Do you have a friend or family member who is into healthy food and natural living? Do you feel they are a bit “over the top”? Are you planning a holiday gathering and already feeling the angst of two conflicting lifestyles?
I’m writing this as one who used to think “natural living” people were crazy. Our family of 11 was doing just fine the way we were. Here’s what I thought of health fanatics – especially parents:
“Lighten up. Stop scarring your children by depriving them of normalcy.”
Our lives took an unexpected turn in 2008 and within a matter of months I had become one of “those people”. (Read more about our journey here.)
We took out processed foods, replaced store-bought eggs with pastured ones, and cooked meals from scratch. I questioned Western medical practices and explored herbal remedies. I felt the derision of family and friends.
Having been on both sides of the health fence I offer these five suggestions for loving the “health nut” in your life.
1. Ask supportive questions
There are condemning questions and there are supportive ones. Sometimes it’s a look, or a sigh, but when I feel questioned as a mom it pains me deeply. If possible, contain the skepticism and ask questions like,
- How can I support you when you’re here?
- Is there anything I can have on hand that would help?
- What foods would you like me to have?
- Is there a recipe I can try?
- Would you like me to use a different detergent while you’re here?
- Would it help if I didn’t use scented candles?
You can’t lose with these questions. This creates an openness that will help diffuse the inevitable tension that arises when two lifestyles collide.
2. Be open
Even if your loved one is overzealous, keep an open mind. Take advantage of their experience and let your mind entertain new ways of thinking. Listen with an open heart. The relational benefits that result may surprise you.
You can never lose having an open mind:
‘The mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Do you feel overwhelmed trying to accommodate your loved one’s lifestyle? Be honest without blaming. Ask for suggestions. Can’t afford grassfed beef or organic food? Ask your family member to bring a dish to contribute. In the early days of our dietary transition I welcomed the opportunity to bring food. Work together to make the gathering pleasant for everyone involved.
4. Be sensitive to children
Leave the children out of any potential conflict. Avoid offering a treat to a child and then asking the mom for permission. Find out ahead of time what the child can or can’t have. Even if you think the child is missing out, honor the parent by listening to their wishes. Imagine the positive impact for the child who is spared the discomfort of feeling in the middle.
5. Remember what matters
Think how rewarding it will be to honor and support your loved one. Even if you feel judged for your differences, or you disagree with their decisions, try putting the relationship ahead of all else. Do your best to absorb any attempt to get you to change and believe the best about them. Health people like myself get super-excited about the topic and can share more information than is appropriate for the situation.
Family events can be challenging even when there aren’t opposing lifestyles! Give each other space and stay true to yourself. You may have one of the most memorable and joyous gatherings yet!