Paleo Plan

How to Deal with People’s Negative Comments about Your Paleo Diet

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-stern-woman-wagging-her-finger-image20679965You probably get some sarcastic questions and negative comments from people about your Paleo diet, right? I do. I try not to get defensive and upset, even though I know my chiders’ diets are usually not-so-great.

But sometimes it’s really hard to keep my cool. I’m feisty.

For instance, the other day, my vegetarian friend asked my husband and me, “So, are you guys still on that Paleo diet?” to which I replied, “Yes.”

Then, the otherwise peaceful, yoga-loving woman surprisingly said, “I think your fangs are getting bigger,” and pointed to her own canines, laughing and pointing at us. “Don’t you feel guilty killing all those animals?!”

It was a really good thing my husband was there because after a little more of her chiding, I said, “No, we get our animals from local ranches where they’re taken very good care of, and I don’t feel guilty for eating them. I’m not having this conversation,” And I walked out of the building. Seth had to finish the conversation for us.

You can call me a brat or overly defensive if you want (my husband did), but here’s why I got so mad.

1. She’s a vegetarian and I’ve never said one negative word to her about her diet, even though I think it’s suboptimal. I was a vegetarian for 10 years and it ruined me, and yet like I said, I’ve never said anything judgmental to her about her diet. Plus, I know that she has gut issues that would probably be completely resolved by cutting out all the grains she eats.

2. I make it a point to never say anything to anyone about their diet, unless it’s on this blog, where you can choose to read it or not, or someone specifically asks for my opinion. To have her rashly judge me and make fun of me for a choice that I’ve put so much thought and effort into, and that I’ve had so much success with, was overwhelming and frustrating.

And lastly…

3. I’m tired of people giving me shit for the way I eat.

I’m just tired of it.

People say things like, “Isn’t eating all that meat bad for you? Is your cholesterol ok?” or, “Are you doing my fitness class today? Oh, wait, of course you’re not. You’re Paleo – you have no energy!” Or, “That’s all in your head. Everyone can eat grains – come on. Ha ha!” And on an on.

The worst is when people ask me for help with their child’s autism, ADHD, and all the meds they’re on, or they tell me about their own need for medications for various symptoms, and then they make fun of me for my diet. All in the same conversation. That irony is one of the most frustrating parts of my life, to be quite honest. I wish I could just shake them by the shoulders and scream, “What are you DOING?! Can’t you see that it’s just about what you’re feeding yourselves? All of these problems could just go away for you!”

But usually I just reply with a, “Ha ha. Yeah, yeah,” and change the subject. It’s not worth my time. In my opinion, if they’re to the point where they’re actually making fun of me, they don’t deserve to be re-educated on nutrition. Not by me, anyway. Moreover, they probably don’t want to hear about it.

If people ask questions in a humane way, expressing genuine interest and concern for their own health or mine, of course I give them the best answers I can. I’ll talk to people about my diet all day long if they actually want to know.

So how can YOU deal with the naysayers?

Well, if they’re mean about it, I say just try to ignore them and change the subject. They’re probably not interested in hearing about the details of gluten and omega 3′s and all that, anyway.

In the case that it’s your family and good friends making fun of you, asking direct and pointed questions, consider just telling them all about your successes with the diet so far.

“Honey, don’t you think that cutting out major food groups (grains and dairy) is a bad idea? What’s next – are you gonna go live in a cave??” asks your mother.

To which you could reply, “But Mom, I lost 25 pounds, and no other way of eating has done that for me. And my skin cleared up, I’m off my anti-depressant, and I have more energy. I think I’m going to keep trying it for a while. Plus, this book I read (mention any of the Primal/Paleo books, like ours) did a comparison between a typical American diet and my new diet, and mine is actually higher in vitamins and minerals. And all those grains were making me fat and tired.”

Or something like that. I actually did do a comparison blog post here if you’re interested.

The more you read, the more information you can quickly regurgitate in a conversation like that. So read up! :)

It’s really not about the science behind it, though. If you just tell people you feel better and look better eating this way, what can they possibly say to that?

