but it was what I needed in that moment.
Someday, you will likely be able to be present around food you don’t or can’t eat. And that ability might come and go with moods and where you are at in your health journey. So don’t beat yourself up if you have to turn down and outing or step outside during a potluck. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed if you have to politely excuse yourself to another room during a holiday meal.
Be honest with your family and friends about the realness of your struggle with food and healthy eating. That way, they will know you aren’t just avoiding them or being impolite, and they will hopefully be there to pray with you, encourage you, and maybe even attempt cooking something that you can eat as well!
Don’t be discouraged by this tip. Don’t let it make you feel left out. See it as a stepping stone until you are stronger emotionally and your cravings have died down. Once you feel better and have truly adopted your lifestyle change with joy, the distance will not be as necessary!
5. EMBRACE COOKING AND BAKING
My final tip is one that I take very seriously in my own heart. It’s not something that came easy for me. I have always looked up to one of my friends who was always baking the yummiest-looking Paleo desserts, making five-course Paleo meals for her family, fermenting her own food, canning, making homemade nut-butter and milk—you name it, she is doing it.
I used to say to her, “HOW ON EARTH DO YOU HAVE TIME FOR THAT?! HOW ON EARTH DO YOU ENJOY THAT?!”
She would always tell me the same thing—Pray that God gives you a passion for it. Pray that God teaches you to love it. Embrace it and pray often about it.
I’m not going to lie—it took a while. It took a lot of prayer. It took a mindset shift. I felt like cooking took away from all the other things I wanted to be doing. I felt like baking created too many dishes to be worth it.
And then I realized that no one was going to solve my diet-woes for me. No restaurant was going to cater to the girl with SIBO and a million food sensitivities requiring a low-FODMAP, grain-free, dairy-free, night-shade free, and food-sensitivity-free Paleo diet. If I wanted a lovely, delicious meal, I’d have to create it. If I wanted a dessert, I’d have to learn how to work with unusual flours to make a treat my body can handle. If I really “wanted” this—I’d have to make time for it.
And thankfully, with God’s help, I began to love it. I began to find joy in each successful recipe and laugh at each ingredient-substituted PINTEREST fail. I began to include my two toddlers in cooking so I could kill two birds with one stone—invest in quality time with them AND eat good food. That way, when we were done and I wanted to move on to other things I enjoy (like reading and writing) there was no “mom guilt” about not spending time with my kids or setting them in front of the TV, AND we had a great meal or dessert to eat.
WIN-WIN if you ask me!! But, these wins were few and far-between until I learned to embrace cooking and baking. And that’s why I’m going to give you the same advice my friend gave me if you too struggle to make time for cooking and to enjoy it—pray about it. Ask God to give you a desire for it. When you begin to struggle with it—pray even more.
Phew!! That was a lot!! Let’s all just take a minute to wipe our brow and catch our breath!
How do you feel? Can you relate to any of these things? Do you have any tips you would add? What do you think could help you the most?
Healthy eating is a journey, a true lifestyle change. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. If you follow these five tips though, I am confident that you can persevere in your healthy eating goals, even if everyone else around you is eating differently!
Take it from me, the Paleo girl whose husband is stuffing his face with Oreos and Rockstar drinks (ok, he only drinks the latter on rare occasions while driving, but still…), our lives and emotions do not have to be dictated by what those around us are doing. We are our own person and we can find the strength and motivation to persevere and succeed, even when we feel alone in our journey.
Don’t give up!