One of the most common questions I receive by email relates to the lack of acceptance of friends and family, even a spouse, regarding the decision to eat Real Food or otherwise make healthy changes in the home.
The abandonment of margarine, Egg Beaters, pasteurized dairy, and GMO and additive-ridden processed foods can trigger a lot of debate, discussion, and stress within the home environment at first.
This pushback is to be expected and is totally normal. You should in no way be confused, distracted, discouraged, distressed, or derailed by this type of reaction.
Most importantly, never take this type of thing personally because it has nothing to do with you.
The reason is because everyone is different when it comes to the speed with which preconceived ideas and mental barriers are broken down giving way to acceptance of new and better information. Some folks do it quickly, others take years, and still others go to their grave never having made the leap at all.
This is why major changes take a generation or two to accomplish – it is really up to our kids in the end to implement the changes that we see desperately need to be made.
This knowledge makes our everyday, seemingly insignificant parenting decisions all the more important and precious, doesn’t it?
It really DOES matter if you succumb to the fast food drive-thru on a day when it is late in the day and you are exhausted because you are teaching your kids that it is ok to lower your standards when it isn’t convenient or a situation goes awry. Wouldn’t it be better to teach the habit of being able to tolerate hunger for the few minutes it takes to get home and show your kids the quick and healthy meals you already have prepared in the fridge or freezer? Teaching kids instant gratification in the food department is a very unhealthy habit to instill as it values convenience and the short term satisfaction of a filled stomach over food quality and long term health. Here’s a funny video on how I taught my kids to reject fast food when they were little (it worked!).
With this in mind, I thought I would summarize for you the four necessary steps that are required for an individual to pass through mentally in order to accept a new idea and embrace it as his/her own. This change-management wisdom was passed along to me by a friend who learned it from a very wise retired man in our community who has counseled people with life challenges both professionally and privately for many years.
I thought it so brilliant and pithy that I wanted to share it.
The Four Steps Required for a Real Food Change
Step One: Perception
A person has to be able to fully understand the words they are reading or hearing pertaining to a necessary change. Is understanding the words alone enough for action? Not by a longshot!
Step Two: Cognitive
Once a person understands the actual words being used, he/she then needs to mentally progress to comprehension of the logic and reasoning the words convey. If the reasoning is not grasped or doesn’t make sense, then no further progress toward change will occur.
Step Three: Emotional
If the logic and reasoning behind an argument are firmly grasped and acknowledged, then emotional factors come into play. If the idea of making a particular change elicits fear, then progress is likely going to be halted. Fear (some like to say it stands for false evidence appearing real) is a common and very powerful emotional barrier for most people.
If the emotions that inevitably surface when contemplating change cannot be controlled and handled in a constructive fashion, then progress toward change once again stops.
Step Four: Social Barriers
Once a person understand the words and logic regarding a potential change and has successfully worked through the emotional barriers, then powerful social factors come into play. Worrying about what others will think or the opinion of those in our community has a powerful influence on our behavior, whether we like to admit it or not and no matter what we might truly believe deep down inside.
There’s a reason why the organic movement started with hippies. Hippies don’t care what other people think! Hence, this group of individuals very quickly moved past any social barriers to making a change to organic food – barriers that hold up other people for a very long time.
Which of these four steps do you think you get hung up on the most? I’ve found as the years go by, I move through the four steps with ever increasing speed no matter what change is required. If the research, logic and reasoning are sound and in place, then making a change is not very hard anymore. Emotional and social barriers get weaker and have less pull on us as we get older. Such great news!
So, the next time your cousin scoffs at your grassfed burgers at a family cookout even after acknowledging that healthy, happy cows eating grass in the sunshine is a lot better than sick, confined cows eating GMO grain, just smile and let it ride. He is just hung up on step three or four!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
How do you deal with parents who disapprove of your food choices? They believe pasta, white rice, vegetable/canola oil on everything, is healthy, and I don’t. Every time we eat together, I feel stressed by their lecture.
They keep saying I should be more normal, “just eat like everyone else, don’t be so picky”. They keep putting food into my bowl and expect me to eat it.
I’m in my 30s, I live by myself, but it’s still hard to feel as if I’m disappointing them by not liking their food. I never push my food choices on them, I just want them to not bug me about what I choose to eat.
Just curious – how do you define GMO, and what is it about GMO foods that are so bad? It cannot be the fear that their ‘altered’ DNA co-mingles with ours and causes problems – if that could actually happen, then we’d all be growing broccoli out of our armpits of something. I understand the socio-economic concerns, but from what I have read, GMO products are safe to consume.
