This is part of a larger piece of work that I’m building on. The inspiration came from an essay by Sebastian Marshall and is well worth the read.

If you’re the first among your friends to make a lifestyle change, a very large majority of them are going to hate you for it, unless the change can be externally attributed.

So you’ve done some reading and decided that you want to try the 30-Day Paleo Challenge?

If your friends don’t know Gluten from Guetta and you all go out to dinner, your food choice just labeled you “that diva” who eats funny.

Forget getting support, your friend eating the cookie in front of you is going to offer you one.

If you accept, you’re weak and “weren’t that serious anyway”

If you refuse, you just reinforced the label of “diva”

Congratulations.

Because you made a choice, you just became the enemy. You’re a Villain of the vilest sort.

If, on the other hand, your doctor told you that you had to cut out wheat because you have a Gluten allergy?

Your friends will not only support you, they will do everything to make your life easier.

Going out? One of them is going to double-check that the restaurant can accommodate you.

Dinner party? Someone will make a dish just for you.

You aren’t “that diva” you’ve become “that poor thing”.

Because the choice was taken out of your hands, you are now a Victim.

When a lifestyle change is a choice, people get defensive. They feel threaten. As far as they’re concerned, you’ve just said, “What you’re doing is wrong.”

They now have two choices: Either they justify why they continue the behavior, or they can discredit the person not maintaining the behavior.

When the lifestyle change is externally attributed, people don’t get defensive because they secretly think “They would still behave this way if they could!” No one feels threatened so there’s no reason to act defensively.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s true.

If you’re going to make some lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to health and nutrition, here are three steps to help make the transition easier.

1) Externally attribute your lifestyle change, regardless of the actual reason for it

“I have a gluten allergy so I have to go paleo.”

“My doctor told me I needed to quit drinking.”

This makes the initial transition easier. You’ll have to face much less social pressure which makes it easier to ingrain the lifestyle change. Once you aren’t worried about regressing to old habits while under stress, you can try step 2.

2) Internally attribute your lifestyle change and ignore everyone who gives you grief. 

“Sorry, I don’t eat bread. It makes me feel weird.”

“Sorry, I don’t drink. It messes up my sleep.”

No matter how apologetically you might do it, if you internally attribute your habit change, you’re going to get grief. If you hang out with cool people and everyone is happy for you or at least no one cares? Good for you. The amount of grief will be minimal. Enjoy your new habit and all the changes it brings. If the group of people you spend time with aren’t as cool and they start to bother you, enter step 3.

3) Draw the line in the sand and potentially Get New Friends. (More on this in a later post.)

“I don’t eat bread.”

“I don’t drink.”

You’ve made your lifestyle change, you’ve reaped the benefits, and you’re happy. The rest of the people in your life don’t need to be happy for you, but they can’t make you feel bad about yourself for choice either.

Draw the line in the sand. Tell them when enough is enough. Give them plenty of warning. They might not know that their behavior or comments are actually bothering you.

But.

The moment that a friend knows that what they do or say is a problem and they do it anyway?

Cut them loose and find a new friend.

There are plenty of people who can hang out with you without making you feel like shit for your choices.

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