That you may feel better now, but you’re going to have a heart attack from all that meat later? Then go get your blood drawn by your doc and see for yourself if it’s helping your glucose, triglycerides and other markers of health. I’m willing to bet that it is, judging by the rampant success I’ve seen in others and myself. (My own cholesterol has improved markedly since I’ve been Paleo.) Then you’ll have even more positive things to say about Paleo to your naysayers.

I mean, if people get really nasty, you could be nasty back to them, but that’s not really going to accomplish anything. Like, “Oh yeah? You think my diet’s funny? Well, maybe if you tried it you wouldn’t be so fat!”

No, don’t say that. Seriously, don’t…

The whole point of this Paleo thing is to get as many people feeling better as possible, right?

So we should probably be as mature about it as we can (myself included) and not take things too personally when people make fun of us. After all, Paleo IS very different. It IS completely opposite (almost) of how we’ve been told to eat our whole lives. So people do have reason to think we’re nuts. Let’s try to fight fire with water – not fire – or just ignore the naysayers and enjoy the benefits for ourselves :)

Anyone else have any suggestions for how to deal with anti-Paleo meanies? What do you say when people make negative comments about your diet?

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19 Comments

  1. Neely,
    Thanks for making my day…and many more to come.
    You have addressed so many paleo-naysayer comments with sensitivity, vulnerability, and humor.

    I love the inclusion of your “inner-adolescent” retort (maybe you wouldn’t be so fat,etc), honoring it
    is a great idea, as long as your return to your adult-mode before speaking out loud!
    Bantering is non-productive, but doesn’t keep some of the responses from forming, especially when your
    feelings have been hurt.

    As a yoga teacher, flying in the face of tradition to bring no harm, and kill no animals for food, often invites a confrontation.
    I am conscious of the care and the slaughter of those animals, but no one is listening by that time, especially if they arrived with a “better than” attitude from their own choice of vegetarianism.

    Now I tend to curtail any such discussions with, “let’s not judge each others choices.”

    Instead, I encourage the “When Harry met Sally” school of attraction …”I want what she’s having”. Several have been inspired by my vitality, and are open to exploring my diet for themselves. Short of that,
    as I said, any lengthy discussion is argumentative and non-productive. Neely’s “change the subject”
    technique, seems the best.

    Bottom-line: You can’t change anyone else and they can’t change you/me.

    The best news is, we have each other (Paleo Plan) for education and support, and others continue to join
    us because we inspire via our resulting lifestyle. (AND/or, because they are tired of feeling
    like sh–t., from their present nutrient-deficient diets!)
    Namaste’.

    • Neely Quinn

      Gail – Thank you, as always, for your words of wisdom and encouragement :)

  2. I’ve been made fun of lots at work over the last couple years. But I keep bringing in my food totally not bothered and enjoyin y food..until finally they ask to taste something of mine. Next thing you know they are making there own paleo egg muffins! And showing them to me :) I came in a meeting with a big ass salad yesterday the color of the rainbow and everyone was jealous. Not only that but people are actually starting to ask and listen not just be freaked out to my advice or watching Dr. Oz. when Dr. Cordain was on. So it’s catching on, and there’s less donuts and crap laying around.. PS – don’t let it cause you grief because haters are just jealous especially when people are doing something that causes others to follow and succeed. That means your doing something right if there’s undeniable proof.. Subconsciously maybe the people that tease you can’t take that it infers that there way “is wrong” so they do whatever they can to overcompensate their own ego. It really is them, not you. Just smile, keep doing what your doing. Follow your path.

  3. This is a great post. However, with all due respect, I hope you’re not implying that autism is caused by a non-paleo diet.

    • Neely Quinn

      Liz – No, I’m not implying that it’s solely caused by a non-Paleo diet, but I do know that diet plays a large role in mitigating the effects of autism, and can radically change people’s behavior.

