the joy of strength training


January 24th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Coping with negative comments about your diet

My BLT without the bread. What crazy nonsense!

Anyone who has successfully changed their eating habits away from the norm (sugar and fat laden processed crap and swathes of starchy carbohydrate) to a diet which keeps them lean, fit and energetic (generally speaking, high in protein, veggies and fats, with carbs appropriate to goals) has probably encountered anything from mild teasing to outright hostility from co-workers, friends or family.

It’s important to understand that they are the ones who feel uncomfortable and threatened – there is no need for you to feel that way.

Now, why other people should feel so uncomfortable and threatened by one’s lunch is complicated, but what I’m interested in is how do you deal with this?

Most of my personal training clients have this problem, and I did too when I was an office worker. You won’t be surprised to learn that I used to try to win people over by talking about it – proselytising, even.

The problem with ‘healthy debate’ in the office environment is that it can all too easily descend into outright argument as people defend their positions. People have been fed so much misinformation for so long, they aren’t going to change their views overnight. Anyway, no-one wants to look like the loser in front of their co-workers.

Although it is always good to discuss things with people who are receptive to it, I now think that this tactic was asking for trouble on many occasions.

Nowadays, I simply say to people, “I’ve had great results eating this way and I love it!” This is difficult to argue against. If you are just starting out and haven’t got your great results quite yet, another way to put it is to say: “I want to do something different and this is really working for me.”

Rather than saying something that implies the other person is wrong – such as “it’s healthier to eat this way” – make it about your own personal choice. It’s harder to get angry with someone who has simply made a personal choice to do something a particular way (although some people will always find a way…).

You can also mention benefits that you have experienced, such as “I feel more energetic eating this way” or “I don’t get as hungry as I used to.” Again, it’s hard to argue against someone’s personal experience, whereas it is easy to argue the toss over statements like “fat is good for you” or “wholegrains are healthy”.

I’m lucky enough to have come out the other side after many years, but what strategies have you employed? Has it hampered you in reaching your goals or did you shrug it off?

Share your experiences below!

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  • 1

    I just show them an old pic of me and say “It seems to work pretty well for me”. They find it hard to disagree.

    Alex on January 24th, 2012
  • 2

    A picture says a thousand words!

    gubernatrix on January 24th, 2012
  • 3

    Great topic. So many people are focused on what they won’t do and then try to tell you what you can or can not do. Now that my weight loss is obvious, I have gotten the comment that I do not need to lose anymore weight. I just tell them that I am not done yet.

    Shimeka Williams on January 26th, 2012
  • 4

    Yes, I get the ‘you don’t need to lose weight’ comment a lot! I tend to smile and say that I am enjoying getting lean.

    gubernatrix on January 27th, 2012
  • 5

    I could say lots of things but, in reality, it comes down to having thick skin.



    Justin_P on January 27th, 2012
  • 6

    Very good topic! I found people definitely looked at me funny when I started drinking protein shakes at work (hard to miss that rattling sound in a quiet office!). It was the men who were cool about it, though, asking how they tasted (if they used protein themselves) or why I was drinking them – but in a genuinely curious way rather than a wtf way.
    Funniest reaction I got was when I was eating a big protein bar one day, and a male colleague said “Why are you eating that? Are you trying to get big?” and I said “Yes, I am.” His surprise was priceless!
    My standard response to questions about my food, or why I’m not having a piece of cake or whatever has up to now been “I’ve started power lifting”, which either makes peoplechange topic or ask me questions about lifting instead. Though I think I’ll start using the results comments instead, because apart from being true they really will shut people the eff up!

    Cledbo on January 29th, 2012
  • 7

    Very interesting, Cledbo. Love the response to getting big!

    Many people think protein shakes are some special substance that will miraculously make you bulkier – whereas they are just food.

