Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 Aug

How To Overcome the Naysayers in Your Life

Naysayers NaysayingIt’s inevitable at some point. Beyond the safe and sympathetic community of MDA and other like-minded cadres, we move through the rest of the world on a day to day basis. It’s likely we even stick out at times. Some of us go barefoot when/where it’s socially unacceptable. Some of us (not me, thank you very much!) sleep on the floor. A few of us have squatting toilet accessories in our bathrooms. A number of us have assembled small CrossFit style gyms in our cubicles. Others store an astounding supply of lard or homemade jerky in our homes. We tend to skip the bread course in a restaurant – perhaps the most controversial of all choices…. When people notice what we’re eating or not eating, how we’re exercising, when and where we’re sleeping, they might begin to wonder (especially if we’re wearing a “live long, drop dead” t-shirt). When they begin to wonder, they often want to ask. Many do. Some, scandalized or seized by concern, may caution, direct or cajole. Sometimes they mean well. Sometimes they’re just mean. How do we deal with the naysayers in our lives? Who are these people, and how do our responses vary given our relationships? Think for a minute. Then sit back with your Primal egg coffee and entertain these possibilities.

Your Partner/Family

You love them. They love you. You disagree on some basic lifestyle issues like whether it’s healthy to eat 450 grams of carbs every day. The disagreement itself isn’t the issue. Emotion says worry for the people you care about. Wisdom says let go of what you can’t control. What happens, however, when they’re the ones who won’t let it go and the old “live, let live” mantra doesn’t keep the peace? If your nearest and dearest are your biggest naysayers, consider the following.

Double dog dare them to try a 30-day Challenge.

Yup. Go big or go home. This can work with the big personalities in your family or maybe your partner (if he/she relishes a good competition). Their diet against yours for whatever poundage, performance or medical measurements you want. I know a husband and wife team who did it this way and upped the ante. The Primal guy asked for a large screen T.V. as his prize. His wife, a CW-advocate, asked for a trip to New York. Let’s just say the guy will be enjoying fall football on the big screen, and his wife has a new appreciation for lower carb living. (Happy ending: they’re also planning a conciliatory trip to NYC this fall.)

Tell your success/success-in-the-making story.

Sure, you can show them the numbers from all your latest blood tests, weigh-ins, and workout routines. What matters the most to the people who love us best, however, is our happiness. Put aside logic and reasoning. Tell them what living Primal means to you – the same way you would tell the MDA community. Whether you’ve made significant strides or are just beginning, open up and let them know the motivation you have to make this happen and the good you’ve experienced. Ask for support and let them know the naysaying is raining on your Primal parade. Get them involved. Put a before photo up and ask them to take updated ones along the way or otherwise help you keep track of your progress. They still may cringe at the Brussel sprouts in bacon fat, but they’ll love the chance to bond.

Your Friends

Of course it depends on the kinds of friends. Truth be told, I don’t believe we owe acquaintances much justification, and they generally don’t expect much. Any arguments are less about your well-being and more about being right. As they say, you don’t have to participate in every argument you’re invited to. That said, for closer friends (the ones who really are motivated to care about your health and happiness), I think the answer is often one part “caring detachment” and one part casual suggestion.

Accept (and share) that it’s not your job to convince them.

You’re not blowing someone off when you draw a healthy boundary that will keep your relationship focused on what matters – for the relationship. You won’t judge them, and you ask them to not judge you. Friendship is based on a respect for each other’s space and choices as much as it is on commonalities you share. Sometimes it really can be that easy. Most of what we think is our business in life isn’t our business, and everyone’s happier for that.

Share the fun stuff.

Sidestep the justifications, and just share the stuff that makes for good conversation (and understanding). How about making a meal for your buddies, or showing off your Primal Cravings cookbook? Keep the peace – and the fun.

Your Doctor

While we can tune out other “experts” in our lives if we so choose, it’s a little trickier when we’re sitting in our doctor’s office stuck on the paper sheet in the ugly gown. We feel like, well, a subject. We might come armed and ready to share our latest Primal successes, but in the time it takes for the nurse to do our vitals, we can lose all sense of agency. I think the key is to first let go of the need to be on the defensive and think about the larger purpose and benefits of the relationship.

Deal in numbers.

Accept that you’re coming at healthy living from a different vantage point. It’s really okay. Just because you’ve adopted various ancestral health practices doesn’t mean you should feel banished from all modern medical care. You deserve to be there. You can benefit from being there. When differing philosophies get in the way, get back to the numbers themselves. They tell a story – a large part of your story. That said, know the numbers you should prioritize. Bond over lab sheets. Talk technical stuff where it’s relevant.

Recast the relationship.