  4. Most of the skeptics now see the changes over these past 7 or 8 months. I am back in clothes I grew out of years ago, my decades of horrible IBS symptoms are gone, my headaches are gone, and my knees do not ache and grind anymore. They are starting to do their own research and some have started eating Paleo. A vegetarian friend is struggling with a teen daughter with diabetes and weight gain, and has now said she wants to hear about Paleo. I am so thankful for my friend who mentioned Paleo to me. Thank you for this site…it has helped me so much.

  5. I’m personally of a belief that the only acceptable things to say about what other people* eat are “That looks/smells/is delicious.” and “Would you give me the recipe?”

    Everything else? None of my (or their) business unless specifically solicited. It’s invasive and really, neither person is going to change, so why sully the relationship based on your need to control what other people put in their very own bodies?

    No one has ever said, “I so enjoyed the food-shaming from others that I changed to eat how they do.” All it does is create resentment and distrust.

    I give parents more leeway because it’s because they love you and it’s kind of a major change from the recommendations they’ve heard for decades. So it’s just, “Mom, my doctor says it’s fine, my blood work is good, and I feel really good when I eat this way. It works for me but if it stops, I’ll do differently.”

    *Unless, of course that person is your spouse or your own minor child.

  6. Thank you for your post!
    I am fairly new to this lifestyle so it was a shock to be cornered by a vegetarian (at a class potluck!) who could barely keep from doing a full body eye roll (yes, it is possible) when I mentioned I am trying to go Paleo and was wondering if there was dairy in the baba ghanoush.
    She was so passionate about telling me how unsustainable this diet is, how we would have no earth if everyone was on a Paleo diet, spewing off research of countries who have grain in their diets and how much better off their health is… etc. etc. etc.
    I couldn’t help but get my feathers a little ruffled! I told her that I actually make it a point to make giant veggie fritatas, veggie soups, and even made up my own recipe for paleo “granola”! (Of course fattened up with coconut oil, avocados, and nuts when I can…) All the meat I eat is organic and grass fed. Of course she was in no place to hear any of it. It just caught me (and my vegan friend) off guard. I don’t tease you for crunching on whole bell peppers like apples in class! Ew. Anyways, I’m sure this won’t be my last encounter! Thanks again for the support… and a good laugh.
    I am defiantly conscious of diversifying my paleo diet and use this site for much of my cooking inspiration!!!!! I have read blogs about people who eat 2lbs of ground beef and a huge steak in one sitting, for one meal, regularly!!!!

  7. ksovern1@aol.com

    Just wondering, why Grade B maple syrup vs. Grade A? I have been unable to find Grade B

  8. I like your post, but I think the comment from your friend that set you off was simply her viewpoint coming out: I think she believes it a horrible thing to kill and eat animals, which may be impacting her choice in continuing a vegan diet even if the diet isn’t really good for her. A paleo diet for someone who holds that belief (and would like others to hold the same belief) isn’t really compatible, from my viewpoint.

    I like your comment that you made “No, we get our animals from local ranches where they’re taken very good care of, and I don’t feel guilty for eating them.” but that could have ended the conversation….. (actually just saying “I don’t feel guilty eating animals” was enough)…. possibly.

    One of the things I am doing is not referring to my diet as Paleo in certain people’s presence; it seems to be a touchy word, and I have no need to promote it to others. Such as my doctors and people who have indicated that they think (or I believe they would think) Paleo is a crazy thing to do. I say that I am eating healthier now, and that I have cut out most processed foods, and bypassing sweets for the most part. If I do comment regarding some of my other ‘restrictions’ like not having wheat or other grains (bypassing a sandwich, etc.) I say that I have pretty much eliminated that from my diet. If someone says ‘but grains are really good for you’, I can say they aren’t really for me, but that I use some flour in baking (I don’t mention that it is only almond flour or flax seed flour). So far people seem to respect ‘gluten free’, and to some extent ‘soy free’ and ‘dairy free’ but not ‘I’m on a Paleo diet’. Also if you don’t eat the potatoes or rice, it’s easy just to say that those starches don’t agree with you, or you don’t feel like eating that at that time; both statements are true, and you don’t have to make the leap to say that agreeing with you equals not being allergic or something. So I just change the words and don’t go into details. If they do hear the word paleo from me and make a snide comment or something, I can tell them that for the first time in years I am truly enjoying the food I eat, and that for me trying the Paleo diet has been wonderful. I have liked it so much I have decided to keep eating that way and I am learning that all the things that people believe about fats, cholesterol and nutrition aren’t necessarily true. The hardest thing so far is that someone couldn’t believe I made my breakfast each morning (cooking bacon and eggs) because how could I have time to do that????? When did I get up each day???? But I just said it was about 20 minutes to do, and that I got up at my regular time (1-1/2 hrs before start of work), and I enjoyed that time in the morning.