    BTW, have you ever seen this clip of Hayley McNeff? I just love her response to ‘why do you want to be big?’!

    gubernatrix on January 29th, 2012
  • 8

    i’ve had to live with comments about my diet all my life. not only do i have multiple food allergies which cause really, really bad pompholyx eczema but i was a vegge for 22 years, spanning a period when it wasn’t very common to be one. i also have oral allergies to certain nuts and fruits and my body randomly goes off and on foods. (my body’s pretty rubbish!)

    i’ve argued about my diet (esp. when i was a zealous 13yr old convert to vegetarianism), and i’ve explained the health reasons for an avoidance of XYZ, but if i’m honest the best thing i’ve found is just to say that i feel so much better for eating the way i do. and since i have an abundance of energy, am much more physically and mentally active than most other people, and i look at least a decade younger than i am, no one can really argue with that. 🙂

    as an aside, i think that e-book on diet from stumptuous ( is the most sensible and accurate advice on diet i’ve ever come across. it pretty much sums up everything i’ve figured out for myself by listening to my body for decades.

    tank on January 30th, 2012
  • 9

    Good post Sally, I went paleo about 18 months ago and the bodyfat fell off. Have ‘regressed’ a bit since then, also have found that very low carb left me feeling a bit depleted. It doesn’t quite square with Starting Strength either!

    I also tried and still generally apply the leangains approach to fasting, which fits my eating patterns very well. I have always felt decidedly uncomfortable talking about fasting.

    Neil Smith on January 30th, 2012
  • 10

    @ tank: Yes, I like the stumptuous book- solid advice.

    @ neil: it’s good to experiment and find what works for you. I do well on very low carbs, I just keep my fats up. I strength train 4 times a week – but I’m trying to get leaner rather than bulk up. Obviously bulking is hard to do without carbs!

    gubernatrix on January 30th, 2012
  • 11

    This is great advice! I have always been someone who is confident and didnt care if i “fit in” or not, but I fell victim to a very unhealthy office environment (all women) about 10 years back. I’ve been overweight most of my life, but got strong and in great shape in my mid30’s, then moved away from all my friends (for my hubby’s job). When i took that job, I went from a happy, 155 lb size 9 with energy to burn to a depressed, 180 size 14. All because I allowed myself to be beaten down by a few women who felt bad about themselves. Then my Dr. Put me on an antidepressant which turned out, years later to have a side effect of 40-65 lb weight gain. I topped out at 225 size 20.

    I am being weaned off the evil meds, and have regained my self-confidence and am slowly beginning to get back to where I want to be (currently down between 14-16 and well under 200). Being part of a supportive group (like Body Tribe here in Sacramento) with an understanding of health and not just fashion helps. It helps A LOT. Your posts help a lot too!!! Thanks, Sally. <3

    Krissi on January 31st, 2012
  • 12

    Hello Krissi! Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your story.

    Actually it’s been my ambition for a while to start a ‘real life’ group that supports women who want to pursue strength, health and lifestyle changes. Hopefully I will be able to make this happen soon because I feel it is the one element missing so far.

    gubernatrix on January 31st, 2012
  • 13

    gubernatrix, have you thought about using to organise it? i’d come, but i live in scotland!

    tank on January 31st, 2012
  • 14

    Thanks, Sally! A real life group would be awesome. Somewhere where women of all ages and sizes with the desire to become strong and healthy could approach diet and lifting together, even if they’re going for different … ‘intensities.’ 😉

    Krissi on February 1st, 2012
  • 15

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  • 18

    It’s funny, I always have people question what I eat and why I eat what I do and what ‘diet’ am I on..’oh…is that the dukan?’. is it ‘atkins’, ‘cabbage soup’ ‘zone’, ‘slim-fast’ ‘lighter life’ so on a so forth? Of which my response is ‘no it’s a lifestyle I choose, your diet is what goes in your mouth so we’re always in theory on a diet…change the understanding of the word ‘diet’ that has been so blurred by media fads and understand food, eating, body response, I know I don’t eat white startchy carbs because I just hate the feeling of being bloated and lethargic…once you know how it feels to feel good through your ‘diet’ aka lifestyle it’s hard to go back 🙂

    ;) on February 10th, 2012
  • 19

    Sorry didn’t add my name…love this topic Sally x

    Evelyn on February 10th, 2012
  • 20

    Hi Evelyn, thanks for your comments. Good point about vocabulary; I still use the word ‘diet’ in conversation which probably confuses people. When I say I’m ‘dieting’ I mean that I’m being particularly vigilant about what I’m eating to meet a particular goal – but in fact my basic diet doesn’t change that much at all. Like you, I couldn’t go back to the way I ate 10 years ago.

    gubernatrix on February 11th, 2012
  • 21

    I love this post. I’ve struggled with this exact same situation, and at first fell into the trap of endlessly trying to explain and justify why I was eating the way I was. Nowadays I just say ‘it’s for health reasons’ or ‘It works for me’. I think diet should go on the list of things not to be discussed at dinner, along with religion and politics.

