Reprinted with the kind permission of Sue Ingebretson and Rebuilding Wellness
Would you like 12 Tips to help you stick to your fibromyalgia meal plan over the holidays (and beyond)? Do family dynamics play a role in the foods you eat? What about neighborhood and office parties? Read on to discover what can derail your plans and what can keep them on track.
The following article shares details about meal plans that you may not have thought of. There are subversive ways that circumstances and others can undermine even your best intentions. Of course, it doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness. The strategies in this article can help you to survive – and thrive – the busy weeks ahead.
Where would we be without the unconditional support of our family and loved ones? After all, they worry about us, care for us, and are there for our ups and downs. They support us in every way, right?
But, what if I shared with you the fact that their influences may not always paint such a rosy picture? In fact, when it comes to our meal plans – our nutrition plans – our family influences can often sabotage our best efforts to get or stay healthy. Many even claim the influence of their families as the primary reason for their poor health choices. (1)
In this article, we’ll explore how those around you, your families in particular, have the greatest authority over what, how, why, and how much you eat.
While the topic of your waistline isn’t the primary concern here, it’s worth noting that the influences mentioned happen to sabotage both our short-term and long-term nutrition plans. Yes, genetics and metabolism do have an effect on our overall body type and structure, but it’s the day-to-day healthy food practices that have the greatest impact. For this reason, it’s important to know why your relationships have influence over your eating habits each and every day.
are particularly poignant at this time of year
as multiple family gatherings
are likely planned for the months ahead.
For most of us, eating isn’t always a solitary activity — especially for those with large families. In sizable groups, there always seems to be cause for celebration. There are birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, housewarmings, new births, or just about any excuse for get-togethers. And, let’s get real. Get-togethers are about family, for sure, but let’s not deny that they’re about food, too. And, not just any food. They often feature family favorite foods made from handed down recipes, and are served with an abundance of tantalizing options to choose from.
Do you find it difficult to stick to your meal plans at family events? It’s likely that you do.
As children, our belief systems about food were developed from our family mealtime experiences. After all, we ate most of our meals with our parents and siblings. What was the environment like in your home? Were mealtimes full of chatter around the kitchen table? Did you eat family style or were you served a plateful and expected to finish it? Or, were you made to feel deprived with inadequate meted out portions? Did you eat in silence facing the TV screen? Overeating can simply be an emotional attempt to break the silence.
There are so many messages about eating that we learned as children. But it boils down to two schools of thought — did the lessons provided teach us to eat mindfully or mindlessly?
Eating mindfully is a rare practice.
Of course, our family members didn’t deliberately dispatch negative food ideas. The intentions of most parents were well-meaning and guided by love and concern for our well-being. However, heaping portions of guilt often accompany comments such as, “Clean your plate,” or “Have some more of my homemade _________ (fill in the blank). It took me all afternoon to make it!”
Obedience has its price. We nodded our heads to a second helping, cleaned our plates, and sought to please others with our eating habits. We inadvertently “ingested” the message that we can create love, acceptance, relationships, etc. with food. Then we went outside to play. As grown-ups, we may spend countless years (not to mention countless dollars) trying to unlearn these unhelpful messages. And — to add insult to injury — we no longer go outside to play.
Co-workers and office parties play a role in sabotaging our nutrition plans, too. Birthdays roll around with consistent regularity as do the boxes of doughnuts at early morning meetings. And what about the ubiquitous bowl of sweets strategically placed on the desk closest to the copy machine? In a “misery loves company” mindset, co-workers may (unconsciously) feel a sense of satisfaction to see you struggle with your healthy eating plans as much as they do.
So, what happens if you just say “no?”
Here’s where we introduce the topic of rejection. So much about what we eat and how we eat, is unspoken. There are powerful societal (including workplace and family) pressures on our food choices. (2) If we fail to sample a family favorite casserole at a family potluck, what will happen? Do we receive chiding, teasing, or even “good-natured” ridicule (that feels anything but good-natured)?
There are two important — and different — sides to this rejection scenario, so let’s look at them separately. First, we worry about how rejection affects others. We fear that they’ll feel disparaged, hurt, or somehow snubbed by our actions. We don’t want to say “no,” because we don’t want them to feel offended. We then eat (the food we didn’t even intend to eat) just to keep the peace and foster the status quo.
Second, we worry about how rejection affects us. If we don’t go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing, how will we be viewed? Will we be looked at as superior, haughty, or snooty? Will we be singled out and have our food choices made public? I’ve been to gatherings where I’ve heard comments such as, “Oh boy, Samantha is just eating carrots. She must be on another ridiculous diet.” Or, “Marge is picking the croutons out of her salad. She must be going gluten-free.”
Do the above statements sound judgmental to you?
If so, you get to take action to change how you feel about what was said. There’s a difference between a simple observation and judgment. It’s when the sense of judgment seeps in that we feel hurt, angry, offended, or chastised. While we can’t change what others say, we can change two things: 1) We can stop anticipating their negative comments — because waiting for negative comments to come is a negative behavior in itself, and 2) We can choose to view their comments as simple statements rather than judgments — because any other view is detrimental in the long run.
Your nutritional plans are simply that — yours. You have no obligation or requirement to explain them or validate them to anyone. Eating well is an evolutionary process. We decide on a plan, and then make adaptations as needed. We may choose to focus on eating more of some foods and less of others, but it’s our choice. We get to choose. We get to decide. We get to create the confidence in our own decisions — and stop waiting to receive it from others.
When it comes to family, can we really tell them what we want?
I think we can. When we create a plan in advance, we’re much better armed to handle the circumstances that may arise.
We’ve now revealed what can get in the way of our best intentions when it comes to our personal meal plans. Tune in next week to read the 2nd and final installment of this article: 12 Tips – Sticking to Your Fibromyalgia Meal Plan. These tips are sure to help you successfully navigate the months ahead.
Rognlin, Briana. “Friends, Family Are the Biggest Influences on Our Health: Study.” Huffington Post. October 7, 2011.
Tarlin, Ellen. “The Fourth Obstacle to Sensible Eating: Outside Influences.” Slate.com. January 24, 2011.
Sue Ingebretson is the Natural Healing Editor for ProHealth.com as well as a frequent contributor to ProHealth's Fibromyalgia site. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com.