Low carbohydrate ways of eating have grown increasingly popular in recent years. Despite this, there’s still a good chance that your family and friends won’t always eat the same way as you do if you’re following this lifestyle.
Whether they’re housemates, family, or friends, living with and around others who eat the standard American diet can be challenging. Well-meaning friends and family can be a source of unwanted pressure or temptation—even more so when those loved ones don’t support a low carbohydrate approach at all.
If this all sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Virta patients shared some of their experiences:
I struggle every day with my family that is not supportive! I live with my 2 adult children, my mother in law and my husband. The only support I get is from my husband, although none of them will eat the food I eat. I feel so alone sometimes.
My family does support me and they love the changes they’ve seen in me, but they just can't do it for themselves.
My immediate family is unsupportive. I believe it's because I believe there is only one right way to do diabetes, and what she believes will not be changed. I've stopped trying to explain how this works.
One of the challenges I have is they don’t want to eat things in front of me, and especially with one particular person, we have to discuss for several minutes whether she should eat it or not. I really don’t want to keep someone else from eating what they want to eat and have to talk about it for an hour in the process.
We asked the Virta community for their advice on how to navigate these tricky situations.
1. Identify Your Challenges
Breaking old habits and making healthy lifestyle changes can be difficult enough without adding unsupportive family, friends, or housemates to the mix. You can make it easier though, by knowing what specifically you find most challenging.
Spend some time reflecting on what has triggered lapses in the past, whether it be work stress, family troubles, boredom, or something else entirely. Do you want to grab the first thing you see in the kitchen after a long day at work? Have trouble asking for something different when your friends decide to go out for pizza? What you find challenging is individual to you, but it’s helpful to know what it is.
Virta patients shared the challenges they’ve run into:
Holidays, special occasions, and celebrations of any kind throw me off more than anything. I like to keep my schedule and I don’t like to deviate from it. I’ve tried different things in dealing with this. Sometimes I’m successful, but sometimes I’m not.
Very tasty but unhealthy for me food brought into the house and left out in view.
The aroma of a bakery makes me weak in the knees.
I am challenged with eating when not hungry. Boredom and stress seem to be the key triggers.
I mostly lapse when I am sad. I am so grateful for my coaches I have, and the patient community.
Once you know which areas you have the most trouble in, you can strategize how to solve for them. For example, if you know you want to eat everything in sight when you get home, maybe make it a rule that treats need to be kept in a cupboard, out of immediate eyesight.
2. Form New Habits
One of the hardest parts in sustaining a lifestyle change is breaking unhealthy habits that you may have had for decades. This can be even harder when those habits involve other people, like getting popcorn at the movies with your kids, or a special dessert you always share with your spouse on your anniversary.
Write out a list of the habits and behaviors you think are holding you back from your goals. Are there healthier versions of them? For example, if you’re used to making pizza on Friday nights, you could experiment with a low carb version for everyone or do a “build your own” pizza bar, with options that fit everyone’s tastes.
Virta patients shared some of their old habits, and what they started doing instead:
Pigging out on M&Ms and popcorn at the movies was always a staple when my family went. We haven't been lately because of the temptation but now we go hiking in the woods. We have been to several state parks and just being out in nature is wonderful.
Ignoring hunger and mindless eating. [I use] mindfulness as a replacement.
Even before Virta, I didn’t go out to restaurants that often and because it was so infrequent I would order anything I wanted. It was an adventure to try new things and order things I normally wouldn’t prepare at home. That has changed now. I admit some of the adventure is gone, but I usually can find something I would like to try and still stay on Virta, just not to the extent as before. There are definite limitations from which to choose, but still good!
I don't eat crackers and cheese any more. I use celery and cucumbers, or just eat the cheese slice with nothing else. I also don't linger over alcoholic drinks anymore. I substitute club soda and a little olive juice with a skewered olive in it.
3. Find New Favorites
If you’re facing resistance introducing healthier foods at home, it could be because your family is worried they will have to eat foods they don’t like anymore (particularly with kids). Finding new go-to options that the whole family will enjoy can help with this.
Another option is to make meals where everyone can build their own plate - like a taco bar, stir fry, or even pasta (with zucchini noodles and a low carb sauce for you)!
Virta patients shared some of their new favorites:
Some of the things everyone seems to like are these Keto enchiladas I make. They are a huge hit. I’ll do stir frys and lettuce wraps that seem to please everyone. Also soups do well. Then I will just grill out different kinds of protein and that is well liked.
Steak, cauliflower, and salad.
Pot roast, steak, most chicken dinners can be eaten by everyone and don't require big changes to the recipes.
Chicken breasts in the crock pot, mashed cauliflower, and green beans.
For more family-friendly meal ideas, check out this collection of low carb recipes and our archive for inspiration.
4. Outsource Support
Having a support network is important to maintaining healthy lifestyle changes. If your immediate family, friends, or housemates don’t agree with your choices or even actively attempt to sabotage them, it can be even more difficult to maintain your new way of eating.
If this is the case for you, try getting creative to find the support you need where you can. An online or offline community of like-minded peers can be beneficial and offer practical insights on how to make your new lifestyle work in the long term. Health coaching can also be beneficial by providing impartial insights and feedback.
Virta patients shared where they find support when times get tough:
The Virta community - everyone is going through the same doubts, questions, and experiences so it's a wonderful place to vent, ask a question, or post a success.
My family is very supportive, but I do have a Virta friend I speak with and that helps me a lot. Everyone in the community is so supportive and caring. My coach too, of course.
My coach. I am also blessed to have coworkers and a few friends who are very supportive. It's been helpful to be around others who do some form of low carb!
My coach, my friend at work and of course, the community.
5. Prioritize Yourself
At the end of the day, the healthy lifestyle choices you’re making are for you. What you do with your body is your decision and you are the one that has to live with the consequences.
Focus in on why you wanted to make these changes in the first place. Write them out and stick them around your house as a reminder, if you need to. Making healthy choices that feel right to you only helps you be the best version of yourself for your loved ones.
I mainly just have to concentrate on myself, realize this is the most important thing I can be doing for my health, and try to do the best I can. I know there will be ups and downs but as long as there are far more ups, then I will be good!