    Stephanie on February 13th, 2012
  • 22

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    Wed, Feb 22nd | CrossFit Ireland on February 21st, 2012
  • 23

    So glad I read this. Am just about to head off for a long weekend with my family, and this is just the reminder I need to try and be zen about the endless comments, and use the “it works for me” tactic, rather than try and discuss it with them. I am so sick of the comments from other people at work and so on, and it’s heartening to hear I’m not alone 🙂 on May 3rd, 2012
  • 24

    I work at a golf resort and experience the same thing. Yesterday as I was walking through the clubhouse during a bathroom break, when out of the blue the bartender commented while stuffing her face with junk food, “You sure are getting skinny” I responded, “No I’m not. I’ve been skinny my whole life,” (which is true) She argued, “Yeah, but you just keep getting skinnier and skinnier” (which isn’t true) I eat healthy and exercise daily to stay fit well into my 30’s, yet people constantly comment on my weight and diet, saying “you need to put some meat on your bones” or “it’s not healthy to eat that way”. Whether they are jealous or concerned, it’s inappropriate and should be illegal.

    Travis on May 3rd, 2012
  • 25

    You guys are definitely not alone! There is a great deal of misunderstanding out there about food; but the last thing that people want to be told is that they are wrong. So be ‘the freak’ and be proud of it. After all, who wants to be ordinary when ‘ordinary’ is Homer Simpson?

    gubernatrix on May 4th, 2012
  • 26

    Coworkers have been really harsh with me for starting a new diet with an expensive company. It works very well, but in the 2 weeks since I’ve started they are bullying me, degrading me and very nearly shouting at me. Bizarre and I am feeling very bad. This was very unexpected. My closest friend at work is the worst. She is very slender but she tells me I “looked bad when I was slim. I should stop dieting. I was duped into joining the diet group. I should just use will power and common sense to lose weight. It is negatively affecting my personality”. Three women ganged up on me together and kept repeating that I’m acting strange. After that torment I did start to feel weird and alienated. So stupid. Strange thing is that otherwise they are nice people. I’m doing well on the program and have lost weight already, enough that people have noticed. Yet my friend will watch me eat my lunch and then announce to the other coworkers that I’m “not eating anymore” and she told one person that I’m “only drinking liquids”. Outright lies but I don’t understand how she can justify them to herself? Any ideas? Thanks

    Anne on November 27th, 2012
  • 27

    Hello Anne,
    That sounds quite extreme behaviour.

    It is always hard when you are making changes and other people aren’t, especially when they react aggressively.

    I advise making friends (in real life or online) with people who think the same way you do about diet; it is good to spend time with people who are on the same wavelength and helps you to feel that you are not alone. Even if it is just over the internet, talking with like-minded people will help you feel more confident about the choices you are making and you can just let the negative comments at work slide off you!

    gubernatrix on November 28th, 2012
  • 28

    Update: After approx. 10 months of bullying me it seemed to die off after one of the ladies stopped bugging me. The other two still “tease” me occasionally by saying rude things but it isn’t constant anymore. I have reached my goal weight too. However whenever they say demeaning things such as “We wished you weren’t hired here—should have hired someone else” or “You are not a good candidate for promotions” they say “Kidding” right afterwards but I feel sick and worried that it is starting all over again. As a result I don’t really enjoy working there like I used to and am not going to apply for full time work even though it is now available.

    Anne on January 22nd, 2014
  • 29

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  • 33

    I get this from my aunt and grandmother. I want to lose weight for my health. I’m 19 and already on blood pressure medicine. I’ve been on it since I was about 15. Now I’m developing more back problems than I used to have.(I have scoliosis) its gotten worse. So now I’m really bucking down on my diet this year. And gonna do what I need to do. The only real problem is I may have to go to my aunt’s house this year for thanksgiving around this time I will also be in school. So I’m really not gonna be up to listening to her. Last year when i wewent, she questioned me everyday about what I ate for breakfast then would ask my mom if I’m going to eat anything else and stuff like that. I also had one day that she actually yelled at me because of what i had for my breakfast which was a fruit bar( I was on the 321 plan by slim fast) and now I’m back on it. This year I’m thinking about if I do go, then to pack one or two insulated cooler totes with my things in them that I normally eat when I’m home. That is if we go this year….. BTW the 321 plan is three snacks, two meal bars or shakes and one sensible meal. If anyone would like to help me with this, can u please contact me my email is I need all the help I can get please and thank you

    Lala on June 21st, 2014
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