In todays news….I am currently sitting on the plane and feel highly inspired to write about a rule of thumb I like to follow and that is: Eat, and let others eat in peace.
So, I'm on this flight on my way home to Los Angeles. The flight attendant comes over and asks me- well, actually she more reminds me that I ordered the orzo pasta with shrimp. After I kindly tell her that I don’t think that is the right order for me since I’m gluten free, the man next to me, who, mind you, has not even looked over once at me even though I’m his only neighbor, turns to me and says, “I have a sister who’s gluten free.”
“Oh, really?” Smile on my face.
“Yeah. I’m not really sold on that whole thing because I’m into evolution and if that were really bad for us then we would all be dead.”
Smile has faded to a straight face. Sort of like one of my favorite emojis I like to use in moments of disappointment or where all I can think to say is ‘Welp.’
The flight attendant then asks him about his meal and he says he doesn’t want it if it has spinach in it because he’s allergic. Ironic, no? Then he turns to me again.
“I really just don’t like it.”
Total evolution buff. I mean, really.
I’m telling you all of this because I think it’s really important to keep in mind that the most inspiring way to eat, and not to mention the most respectful way to eat, is to eat, and let others eat in peace. Even if you don’t like what they are eating. Even if it grosses you out. Even if it is something that you are personally allergic to. If no one asked you your opinion about their meal that they chose to eat, I recommend that you refrain from soliciting your opinion. When people want or need advice, there is a chance they will probably ask you. And, eating is personal. People make their choices based on their morals, beliefs, sicknesses and health. Those things are kind of a big deal. Your unsolicited comments can offend those sacred things that a person bases their life upon. Much like relationship advice- give it when you are called upon.
One thing I know for sure as a certified nutrition consultant (aka someone who's job is to teach people how to eat optimally for their unique selves), is that preaching, calling people out, and/or making someone feel bad about what they are eating does not really inspire people to change. No matter what you know, no matter your education. It will quickly inspire them to eat in the dark and not eat near you. And actually (vegans, vegetarians, fruitarians, paleolithic dieters, etc., etc.- please listen), I really think aggressive approaches only make people want to run the opposite way. You may just be catching someone on the brink of changing their eating habits and perhaps gentle words could encourage that.
But you know what does inspire? Being a living example. Being confident in your choices. Perhaps, by improving your diet, you are glowing, have great energy throughout the day, or have a new sense of calm about you. Maybe there is not a huge physical change but you are finally off of a particular medication, which is a huge accomplishment for some. Or perhaps you have noticeably shed a few pounds and you are going about your damn business with a pep in your step. I think it’s safe to say a lot of people want that.
This is exactly what inspires people; not sitting at a table alienating or berating anyone for their dietary choices. Being someone who is holding the wellness-fort down at the dinner table without having to explain themselves to seem better or make others feel worse, is enough most of the time to make others want to copy you. This kind of silence is a strength.
If you are training to be a health educator or practitioner, or already are one, you already know that there are plenty of ways to bring awareness and educate people to promote positive change with welcoming arms. We want it to be enticing, otherwise, what’s the point? And if you’re not a pro, just enjoy the lifestyle, and/or really want to help someone you love, there are gentle ways to broach the subject. Here are 5 ways to inspire people to make healthier diet choices, and avoid verbally vomiting on someone you don't know, or worse, someone you love:
1. Host healthy dinner parties. Who doesn't love a good party? Well, some people, BUT not many when it involves free food! Make your friends, family or co-workers a delicious meal that will tickle their fancy into the joy of healthy eats. Maybe they are too scared to walk into that health-food restaurant or just think everything tastes like tofu. This is a great way to teach them this is far from the truth and there are TONS of websites to pull recipes off of to make this a reality. You could even make it hands on and they could walk through it with you.
2. Invite your friends and family to restaurants that serve up inspiring, health-conscious dishes. Maybe being the entertainer or hostess with the mostess is not your bag, baby. Invite them to a place for a healthy meal. And just maybe next time they are hungry they will remember the place and choose this over their usual two tacos for 99 cents from the drive-thru.
3. Invite them to classes and seminars you are attending on the subject. There is a solid chance you will both learn a thing or two you didn't know before. Look for demos at your favorite cookware store, take a glance at what meetup.com has going on in your town in the health/wellness/cooking section, or even look into a fun cooking classes in your city.
4. You can even send them articles (easy, now, easy). Be really careful with this one (unless you know for sure that this is that one friend that is a tough cookie). You may not want to send " Why That Donut Is Making You Ugly." Use your common sense and know who your audience is when sending. As I mentioned above, try to give advice (and in this case articles) when people are giving the hint that they want or need this information. New studies are coming out everyday, even in your girly and gossip magazines (I mean, make sure they are true).
5. Gift them with books or utensils to help them get started. I'm not telling you to buy people into your ideas, but buy people into your ideas....I kid, but you know what I'm saying. Cookbooks are usually beautiful, and they make wonderful gifts. There are a ton of new cook books that also include information about the healthier ingredients used (or omitted), and the way they impact your health. Also, have you been into a Sur La Table lately?! I'm amazed at the new gadgets and constantly want to buy things I do not even know for what or how they are used.
What I am saying is: there are a lot of ways to get a horse to drink.
So, while my airplane neighbor drinks his diet coke and omits the spinach because his taste buds are allergic, I’ll just sit here and finish this blog post, feeling unscathed by the comments from the peanut gallery, because I feel damn good.