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Dear Mark: Family Dinner

Dear Mark,

I come from a big family that loves food. It’s a cultural thing, in part, but it’s also just the way we’ve always celebrated together. In the last couple years, I’ve really gotten myself on track with healthier eating and working out, but I feel a lot of pressure when I’m with the family. I also worry about their health, especially my parents’.

As personal as a commitment to health is, there’s always a social dimension. Whether you’re more health conscious than your family and friends or simply have a noticeably different approach to healthy living, it’s common to find yourself in some uncomfortable situations and conversations.

Having had some personal experience along these lines, I know it can be awkward. You’re not looking to become a representative for your choices at every get-together. By the same token, you don’t want to come off as picky, ungrateful or “too good” for the way things have always been done. Nonetheless, you have a right to be true to yourself and your health goals.

My own experiences have taught me that if you don’t make a big deal about it, over time they won’t either. Maybe it will become old news. Maybe everyone will just get tired of talking about. Maybe they’ll even get used to it! In the meantime, play up your part in elements of the family life and celebration that don’t revolve around food.

If dinners become a source of tension or division, perhaps you should talk to your parents or any sympathizers in the bunch and let them know how you’re feeling. Let them know that you aren’t trying to tell anyone else what to do. With that said, don’t feel the need to apologize for the changes you’ve made. In fact, because they love you, they’ll likely feel better when they’re convinced that you’re truly happy and feeling good about your health. While you’re at it, make sure they know you made these changes purely for yourself (and not for the sake of anyone else, like a new significant other).

The issue of their health is an even stickier subject. You might want to wait until things die down a bit before broaching that subject. It may not be a bad idea to keep it low key at first. How about inviting your parents over for a casual lunch (simultaneously giving them the opportunity to see that healthy tastes great too)? Once they have a sense that you’re still wholeheartedly a part of the family and its traditions, maybe they’ll feel more comfortable learning more about what’s new in your life. Give them the sense that you enjoy sharing this part of your life with them.

From there, take advantage of opportune moments, supporting any interest in healthy changes they might share. Offer your help, enthusiasm and interest in blending their goals with the traditions and dishes they cherish. Your will can’t stand in for their commitment, but your support and excitement can offer a big motivation boost. Making it a family endeavor might be the best incentive.

What are your thoughts, readers?

basykes [1] Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Pondering Protein [2]

Dear Mark: Pregnancy Diet Tips [3]

WebMD: Family Meals Curb Teen Eating Disorders [4]

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