Are People Making Rude Comments About Your Low-Carb Diet?
Here's What to Say and Do
Are you brand new to a low-carb diet? Have you returned to the Atkins Diet after a leave of absence? Maybe you've been following a restricted carbohydrate program for a while now. No matter where you are in your low-carb journey, sooner or later, you're bound to run into someone who feels a strong need to criticize what you're doing.
That's what happened to me when I started a low-carb diet in January of 2007. One of my friends showed up on my doorstep, noticed that Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution book was sitting next to my computer, and started lecturing me about the dangers of ketosis. Her reasoning? Ketosis was a toxic condition, so I needed to replace the refined carbohydrates in my diet with whole grains rather than eliminating them completely.
When people are rude about your eating style, nosy about the amount of fat or protein you're eating, and insist that the state of dietary ketosis is dangerous, you might not know what to say or do. For that reason, it's always best to be prepared ahead of time. With adequate preparation, you'll be able to pull an appropriate response out of your back pocket whenever the need arises.
Ignore Their Opinion
Being considerate of the opinion and choices of others can go a long way toward eliminating the inner turmoil that often arises when others confront your diet of choice. That isn't easy to do if you have a strong need to defend your decisions. Rather than focusing on yourself, one way of handling dietary confrontation is to first consider where the person's information is coming from, and then simply agree to disagree if it doesn't match your current regimen.
For example, my friend had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. She had been studying the state of ketosis as it pertained to that condition. While both ketoacidosis and dietary ketosis are referred to within the medical field as simply ketosis, they are not the same thing.
I knew that my friend had done her research regarding diabetes, was extremely opinionated, and that despite the extensive scientific evidence in support of low-carb diets today, she wasn't going to listen to anything I had to say. Especially since Dr. Eric C. Westman, one of the authors of The New Atkins for a New You, stated in a New York Times interview that the public perception of most low-carb programs is that they are nothing more than pounds of steak and piles of bacon. Most people don't know the difference between a zero-carb diet and the Atkins Diet.
Since the discussion actually centered around the information that my friend had discovered online, and it didn't come from any reasonable research into the topic of low-carb diets themselves, I simply chose to ignore her opinion about ketosis.
I didn't defend my diet. I didn't offer any explanation for the book sitting next to my computer. I didn't even try to correct her misunderstandings about eliminating carbohydrates. I simply listened to what she had to say and directed my comments toward the state of ketoacidosis. I knew that was the perspective she was coming from. I also kept the discussion focused on HER and her diabetes, rather than allowing her to bring my diet and health situation into the conversation.
Difference in Ketoacidosis and Ketosis Explained
I was able to do that because I wasn't offended by her errors and because the conversation was about the topic of ketosis, not fat loss. However, being considerate and ignoring the opinions of others might not work if the person opposing you continues to use rude remarks and invasive questions that try to pry into your personal eating style.
If you can't just ignore the person's opinion or the situation won't allow you to simply agree to disagree, there are additional options and tactics you can use to stay in charge of your inner state.
Firmly Define Your Boundaries
When you're faced with someone who thinks that what you're eating is wrong and refuses to let it go, the best response is to firmly define your boundaries. But you don't do that by appealing to a higher authority. In fact, if you try to use low-carb experts to justify your dietary choices, that will only make the situation worse.
Setting and keeping your boundaries intact isn't the same thing as being right. In fact, the need to be right will only fuel the conflict. Appealing to low-carb authorities might work if someone is sincerely interested in learning about low-carb diets, but it won't help with someone who doesn't see Dr. Atkins or Dr. Westman in the same light that you do.
Appealing to a book written by Gary Taubes, a blog post written by Dr. Eades, or an article written in a low-carb magazine is introducing information into the conversation that can be debated and argued. You don't want to put yourself into an arguable position. There's nothing to argue about. What you put into your mouth is entirely up to you, so you'll want to firmly define your boundaries in such a way as to assure the other person that what you're eating isn't a topic for discussion.
If someone isn't respecting your decision to restrict the carbohydrates in your diet, simply state:
"This is my choice, and I'm not going to discuss it."
Be simple, and get right to the point. Don't waste your time on flowery words, long explanations, or on trying to be diplomatic in hopes of not hurting their feelings. No matter what you say, you're going to hurt their feelings because their expectation is that they will be able to convince you that you're wrong. Expectations always set us up to experience some degree of disappointment when things don't happen in the way we expect them to.
Don't give others the opportunity to do that to you. Don't allow them to lead you down a path where you don't want to go. Let them know right up front that you have no intention of participating in that type of game. Choose not to go there.
Respect the Opinions and Beliefs of Others
If you want others to respect your low-carb diet choices, then you have to give others the same type of respect and freedom. It doesn't matter what anyone else is eating. If someone is chowing down on a donut while they're insisting that a low-carb diet is dangerous or lecturing you about the danger of eating too much saturated fat while filling their shopping cart with potato chips, chicken nuggets, and frozen pizza, give them the freedom to live that contradiction. Judging is judging, and you can choose not to participate in that type of interaction.
Also, refrain from introducing your beliefs about a low-carb lifestyle. While you might be strongly tempted to explain what you believe about eating grain free or low carb versus low-fat diets, in hopes of creating a convert, be realistic. Most people are not interested in learning about something new. They are interested in confirming what they already believe or want to believe is true.
When others are caught up in their emotional need to convince you to conform to their opinion, that is not the time or place to introduce what you believe. People who want to argue are in no frame of mind to receive what you have to say. The focus is on them and what they think. Even though the conversation is about you, it's about what you are doing wrong. In that type of situation, your opinion about low-carb diets won't be welcomed. It won't even be heard.
Always Follow Through -- Don't Discuss it!
Once you've stated that you are not going to discuss your current dietary choices, you have to make sure that you do exactly that:
- change the topic to something more agreeable
- hang up the phone
- stop texting or emailing back
- leave the room, house, or building
- get out of the car, or drive away
If you allow the other person to step over the boundary that you've just created, then you have handed them all of your personal power for that issue. They won't believe you're serious, and will continue to question and make rude comments. While people don't always mean to be rude and obnoxious, it's not in your best interest to stick around. Let them have the last word, and just walk away.
Ignore the Critics of Low-Carb Diets
Let Your Results Speak for Themselves
The idea is that it's up to you to choose how you are going to react to the different situations in your life. No one is forcing you to stay and listen to what others are saying to you. You always have the option of ignoring their opinion, defining your boundaries, and walking away when others don't respect your choices. Don't hesitate to use that option. Getting defensive and argumentative doesn't bring inner peace. It only aggravates the conflict and keeps you from achieving the degree of health and peace of mind that a low-carb lifestyle can bring.