Thanks for addressing this topic! It’s something that comes up ALL.THE.TIME. at our WAPF chapter meetings when I am chatting afterwards with people about transitioning to traditional food! =) My family has embraced the change and loves it… my husband’s family on the other hand…. well, we can’t even bring up the subject anymore. They sprinkle a bottle of MSG on their food. No lie. Nuff said. We hide food in their fridge when we go to visit. I’m a wapf chapter leader now and they don’t even know it!
Just yesterday, my son was ridiculed at school by his own teacher for not eating the donuts that were brought in for his birthday. This particular school brings in donuts for every birthday and my son NEVER eats them (his choice … he knows what’s in them). Why would you bring in donuts for a kid’s birthday when you know he won’t eat them and doesn’t want them anyway? Wouldn’t you actually make the effort to bring in something the birthday boy would eat and enjoy (a box of organic cookies perhaps .. not any more expensive) instead of ridiculing his decision to not eat junky commercial donuts? It’s his birthday after all. People just don’t think.
Hi Sara, we’ve been trying to convert family members for several years. We’re not pushy, just enthusiastic. Sadly most of our family doesn’t come around to see us any more. Three years ago my MIL had a crying fit for 2 hours (!) about only wanting a hormone raised turkey for Thanksgiving. Last July my MIL found out she had stage 4 cancer (soft tissue) and diabetes it was then that she starting asking about how to eat healthier. From that point until Christmas while she was undergoing treatment I would make her healthy, easy meals she could easily fix. I also got her a book on cooking with cancer (which she gave back). But she credits getting thru chemo and radiation with few side effects to the healthy food she was eating. She now eats better and is feeling better. Wish others family members would see the benefits but like you said it just takes time.
I clicked on the link for the video, but the article didn’t have the video in it….is it just me, or is it missing?
Scroll down … it’s at the bottom.
I have had the opposite experience with our 3 sons. They were brought up on our farm with traditional foods and family values only to drift away as late teens and their values completely flipped in college. They claim they are tired of being ‘different’, even at the expense of their health! I admit it is painful for their father and I to see their health decline with illness and allergies and we try not to be hurt when they tell us we couldn’t possibly know better than a trained medical Dr. We have chosen to be an example of health with what we put in our mouths rather than what comes out of it. Thank you for this post, it will give support to many!
Another thing I run into is being scoffed at by parents/family who feel I am attacking the way they raised me simply because I make different choices for my family than they did for me growing up. (“You were raised on pasteurized milk and you turned out just fine!”) There must be lots of others out there in this situation. Not sure where that falls into this model. Sour grapes!
No matter how humbly I approach the subject of food, or how gently questions are answered about why we eat traditionally, I get guilt-tripped for not eating out of a box/can/microwave, etc. It does not affect my choices, and I still smile through their jokes and comments while offering a bite of something I cooked or a jar of something I fermented. But I am waiting for my people to come around and don’t care to talk much about it in the meantime. I’m just happy to be teaching my children to love good food, and to understand WHY it is good for them (or bad for them when they ask for processed foods).
This is clearly their problem and not yours. If you are not being preachy or judgmental about it while you are spending time with them, they are in fact feeling uncomfortable due to your better choices. Kind of like when an alcoholic stops drinking … his/her drinking buddies no longer want to hang around.
Sarah, the most prevalent thing I see is the whole “low-fat/no-fat” mantra – drives me nuts. But I had to comment when you used the word “preconceived.” My favorite saying, which applies to many things in life from politics to medicine and of course to food and health.
“Some folks do not want to be confused by facts that contradict their preconceived opinions or prejudices.”
I love the quote and think it fits right in with your message here. Thanks!
This post really hit home for me. I have been battling my kids and husband over real food for about two years now. My boys accept it and my daughter readily eats whatever I stock for her and put in front of her. My husband clings to his hidden oreo’s and town house crackers, though he admits that there is a noticeable difference. At the very least, fast food is 100% absent from his diet now. My middle son was literally picked on for eating organic food in his lunch at school. The best I can understand is that his lunch is not the typical school lunch and other kids ask him why. He explains our food theory and for three months he weathered the storm. He has been accepted for the most part now because he stood up for what he believed in. Now he has to deal with kids begging him for his food. So it seems that kids eventually get over the non-conformity and recognize real and yummy food regardless of it not looking like a typical school lunch sack.
I have a friend who drank raw milk along with her kids for something like 7 years before her husband finally tried it and loved it … never again to return to supermarket milk. Sometimes it takes awhile 🙂
I found that chipping away at those four factors with baby steps was helpful. Starting with switching to butter, and then grey salt were two things I did for years before the big wall of denial began to crumble, finally.
It’s funny how almost everyone nowadays readily admits butter is better … whereas only 10 years ago, folks thought you were nuts for eating it and that you were literally going to drop dead of a heart attack right in front of them. So interesting to observe how perceptions change as people’s emotions adjust to the new information and they are able to embrace it.