You’ve learned all about real food. You’ve spent countless hours reading books, watching documentaries, pouring over studies, listening to podcasts and following the latest in real food news. You are appalled by the state of the food system in your country and you understand the healing power of real food.
Sometimes you feel really lonely with your new found knowledge. While your friends and family mindlessly chow down on health-robbing, industrialized, food-like products, you spend your time cooking (and cleaning up after cooking!) real food. You dismiss your co-workers’ suspicious glances at your daily bottle of kombucha. You ignore the gasps when you reveal just how much saturated fat from grass-fed animals you consume each day.
But, truthfully, you worry about those you love who just don’t seem to understand that their food is killing them, slowly and quietly. You’ve tried to convince them. You’ve given them books, you’ve recommended studies and documentaries. You’ve prepared your favorite dishes for them, but they still eat that wretched Standard American Diet (SAD).
And now, in appreciation of all of your hard work researching and teaching, some of your friends and family poke fun at you. You’ve become the co-worker who eats weird food. You’re the daughter who will die of a bacon-induced heart attack. You’re the uncle who brings his own food to the family Christmas get-together. You’re the friend who skips girls’ night out at Olive Garden because wheat is public enemy #1.
Why don’t they get it? The evidence of harm due to their conventional diets is apparent in their health conditions! Weston A. Price’s findings are compelling enough on their own! There are books and studies and anecdotal evidence galore that are convincing to the most skeptical among us!
How can you tell others about real food in a way that makes them believe?
Well . . . you can’t.
I hate to be a downer, but convincing someone to change his or her diet is harder than convincing someone to change his or her religion.
The truth is that you have a valuable message to share and that science backs you up on your belief in the effectiveness of a real food diet for health and weight loss. The problem is with the way that message is shared. There are more compelling ways to spread the word about real food than the way many of us go about it.
1. Stop Proselytizing
Yes, the message is important. Yes, real food saves lives. No, preaching about real food is NOT the way to get others to convert.
First of all, you probably follow a real food lifestyle that you have found to work for you. It might be strict Paleo, vegetarianism, traditional foods, Primal, GAPS, etc. You may thrive on three meals of meat per day and few vegetables. You might feel great and heal your body on a vegetarian diet. Unfortunately, your mother may get sick eating that much meat. Your best friend may experience fatigue on a vegetarian diet. You don’t know if what works for you will work for everyone else.
Under the umbrella of proselytizing is guilt. Stop making your friends and family feel guilty about their choices. If Uncle Wheat Belly’s doctor can’t guilt him into cutting out the all-grain diet to lose a few pounds, you most certainly won’t have any sway.
Stop giving the evil eye to mothers you see feeding their children Goldfish crackers. (Especially if you don’t have children!)
Constantly telling others how bad their diet is for them and how they should do things your way will not help you to win friends and influence people.
This tip might be more difficult for many real foodies than the first one! So, maybe you don’t judge what others eat, but do you fret over what you eat?
When my husband I were new to real food, we dreaded family get-togethers. We understood how even the yummiest homemade foods were loaded with all the wrong ingredients. Foods that we used to look forward to, the ones we’d eaten every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July for decades, now seemed like poison on a plate. How could we get through a family function without junking up our insides?
How do you think it looks to your friends and family when you come to a food-centered function and complain about the food or simply choose not to eat? What about if you bring your own foods instead? (I’m not talking about merely preparing a real food dish to bring to a potluck. That’s perfectly acceptable!)
It makes you look rude and self-righteous! Unless you have an allergy to a particular food, eating your old SAD favorites a few times a year so that you don’t insult your grandma is NOT a big deal. Get over it!
Regardless of your commitment to eating clean, think about how your behavior affects those people you want to reach with your real food message. If living a real food lifestyle is deemed too restrictive, you will never convince your friends and family to begin the journey. Show them that you can enjoy a meal with them without fretting over the ingredients.
(Of course, common sense must prevail. If you have an allergy, or if eating a certain food will force you to spend the next day keeping really close to the bathroom, don’t eat that food!)
Be relaxed, tell others about the 80/20 philosophy and show them just how simple and how incredibly non-restrictive a real food way of life actually is.
3. Lead By Example
If you think you will lose 100 pounds by going Paleo, then by all means, go Paleo! But don’t tell anyone. Just do it. When you’ve done it and people start to ask how you did it, tell them: Ta da! PALEO!
Until you’ve gotten results from your real food diet, you really have no place teaching others about the power of real food. Until it has actually worked for you, don’t talk about it.
As I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds, gotten off all of my medications and gone from being a sick, fatigued stay-at-home mom to a vibrant, energetic working mom, people have noticed. No one except my husband knew what I was attempting, but everyone wanted to know how I did it once the weight started falling off and I was able to pull my personality from under the rubble of fat and fatigue.
And when people ask how I did it, I tell them, “I eat real food.” That’s it. I don’t tell them my opinions on CAFOs or why Starbucks isn’t gourmet. I don’t encourage them to “just try it!” or outline my plan for them. I simply answer the questions they ask. No less, no more.
If they want more than I can explain in a brief conversation, I give them the address to my website and recommend a few books that I found helpful at the beginning of my real food journey.
I understand that this advice is great for those with an easy-going personality. But what if you are really, really excited about how real food has changed your life? Read on, my friend!
4. Write About Real Food
It’s natural to want to share something that has changed your life for the better. It’s normal to want to help those you care about to live their best life. However, it’s annoying to be on the receiving end of unsolicited advice.
If you can’t stop yourself from talking about your real food lifestyle, try writing about it. Start a blog, write a book, host a podcast. When someone finally does ask you about real food, you will have a library of content to show them. They can peruse at their leisure and take in as much or as little information as they desire.
The great thing about a book or a blog is that you can give tips about how to make a real food lifestyle work so that people aren’t overwhelmed with trying to understand how real food fits into their life. People with an piqued interest in real food don’t need to understand why Monsanto is Satan. They need to know the tools that make real food accessible and easy to prepare!
Put all of your hours of research into helping others in a way that is truly useful.
It may sound like I’m asking real foodies to become less passionate about real food, but I’m not. I’m only asking that we represent ourselves well and teach by example. Don’t be the crazy person who gives the rest of us a bad name! Don’t be the inflexible foodie who makes a real food diet look restrictive. Don’t be the food snob who makes the real food lifestyle seem elitist.
Share helpful information when asked. Introduce others to amazing food, without a long speech about why it’s better than what they currently eat. Let the food, your health and your love for others speak for themselves and be ready to answer questions when your loved ones are ready to ask them.