    I think people will at some point not think that ‘going Paleo’ is a strange or poor food/diet choice. But my take is that it will probably be years since there are a lot of people who are uncomfortable with people who eat animals (oh the horrors!) and within the medical community who believe that eating the fats and meats in this diet and not including the recommended daily ‘whole grains’ are disease producing and ultimately harmful to most of society.

    But I’m glad I tried this diet and am really satisfied with it as a lifestyle choice. My choices to (mostly, I’m not super strict — with my children I can forego being on the ‘diet’) go dairy and soy free is reaping some benefits to me for health, and I don’t really miss a lot of the foods I used to eat. I’ve lost weight on a ‘diet’ without being hungry all the time or unsatisfied with the food choices on that diet.

    Again, I’m not strict on this, I do go out and occasionally eat things not on this diet, but its not that much. Thank you for having your site and being much more active in promoting it than me. How else would I have tried this?????

  9. Wendi Cherry

    I think people I’ve come across have mostly been interested in my diet and ask why I chose to be on it. Having had a myriad of Heath issues over thee last 6 years. Starting with diverticulitis to Parkinson’s disease to a total collectomy and now I’m facing atypical cell in my breast. Despite all of these issues I went Paleo in Jan 2013 and as of yesterday my labs have never been better except for a slight decrease in my white blood cells. I’m no longer enemic and all the levels that were too low are now normal and my cholesterol has never been better I have lost a significant amount of weight recently due to a lack of appetite because of medication. How do I gain some back like 10lbs? I’ve added some bread to my diet as I am so underweight 5’3 88lbs. Maybe you have some suggestions. For a small appetite no cheese not good for me. Thanks

  10. Well said. I often find that people like to debate and enjoy being academic about Paleo and the strict anthropological existence of food X or Y during the paleolithic era. Um, ok. I like to stick with what makes me feel good, perform best, and look great. k thks..

  11. I’m in the camp that it’s no business of anyone else what and how I eat. My response to anyone trying to “educate” me would be – “The day you pay my bills, ALL of my bills, is the day you can say ANYTHING about the way I choose to eat”.

    Seriously. Unfettered sexing and having multiples of children are doing more to create unsustainable food shortages than eating paleo.

    Education is the key, but education on a broad range of issues it will have to be. Until we can get insane shows like “19 Kids and Counting” (TLC Network) off the air and start educating ourselves about realities and not reality television* we will continue to have these needless spats popping up.

    (*Duggan is an ex -House of Rep and can well afford all of those children – at the public trough (pension) and life-long medical care that citizen taxes provide all former Senators and Congressmen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19_Kids_and_Counting)

    Just walk away from them. DO NOT worry about being polite for there is NOTHING polite about someone cornering you and, without asking, giving you a lecture about your life. Just – walk – away. If they accost you further, get stronger about it. If your home, ask them to leave and get louder if they do not. If at another’s house as the host to handle them. If they come around more, make loud comments “Not AGAIN, can’t you leaver me alone? Are you stalking me?” And then walk away as they start in with their excuses and their lecture – again.

    Make THEM the pariah for having abhorrent manners.

  12. Decades ago, in 1990 i began working, speaking doing PR in health and fitness for big hospital based wellness center. Sadly there was no internet & no PubMed or Paleo ect to learn from. We were told to push the horrific US Gov High Carb Food Plan.

