The summer will soon be here, and if you’ve been making some big changes to your diet recently, a couple things are probably going to happen — you’re likely going to struggle with all the food served at big traditional summer gatherings, and — if you’re anything like us — you’re probably going to be telling people about some of your new approaches towards eating. This is great — especially if you’ve started to really get in shape, people are going to ask, with legitimate interest: “what have you been doing?”
'I Have Discovered the World’s Greatest System and You Absolutely Must Follow It'Yep, there’s one particular problem with this — people often call it the ‘convert’s zeal’, and it manifests itself in a kind of ultra-high enthusiasm for a recently-adopted system — an enthusiasm that can often turn into serious evangelism. It's understandable to want your friends, family and loved ones to make healthy changes, but the way you deliver your ideas might backfire and turn people off. Worse they might feel judged - which can lead to resentment. Not what we want. How come? Well, for one thing, it’s difficult to explain all the great changes you’ve been making, both in your eating and in your activity level, without coming across as though you’re selling something, or maybe even being too pushy about it. Usually this happens without you realizing it, either. With that in mind, we put together 5 ways to help you out this summer (and anytime) — with any luck, they’ll save you from going on a 2-hour rant at the picnic table, and hopefully they’ll help you win over a few ‘converts’, too.
#5: Whenever You Can, Take the Positive Route.This is an obvious point, but no matter how conscious you are, it’s still remarkably easy to forget — people just respond better to positive suggestion rather than negative criticism. Sometimes this requires you to spin your thoughts around in your head, before you speak them aloud. An example: if someone offers you a Diet Coke, don’t put your hands up, shake your head, and say “no way, I never drink that stuff — it’s full of hideous crap!” Yes. We know it’s loaded with crap, the person offering it to you probably knows the same thing, but in general, this approach doesn’t really stick. Try something different — less “hell no” and more “no thanks. You know, I read a really interesting thing about diet drinks recently…”
#4: Start Small, Start Small, Start Small.I have a little theory. Some of these fad diet books gain so much popularity in North America because, lacking the same grounded food culture of many European countries, we’re more susceptible to full-on, 100% revamps of everything we eat. When you’re unsatisfied/confused with almost everything you eat, the idea of a magic little book coming along (Grapefruit, South Beach, whatever’s popular this year…) and promising to solve the what-to-eat headache is extremely tempting. But the fad diets keep selling because none of them really work, as none of them are really sustainable. The key, it turns out, is starting small — but it’s hard to sell a diet book with that kind of pitch. And, coincidentally, the philosophy behind the ‘Real Food’ movement is exactly that — if you’re going to start being conscious about the food you put in your body each day, it’s got to be done gradually. The same goes for telling someone else about your exciting new discovery — if you unload 4 hours of information about feedlot beef and processed corn on your poor Uncle Mike at the family BBQ, is it going to stick? But if you suggest a couple easy replacements instead, and then follow up at your next family dinner, your newfound evangelism will have a bit more staying power.
#3: Be Ready For Skeptics.The ‘additives are bad’ argument doesn’t always convince everyone — it’s helpful to have a few facts about why eating 15-ingredient bread or crackers isn’t the best idea, as just saying “it’s bad!” can appear somewhat ill-thought-out. The context of the food, the lack of history when it comes to ‘food-like products’, the way additives change how our body breaks down particular foods — all these things can help you make your case.
#2: Have An Easy, Convenient ‘Way In’.So — despite all your sales acumen and sly charm, you’ve failed to sell your gathered family on the true benefit of unprocessed, real food. No worries — sometimes we have to rely on tried-and-true pieces of content to make the case for us. There are four that work wonders. In order of easy digestibility, they are:
- Mark Bittman’s TED talk on Real Food (a short online video)
- This Time magazine cover story about the food system (a great, clear article)
- The wonderful, well made documentary Food, Inc. (a super-watchable film)
- Michael Pollan’s fantastic The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a top-shelf book)