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  • by Jaclyn Foster

Connecting at Gathering Without Sacrificing Goals

You’re proud of yourself because for the past few weeks you’ve been making healthier choices. You smile in acknowledgment that you are starting to see the numbers drop on the scale thinking about how happy you are that you’ve stayed committed to yourself.

Then you look down at your phone to see a text from your cousin inviting you to a holiday gathering. Your heart sinks and you let out a sigh as you remember that relative that you sat next to last year who didn’t look like they were making the healthiest choices, yet they were telling you what you needed to do to lose weight. Seriously!

You contemplate whether it’s worth going but know that there’s been so much distancing this year and you’re craving a little connection and decide its worth it.

But how can it be different this year? How can you feel better about an interaction when you are getting instructions or resistance from those who claim they know better than you? Or maybe they’re one of those people that tries to talk you out of your changes telling you to “let loose” so you feel guilty about stating what you need.

How do we maintain a sense of clarity and grounding in these moments and stay committed to our goals?

I’m so glad you asked.

What We’re Dealing With

First, you are not crazy if you are impacted by those around you. We are social creature that have an innate drive for belonging and to feel like we are part of a group or community. Because of that, when we are with others, we want to fit in. We want to be accepted, acknowledged and part of the crowd.

It’s also important to remember that in every encounter we have with another we are bringing in two (or more) person histories along with the current situation. We all have areas of our lives we are proud of and feel as though we’ve succeeded and areas where we’ve struggle and desire to do better.

We have a history of family, intimate and other relationships. And whether we realize it or not, those relationships and interactions make a, sometimes lasting, impact. When we interact with others, it takes practice to be aware of how our history shows up and impacts how we respond.

Now, we’re not going to try to excavate our history in one blog, but before we talk tips, it can be helpful to understand how personal histories and our need to belong can show up and derail interactions.

Those Cringe Worthy Interactions

There are several ways our personal histories can show up that can lead to frustrating interactions. As you read through the different ways we show up below, I imagine you might see that relative you always struggle with or perhaps even yourself. As I wrote this, I was reminded of many interactions where these responses came up, within myself and others.

Firstly, for all the educators and teachers out there, it can be easy to show up outside of work and the “office” as the teacher, thinking you know what is best for others and telling them what they “should” do. There are also the caretakers or friends and family who think they know better than you what is best for you and of course, they tell you about it. Then there’s those that judge you as having no idea what you are doing and think you are crazy.

When these three types of voices show up in an interaction, it can be easy to have those moments where we doubt ourselves when we hear words like, “Well, you should do this…” or “Well that’s not going to work because…” or “My friend has been successful with _____, why aren’t you doing that?”

Ugh. All that clarity we thought we had can go straight out the window. If we aren’t prepared with a response. A very normal and common response is to either get defensive or shut down because social pressure does impact us. And of course it does, right! We want to belong.

There are also those who recognize the value of what you are doing but haven’t been able to make it work for them. Those who have tried and failed so they may have temporarily, or seemingly permanently decided to give up on making healthier changes.

These conversations can bring up words like, “Oh, come on, it’s the holidays you can take a month off your diet,” or “Live a little,” of “You’ve become a health nut, don’t you know how to just enjoy yourself.”

These are people who may consciously or unconsciously feel “less than” as you share your successes or show up looking more fit and healthy than the last time you saw them. They may quite possibly feel embarrassed and frustrated that they haven’t gained traction in the same way.

If someone is triggered by something you do, it probably has a lot more to do with the accumulation of their personal history and desire to fit in than it does with you are doing something right or wrong. But nonetheless, its no fun to go into these interactions feeling unprepared with the fear of repeating the same icky conversations.

Preparing Makes All the Difference

So now that we have a better idea what we are dealing with, let’s talk about how we can get prepared.

Be informed: Take the time to understand why you are doing what you are doing. When you make changes it always helpful to understand why you are making them and how they are impacting you.

You may anticipate questions you have received in the past that you felt you couldn’t answer, so that you can ask your provider or health coach, or research on your own to have a better understanding.

In some cases, this may be enough to change the course of the conversation.

For example, if you know which types of carbs are good for you and why, if someone questions your carb choices, you can at the very least have an internal trust in what you are doing and will be less shaken up when resistance comes up.

Ask Questions: In addition to being informed, it can also be helpful to ask questions. If someone is suggesting something, ask them what they know about the subject. Where did they learn that information? And if relevant, do they know of any studies or resources that back up the claim they are making?

When they share, you can see if what they are saying makes sense to you, and you may also leave with some resources you can investigate to see if the information shared feels relevant or warrants further investigation.

Lower Your Status: Now, for those that feel you are being picking on or singling out, I have a wonderful suggestion I learned from the work of Dr. Doug Lisle a clinical psychologist. He teaches a strategy of disarming people who you feel are giving you a hard time or appear to be triggered by your changes.

This all goes back again to our desire to belonging. As humans, with our primal need to belong, we want to feel like we are valuable and strong to our “tribe” – our family, friends, communities. Seeing others succeed in ways we haven’t yet can lead us to feel “less than” and embarrassed. Because we want to belong, we can default to defending our position to show strength.

Although it’s so important to be able to celebrate successes and bask in our accomplishments, these are not the best people to do this with. When getting along is a priority, we can soften our responses and choose more disarming words that show our own imperfection.

Here are a few examples of ways we can respond when we feel like we are getting picked on encouraged to abandon our goal:

  • · “I’m just giving this a try for now, so I’m going to hang on for a while to see what happens.”

  • · “Seems to be working for me for the moment, it’s probably not right for everyone.”

  • · “Thanks so much for the offer, I’m going to ride out this change out for a little bit longer to see what happens.”

Doctor’s Orders: If you feel like you don’t have the energy for questions or a longer conversation and you want to finish the conversation fast, you can make a quick default to “Doctor’s orders.” For example, “My doctor asked me to give this a try. I’m going to stick with his instructions.”

Usually most people won’t push you if you claim doctor’s orders as the reason for change.

As you prepare for your next gathering or to link up with those you’ve struggled with in the past, give one of these a try and see what happens.

Would like some additional support? You are not alone and change takes time! It’s a practice and more often than not it can greatly benefit to reach out for support of a coach, friend or mentor.

If you are a Whole Health Plan Member, the Medical & Wellness Centers located in Austin, Texas and Glendale, California are available for support. Give us a call.

If you are Whole Health Plan member and have not established care with the Center for your primary care services, call us to make an appointment or learn more about the benefits available to you as a patient of the Center.

You can explore our website to learn more about us as well.

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