When I started making adjustments to the way our family ate, I was very open and honest about my lack of knowledge, my pitfalls, slip-ups, and cooking catastrophes in this new venture of mine. On the other hand, I have also been very quick to share when I have a kitchen success and make a delicious meal which my whole family loves. I *think* that open honesty is what has made my clean eating journey seem that much more approachable, and void of annoying judgements. I was and am just an average mom who grew up in a lower middle-class family, eating lots of pre-packaged foods and a whole lot of meat. This has been a big change for me and my family, but I am trudging through and having fun with it.
Since I began sharing this journey of ours, I’ve received many kind and sweet comments and emails from readers, friends, and even family members, who have been encouraged by our adventures and are trying to eat better too. It’s been quite exciting and humbling to think that I’m having even the smallest of impact on helping a person eat and feel better. It got me thinking how those of us who are on a similar path, and want the same for the people we care the most about, can inspire our friends and family to eat better — but without being annoying. After giving it some thought, here are some tips I think can really help inspire clean, more wholesome eating — instead of simply annoying those we care about.
Invite your friend over for dinner: No one is going to turn down a free meal prepared by a loving friend. Prepare a simple yet tasty, healthy, and nutritious meal that your friend will love. You can be open about how healthy it is ahead of time, or surprise them at the end when you receive glowing reviews. And only if they inquire about how to replicate the meal themselves, share the recipe. Don’t slip it in their purse on their way out, and explain how they should try cooking healthier, and how tonight’s meal would be a perfect place to start. That is definitely annoying.
Bring them your favorite green juice instead of coffee: I have many friends who have expressed a lot of interest in the whole juicing thing, but are either afraid to try it alone or don’t know what to order, and end up getting turned off because they order some horrible concoction at the juice bar. So next time you’re set for a coffee date or meeting a friend for a visit at their house, suggest a juice bar instead, or bring over your most favorite, best tasting fresh juice for them to try. And no one says you have to give up your coffee dates, this is just a way to introduce a friend or family member to the idea of juicing.
Bring a tried and true, taste-tested dessert recipe to your next gathering: Do not let your friends and family members be your guinea pigs by bringing over recipes you’ve never tried before and may likely be terrible. Instead, next time you have a family gathering, sign up to bring something sweet, and share your favorite foolproof, healthy dessert. Shock your friends and family with just how delicious healthy can taste.
Casually share your journey on social media with yummy looking photos of healthy food: I started my Gwyneth Made Me Do It Instagram account as sort of a tongue-in-cheek joke, not thinking I would end up loving this way of eating so much I’d adopt it full time and do a major overhaul of the way my family eats. Sharing my struggles and successes in a very natural way has really been what has inspired people, and led them to believe that this way of eating could be enjoyable, tasty, and achievable.
Know your audience: You have to know who you’re dealing with before you try to start inspiring. Personally, I know my brother is off-limits to hearing about ways to eat healthier. He’s a pretty confident and athletic guy who overall does a decent job of leading a very healthy lifestyle. But if I were to start in on him about his diet soda intake or 5 cups of coffee, I’d encounter nothing but resistance, which would probably start a family feud. My mom on the other hand, loves hearing about what I’ve recently researched and recipes I’ve discovered. Keep personalities, background, and history in mind before you start trying to “inspire” a movement.
Be humble: I am far from knowing it all and I am very transparent about it. I’m learning along the way and sharing what I learn. Coming off as a know-it-all is a one way ticket to being shut down and affecting zero change.
Be honest: Related to being humble, I cannot stress how important it is to be honest when you don’t know something. Ask lots of questions and do your best to find answers to questions, but never claim to know something you don’t, and fumble through an answer.
Do your research: When in doubt, do research. And then research it some more. It’s likely that you will encounter lots and lots of questions, and many of them rhetorical, from those resistant to change; I know I have. Don’t think of it as a test, one which you will fail if you can’t provide stats and references and studies to prove things. Instead, research those topics you are most genuinely interested in, and share what you know. Beyond that, a hard-hitting, old-school uncle who is firing questions at you like bullets, can calmly be quieted down with a simple response of, “I’m eating this way because it makes me feel better.” Who can argue with that?
A couple of tips on what not to do if you want to inspire.
Don’t be judgmental: Never tsk-tsk-tsk your finger at a friend when you see them ordering a side of fries instead of a salad. Don’t rattle on about the latest study you read which shows just how bad diet soda is. No one has ever been inspired to change by way of guilt.
Don’t refuse a meal that’s prepared for you, even if it’s not in line with your healthy eating habits: About 5 years ago, long before I even started to think about changing my diet, I had a friend and her daughter over for dinner. As I served them their food, which included a side of peas, she asked me if they were organic. When I stated that they were not, she passed, and didn’t eat them. I will never forget that and always hold a slight grudge at her, even though now I primarily eat organic myself. Always remain flexible and open to the gifts of others, which a home-cooked meal always is, even if it’s not organic, free-range, and grass-fed.
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