How To Deal With Diet Haters (5 tips)
Posted by Michael Vacanti
Anticipation and excitement.
The kind that precedes celebration: love, unity and of course, shirtless wedding reception degeneracy (pics below).
After catching up with my best friends during cocktail hour, we settle down for the Groom’s Dinner.
Salad and bread are served, and then it happens.
“VACANTI PROBABLY DOESN’T EAT BREADDDDDD,” jokingly taunted my buddy’s girlfriend.
You’ve Been Here
Now, if you are reading this (you are), you have experienced something similar.
You have been on a “diet” and someone noticed. A family member, friend or co-worker, usually.
It may have been a playful observation.
Or, it may have been a malicious jab.
Either way, it is something you should be armed to deal with.
Negative social pressure is one of the greatest barriers to achieving our personal health/fitness goals.
I know this because hundreds of friends, blog readers and clients have asked me for advice.
Click to enlarge
My brain immediately defaulted to logic:
“Of course I eat bread, I eat 450g of carbs on training days!!” I thought.
But that conversation doesn’t play here.
Though expected by my coaching clients or fitness friends — it just doesn’t make sense in most everyday conversations…
(to deal with the hate)
Step One: Identify their intentions
Your co-worker is not “very concerned” with your post-lunch satiety. Just like your friend is not worried about you for taking a night off drinking.
So, why are they bothering you?
It could be a few things.
But what is most important is that you know each reason is driven from within them, independent of you and your diet.
1) The diet hater could be: Resistant To Change
Ignore Everybody is a book that identifies keys to creativity. However, the title and general theme apply to other facets of life, including how to deal with diet haters.
Author Hugh MacLeod has some useful words on change,
“Your friends may love you, but they don’t want you to change. If you change, then their dynamic with you also changes. They like things the way they are, that’s how they love you- the way you are, not the way you may become.”
Basically, in any relationship, when one person changes, the power balance in the relationship changes.
While the quote above was in reference to a change in vocation, it equally applies to changes in diet, behavior, athleticism or physical attractiveness. Anything, really.
Your friend knows you the way you are. And they fear the unknown.
And that’s okay.
You don’t need to make them love change, just don’t allow them to deter you from your goals.
2) The diet hater could be: Particularly Insecure
Your coworker WANTS to lose weight.
She has TRIED to lose weight.
And honestly, she hates herself because she doesn’t like her body.
So, when you opt out of “pizza friday” in favor of a home-packed grilled chicken salad, she is reminded of her own repeated failure. All of her negative energy and pain and sadness are projected onto you via some bitchy comment or question.
“A salad? That’s ALL your eating??”
(I picture her spelling “you’re” incorrectly)
We’ll talk about how to handle this in a second.
3) The diet hater could be: Genuinely Interested
Rare, but entirely possible.
If someone is asking you questions, especially if they have seen you achieve fitness-related results, there is a good chance they truly want your help.
Determine where the person is coming from, then proceed to step 2.
I don’t want to do it.
Her eyes will glaze over.
I will be drowning on about why fat x 9 = calories and, why yes, protein is just fine for your kidneys. Despite what you heard in US WEEKLY and from your “toned” friend who does BARR Method.
I want to discuss which bridesmaids are single.
I want to hear stories about the Russian mob’s stranglehold on the KHL.
I realize I have not addressed the bread question…
Step Two: Respond Accordingly (5 strategies)
Now that we better understand the intentions and motivation of the diet hater, we can respond in a more situationally appropriate way.
- “Is this macro stuff healthy??” mom asks.
- “Does that lunch even fill you up?” bitterly mutters your overweight boss.
- “Like…I’m just worried about you.. you never party with us anymore!” your clubbing friend whines.
1. Grab a seat, pal: Nutrition 101
“Mike, why are you eating frozen yogurt before bed. This is very interesting.”
One of my friends is that rare breed, constantly asking genuine questions. They are driven purely by a desire to learn and improve.
When this occurs, answer the person honestly and completely. They are reaching out because they want help. They crave knowledge. And they trust you to give it to them.
2. Reply in jest (troll them)
If you spend much time on the internet, you are familiar with the term trolling.
To troll in real life can be hilarious and effective in dealing with diet haters.
“There was actually a new pubmed study linking cheese pizza consumption with ebola, so I’m going to pass. But enjoy” <immediate subject change>
This will leave them a little confused because part of them is wondering if the movie Outbreak was fiction or not. But it doesn’t matter; they didn’t want a real answer anyway and you’ve moved the conversation along elsewhere.
3. Ignore them
In practice, this is a little awkward.
I’m basically telling you to be socially incompetent. Someone is going to speak to you and you should be totally unresponsive.
Save this tactic for group settings or situations where you are multitasking. You can immediately shift your attention away from the hater and toward someone or something else.
4. Ask extremely personal questions in return
Fight fire with fire.
Look, what and how much you are eating is not their damn business.
If you are uncomfortable with the questions, they probably crossed a line. So feel free to give it back.
My bro Roman offered a few specific conversation topics for this exact scenario, which include but are not limited to: frequency of anal sex with partner, deep-seated childhood issues and insecurities or salary/personal finance matters.
Cue the archers. Plus, dude’s gonna be sitting on the iron throne.
5. Join a supportive community
Our opinions are largely shaped by the information we consume.
Feedback from diet haters is information. TV, books, articles and social media are other forms of information.
So, limit negativity, and surround yourself with intelligent, supportive people.
I strongly recommend a community like Fitocracy, which has been amazing for me personally.
Fitness is my job
People expect me to do weird stuff, like not eat bread.
My buddy’s gf was just having fun — it wasn’t a traumatizing experience for me.
But most of us aren’t that lucky. Most of us face unsupportive, threatening pressure from friends and acquaintances on a regular, even daily, basis.
So, use one of these suggestions to navigate difficult social situations.
N. E. Wayyzzzz…
“Of course I eat bread”
I went on to devour a giant pre-entree cookie.
48 hours later, we groomsman had our shirtless dance session.
I think it was observed by the bewilderment and mild disapproval of a few elders, but I don’t quite recall.
Because, well, vodka sodas 😉
Have you read my Beginner’s Fitness Guide? It’s a free 17 page ebook and it’s pretty good. Grab a copy right here.