I know a lot of people who, if they can’t find a Primal friendly doctor, will mentally recast their relationship with their health care provider. Use him/her as a resource for certain information and as a means to access certain services. It’s okay to depersonalize it that way. Health care is a commodity. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a consumer based view of it. Make the relationship work for you, and do the rest of your Primal work elsewhere.


Finally, sometimes we might find ourselves caught in our own web of naysaying – especially if we’re at the beginning of the journey. Understand that doubt isn’t a weakness. Recognize it instead of resisting it. Take it apart to appreciate it. My advice?

Accept it as part of the journey.

Living Primally doesn’t just happen. It unfolds. It comes together and unravels here and there and takes a new and better shape and then proceeds to the same hundreds of times over. That’s the work of any meaningful change in life.

Keep learning.

That goes for learning about Primal living and your own physiology. In my experience, truth feels right before you end up finding the right words for it. Be your own experiment. Question, explore, test, try. Don’t ever stop learning and trying.

Thanks for reading today, everyone! How have you learned to respond to naysayers in your life? Have they learned to back off over time? Have you actually moved away from certain relationships?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I have a hard time convincing my parents of paleo. My mom is a dietician who was trained during the primetime of gluten and grains, and won’t even listen, and my dad is borderline vegetarian/vegan. Makes for some lively debate at least.

    James Petzke wrote on August 1st, 2013
  2. I just got off the phone with my Mother in law, asked if she was still using butter, yes. YAY, we are the Mrs and Mrs Buttertons for sure!! I told her that she should try the bullet proof coffee, my FIL is starting to show signs of dementia…. could it be the statins that his doctor has him on? Why worry about cholesterol if you actually need more as you age? So maybe they will start on the BPC tomorrow, she wrote it down and has a blender. I’m going to visit my mom, who has memory problems and will introduce her to coffee with FAT to see if she likes it. Who wouldn’t right?
    I tell everyone who will listen about primal/paleo eating. Last week a server who was studying to be a dietitian asked about it…. she said that her teacher encouraged the class to try out all types of diet. I hope she’ll try our lifestyle, it seemed that she was interested as well as looking at losing some weight as well.
    I work with an Asian who cannot even think about giving up her rice and she runs marathons besides several miles each morning….. however, she has a tummy and struggles with her body shape. She knows that I don’t eat grains but she doesn’t want to give them up yet. It’s ok, I play and give her a hard time now and then about it but tell her that if she wants to keep it up she can. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t MAKE them drink if they don’t want to…. even when they are dying of thirst.
    Off topic, made some pork chops with apple, shallots and cinnamon tonight…. hubba hubba. Good food!!!!!!

    2Rae wrote on August 1st, 2013
  3. When you start with the paleo/primal lifestyle, it is hard not to start preaching about it, because you yourself feel so good and so transformed. After a while you realize that only the ones who want to make changes will make them. You cannot force anyone.
    My excuse for not eating grains or sugary treats when somebody asks is that I don’t do well with gluten. It is partially true, I am not a celiac, can digest the occasional pizza crust here and there, but eliminating most of the gluten sources from my diet did make a big difference. It usually shuts people up and they ask no more. And if they do ask and are genuinely interested, I tell them about paleo and primal way of living. But only if they ask.

    Aknela wrote on August 1st, 2013
  4. God grant me the serenity
    To accept the things I cannot change;
    Courage to change the things I can;
    And wisdom to know the difference…

    Lucylu wrote on August 1st, 2013
  5. If you think explaining a primal diet is tough , try giving up alcohol , the peer group pressure is unbelievable .

    brenny wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  6. I say that my doctor has told me to avoid gluten and sunflower oil (because I have a terrible sunflower allergy). That right there eliminates breads and most of the gluten free packaged foods because nearly everything has sunflower oil in it. This is all perfectly true, it’s just that my doctor is more of a holistic doctor, but I don’t mention that. She specializes in hormones/thyroid (I am hypo). Most people shut right up after the words “my doctor says…”

    Jeanne wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  7. Nice post! I thinks it human nature to care about what others may think of us, especially those we love like friends and family. But equally it’s important to tread our own path through life and not try to live in a way that may satisfy others. Provided we live a life that is not hurting other people then what’s the problem?

    I personally tell everyone I know that I follow a paleo/primal way of eating. I’m not ashamed of it – quite the opposite. If I can convince a few others to try then I think that’s a good thing. But ultimately it helps people to understand me and my food choices. I think we should all just accept each other.. and each other’s differences and be open to different people’s ways of living and lifestyles. Diversity is what makes this such a great planet!

    Ellie Sandford wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  8. Great relevant topic Mark!