    Even with that, some negative cynical people would make comments about healthy eating being boring and implied healthy people were boring.

    I learned a WISE TACTIC to respond with compassion from a wise old amigo,… 2 questions:

    What IF you could feel better, look better, perform better & be a good example for your own family, friends, church and coworkers????

    How much would that be worth to you????

    Let me know how this works for you OK? to your health & happiness, DanO

  13. Like some posters, I avoid saying I’m Paleo and just tell people that I’m practicing “clean eating” and am “gluten free” and “no, it’s not a diet, but yes I did lose 14 lbs).

    I was actually shown a page from Reader’s Digest by a friend who was worried about me being gluten free. But the next time we had lunch together she brought a chemical filled SlimFast shake, and (I have to assume) looked enviously at my spaghetti squash and chicken breast with marinara sauce…and small colorful salad…and handful of pistachio nuts. I left lunch pleasantly full and ready to tackle my afternoon, and she said she was coming down with a headache…

  14. When will the human populace recognize that plants are living organisims, have feelings, and are just a lower life form. No, they don’t answer & are root bound. They do move toward the sun & follow it every day. Research has been done about plants and music.

    As far as I’m concerned, killing plants is no more murderous than killing animals.

  15. I started paleo on July 3, 2013 @age of 51. I was extremely ill with multiple things over the past 11 years. In and out of the hospital with very low quality of life. Dr appt in february the NP brought up dialysis because my diabetes was out of control and nothing was improving my health. I had to give up my full time job to work part time to survive last year. I was out of any hope to ever feel better. Then my father texted my younger brother had been very sick and in a “bad way” traditional medicine could not help. His naturalist prescribed the paleo diet. He was losing weight and @ 29 he was feeling so much better with digestive problems under control. I researched paleo for 2 weeks and read multiple testimonials. I was out of options so felt why not? The results were amazing. I had a Dr appt on Aug 22, 2013 and after 6 weeks my cholesterol and triglycerides went from being off the charts to within normal limits. My hemoglobin A1C went from 11 to 8.6. I looked like I had lost 50lbs but had only lost 25. I became leaner. Dr was amazed-he had planned on starting me on Victoza a last ditch effort to control my diabetes and I was able to go off 1 diabetes med and decrease other. He kept shaking his head and stated he was writing an article for the medical journal. I should be off all diabetes meds in 6 months. paleo changed my life! I now have one!

  16. Although I appreciate your ‘niceness’, it is something I can’t do.
    I prefer the assertive approach, particularly if people are scathing (which is rare).
    Depending on their looks (if they are fat themselves they are kinda sitting ducks), I ask about their triglycerides, cholesterol, BP, AI diseases, GORD, etc.
    And if they have no health problems at all I can always say that the fact that THEY don’t need it does not mean nobody needs it.
    I pester them with my GORD that, after 8 years of maximum therapy has disappeared, I lost 11 kg in six months and had to buy new pants, my back rash that has disappeared, my extremely high fasting trigycerides that have normalised, my glycaemia that has normalised and quite a bit more.
    I have a ready powerpoint presentation on my stick about the evolutionary rationale of the diet, and ALL those that took the trouble to see it were impressed or very impressed. Of course I have some small, but serious studies (O’Dea, Shai, Lindeberg, Jonsson, etc) at hand to back it up.
    I ask them if they are pre-comtemplative or contemplative, and when they ask what pre-contemplative means, I explain that that is a polite term for being in denial.
    Very few take offence at that approach, in fact I cannot think of a single one.
    I could convince 11 of those critics to actually give it a try, and only 4 of them did not consider it worth their while after all. [1 said he gained weight on the diet (a beefy male eating an extraordinary amount of meat (2-3 kg's/day), 1 said she got sick, vomiting and all, and 2 of them found it too difficult to abandon their bread (1) or pasta (1)]. The other 7 are doing fine, losing weight and improving their markers of metabolic syndrome.

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