Why is it that being healthy can make friends and family feel so damn uncomfortable? Surely those who love you dearly should be pleased that you have corrected your vice-ridden ways and taken the road less trodden to reduce (hopefully) the odds of illness and obesity. But alas, I am not so sure this is the case. I think I can speak with authority on this matter having been on both sides of the dichotomy.
There was once a time, a decade or so ago, when I used to binge drink too heavily. In fear of sounding too righteous now, I never actually drank at home but I socialised with friends a lot. I would, without fail or second thought, take round numerous bottles of wine, a spirit and possibly also a liquor like Tia Maria or Kahula which I would add to a strong coffee to elongate the evening. If my companion didn't guzzle and drain the alcoholic contents as enthusiastically as me, I would become unsettled; disgruntled even that the level of commitment wasn't as sufficient as mine? If I was dedicated to wearing the mother of all hang-overs tomorrow morning, then why wasn't she? This was the ritual that we embarked upon and I thought we both knew the rules and would abide by them consensually. Becoming so blotto that we would share secrets that would be forgotten by morning was part of the ritual we had both signed up to.
Time to make a change
Of course, I can now see how annoying that is to be the one trying to cut down. Making healthier lifestyle choices shouldn't mean that you have to change your circle of friends but in some cases not doing so might actually be holding you back from taking that first crucial step.
Your parents f**k you up
I have a difficult relationship with my mum and food. Having worked as a night nurse for years her eating habits are pretty bad. Because she was permanently tired, her body naturally craved carbohydrate-heavy sweet treats in the main. Time was precious with mum as she struggled to support her young family on one salary so when my sister and I did spend time with her it was often in a tea shop. The sumptuous choice of foods ranged from Bakewell slices to coffee and walnut cake or doughnuts to scones with lashing of clotted cream and jam. Spending special quality time with mum equalled eating cake. This was the deal, just like my expectation with my 'drinking' pals and there was no getting out of it. Despite her sweet tooth, mum was never over weight and could happily substitute a cake for her entire day's calorie intake and similarly my sister. But I was not made of such sterling will-power and became a chubby teenager who struggled with my weight until my twenties.
Healthier options made difficult
Now in the beginning of my forties, I have succeeded by and large to become healthier and more discerning of my weight and general fitness but still certain traditions remain which are difficult to break. I had lunch with mum only last week and she did her usual trick of looking at the dessert menu before checking out the savoury selection. When I asked her what she was having, she looked fairly non-plussed by the lunch menu saying that she would only have something small in order to save herself for a hearty pudding and added "and I'm sure you'll help me out and have some". When I replied that I wouldn't be having one as I was looking to control my carbs intake, choosing a high protein option she was knocked off kilter. This time, I had been the one to break the sacrosanct pact that had been so deeply entrenched in our relationship. She was miffed of course, trying her best not to show it but then also decided that she too wouldn't have one now. I presumably made her feel guilty about her less-healthy yearnings and it wasn't an easy call to make on my part. Mum looked almost hurt that I deviated from the expected response.
My role with carbohydrates and espcially sugar
I am going to see my friend Lisa next week. When Lisa and I meet, which isn't very often now as I live overseas, we always have cake, specifically Battenburg cake that we both refer to as 'Window' cake. This exchange of carbohydrate, fat and sugar is a tradition that neither of us appears able to break. I know Lisa's weight fluctuates and from time to time she resorts to commercial diet products to get her back 'on track'. I too am still on an experiment to combine hard weight and interval training at the gym with a depletion of carbohydrates in order to coax my body into using up my fat stores for energy and subsequent weight loss. But we both know that neither of us has the guts to alter this tradition in fear of altering our relationship.
Overcoming sugar in the same way as overcoming alcohol
Over the years, as my friends have become pregnant and been unable to drink and with small children, less inclined to want a hang-over, I have learnt that meaningful as well as interesting conversations can still be had without being paralytic. So why can't we make that shift when considering a sugary treat with friends? Are we worried that without that glucose spike and subsequent squirt of insulin, conversation will dry up and we would merely be left making small talk over a Ryvita? Or are we too polite to make the other feel uncomfortable at the expense of one piece of cake?