    Amongst friends/acquaintances I typically hear something sarcastic like, ‘oh, we can’t go there because Bryan can’t eat the food’. Then I have to remind them again that we can go anywhere we want and that I’ll CHOOSE to eat whatever the hell I want. Their comments flirt with jealously, ‘put your shirt back on’, ‘I suppose you’re running a race this weekend’… we all know the kind.

    Amongst family it’s very different. They’re all respectful of the changes that I’ve made, and my ‘diet’ (I remind them it’s a lifestyle) is a part of that. They still remember the former me as a 270+ lb fat guy from three years ago, so when they see me now they’re supportive. When we gather as a family I’m typically the cook/grill master so everyone gets a dose of primal eats.

    When or if I do issue a challenge to anyone, it’s a three week commitment. Commit to being primal for three weeks and see how you feel.


    Bryan wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  9. Loved the post! I can relate on every level. I feel like an outcast in my Family. I guess I suck really badly at communication because I have tried these techniques with no avail. Even leading by example does not work. My family says that the reason why I am in good health/shape is because I work out. They also say that because I am young is another reason. Not that eating a primal/Paleo diet is the reason. Too much fat, you eat too many eggs and your Cholesterol is going to be too high. And on…and on….blah…I guess they are sheep….baaa….Any comments or advice?

    Thomas wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  10. i’ve lost 20 lbs and a goiter the size of a golf ball. people who have not seen me in a while tell me how great i look. my frame of mind is in a much better place these days too. if people ask what i’m doing i tell them a short version. if they want more i tell them more. if they present an argument i just don’t get into with them. i lead by example.

    allison wrote on August 2nd, 2013
    • you say you lost a goiter?

      emma wrote on August 2nd, 2013
  11. We have been almost evangelical in our zeal for sharing about our primal lifestyle. I bet some people want to slap us in the face with a cinnamon roll sometimes. But we are starting to infect our close circle of acquaintances as they have seen our whole family change and see the amazing real food we eat. Love to you MDA!

    Queenbolete wrote on August 3rd, 2013
  12. I have the excuse of food allergies to justify my diet, so I thankfully don’t have to deal with many naysayers, except for those ubiquitous old ladies who call you “too skinny”. *eye roll*

    Side note, I clicked that web page for “primal friendly doctors” and the featured member is in the town that I’m moving to in a month!!! What what!?

    Katie wrote on August 3rd, 2013
  13. There is only one group of naysayers in my life, and they are coworkers.

    I am a firefighter, and eating Primal in the firehouse is comparable to being a vegetarian in rural Texas.

    Ironically, I’m the only person on the crew of 6 that is not obese.

    Even though I’ve never talked negative about other’s diets or physical condition, there is a lot of ridicule, talking behind my back, and negativity from those who are supposed to be “brothers”. Luckily I only have to deal with this 8 days per month.

    The ethos I have adopted is to not say anything and let my health and physical abilities deliver the message.

    Stay positive,

    Fire Grok

    Fire Grok wrote on August 4th, 2013
  14. Thanks for this article. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

    The snide comments I receive are from acquaintances and not-so-close friends. They seem to ignore that Primal/Paleo diets are inspired by our healthy ancestors, not a literal reenactment.

    So, I’ll get comments and questions like, “So…you think broccoli is Paleo, huh?” (it’s not). Or, “Apples didn’t come into existence until such-and-such a period — they aren’t Paleo.”

    They pride themselves on feeling very smart with their facts. Good for them.

    By the way, did I mention that these folks are fat, fat, FAT?

    Russell wrote on August 6th, 2013
  15. Very topical post. My partner’s reading the China Study. So I get shown graphs from that book that say New Zealanders (as we are) eat 350g of meat/day and have the highest bowel cancer rate in the world. Well, according to studies, we actually consume 51g meat/day for a start…

    The topic gets acerbic and is constantly brought up by him. I’ve suggested that he cook his own meals but he’d rather eat meat than cook! I have said that quite a few paleo people used to be vegan but got so unwell. And I’ve said it may be a question of genotypes. With my low B12, folate,(?MTHFR issues) low Vit D and iron, there’s no way I’m going to entertain a vegan diet and with my hypothyroidism, there’s no way I’m going to eat soy.

    Honora wrote on August 8th, 2013
  16. To be honest there’s no way to completely eliminate naysayers except by moving away from them. But even then you should be drawing your emotions from within and not relying on other people’s opinions on your actions.

    Ideally you want to surround yourself with people who encourage you and know how to motivate you to be the best self.

    Mario wrote on August 8th, 2013
  17. Would be helpful if anyone can give advice for how to handle criticisms from family members not on board with the Paleo thing when my child is involved. I get implicated that I’m harming my child even by feeding him this way. Has anyone any tips to share to help this specific situation?

    pdx521 wrote on July 11th, 2014

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