Here’s some good news. If you’re a health coach, nutritionist, dietitian, parent, or any food enthusiast who wants to have others eat precisely what you want them to eat, I think I can tell you how to do it. Of course, we’re doing this for a very good reason – a lot of us are smart enough to know the best ways for people to feed themselves. We want our fellow eaters to receive the same wondrous benefits that we have from our preferred and enlightened nutritional system. So if your husband or boyfriend is a junk food eater, or if your client can’t get it together and eat the right way, you’ve come to the right place.
I must confess that these are “trade secrets”, but I’m really eager to share them. Here goes:
If you want people to eat exactly what you want them to eat, it’s useful to know a little bit of the history of how others have done this in the past. Experts have been enamored with such strategies for quite a long time, but honestly, if they truly knew what they were doing, their interventions would have worked and we likely wouldn’t be in this conversation. So what I’m going to do is to first fill you in on the 5 dietary compliance strategies that have been most commonly used, and then share with you the 5 new and improved strategies that I’ve used with excellent success.
5 Outdated Dietary Compliance Strategies
Tell people they’ll be really healthy
- Tell people they’ll live a really long time
- Tell women they’ll be really skinny, tell men they’ll be muscular and virile
- Tell everyone that they’re screwed if they don’t eat your way
- Give irrefutable scientific proof that says your nutritional approach is “right”
There you have it my friends. Check out any popular nutrition or diet book from any particular expert and you’ll likely get some version of the above. And honestly, there’s a wisdom and a usefulness to these strategies. I still use these myself whenever the need arises. The challenge of course, is that there are so many different and conflicting nutritional systems available for popular consumption that eventually people catch on to this strange paradox. How can all the experts be right if everybody’s saying something different? I especially tend to put little trust in anyone who tells me that a particular diet will grant me 100 years of life if that person isn’t at least 99 years old. Isn’t that just plain old common sense?
Now let’s take a moment and consider an updated version of how to help others best digest and absorb the dietary advice that you sincerely believe they should follow. My assumption is that you care about others, you’re turned on by health, you want to share what you’ve learned with the world, and that you’re called to make a difference.
5 New and Improved Dietary Compliance Strategies
1. Give dietary wisdom, not information:
I notice that far too many people are suffering from a “high fact diet.” Eaters these days are inundated with all kinds of juicy nutritional information that doesn’t quite add up. Nutritional confusion is the new eating disorder. The simple solution here is to appeal to the higher order of understanding that we all have. Wisdom means encouraging people to follow their own innate guidance. Wisdom means presenting people with facts, and inviting them to explore and experiment in the spirit of a true scientist. Wisdom means that we encourage people to tap in to the intelligence of their own body. And finally, wisdom means that we don’t always know how anyone’s nutritional journey needs to truly unfold. Each of us will live out our own unique metabolic destiny.
2. Give nutritional advice that has heart:
Yes, go ahead and tell people what and how you think they ought to eat. But please make sure that you offer them a nutritional journey that has heart. Speak from a place of shared humanity. Communicate with kindness. Most often, when we tell someone “don’t eat that food, it’s bad for you”, what they often hear is “you’re a bad person for eating that food.” Make sure that your advice elevates the other. If we give someone a nutritional approach that’s limiting, lifeless, and filled with punishing language, we inject a subtle poison into their relationship with food. Nutritional advice is best prepared and served with love.
3. Add some spicy passion:
My favorite health and nutrition experts tend to have this one thing in common – they’re very passionate. Something special happens when we allow ourselves to communicate to the world from a turned-on place. We don’t always realize it, but our ears are fine-tuned to words that are spoken not from somebody else’s head, but that are vocalized from every cell in their body. Nutrition information delivered without passion is like eating a meal absent of any flavor. The body will likely get the nutrients it needs, but something very important is missing. And there’s a good chance you’ll never eat that meal again. The world doesn’t need nutrition or health advice that’s cooked with boredom. Be creative. Spice it up. If you want to inspire someone to eat a certain way, then rock their nutritional world.
4. Honor people – no matter what they eat:
Here’s the challenge: when we tell someone to follow a particular diet, we’re often saying at the same time that what they’re currently eating sucks. Maybe they know better, maybe they don’t, but there’s a way to honor people no matter what they eat. When others feel you coming from that place, they tend to listen. Years back, I had a client, a 35-year-old successful businesswoman from Atlanta who was suffering from fatigue and wanted some nutritional help. When I inquired about her diet, she informed me that breakfast was hostess cupcakes, her mid-morning snack was doughnuts, lunch was peanut butter and jelly on Wonder Bread, her next snack was Twinkies, and dinner was either frozen pizza or Cocoa Puffs cereal. She was serious. I’d never done this before, nor have I done it since, but I started laughing out loud. I honestly couldn’t help myself. She looked a bit mortified and asked what was so funny. I said that this sounded like the diet of a 7 year-old whose parents were away. She paused for a thoughtful second, and burst into tears. Sure enough, she was raised by a single mom in poverty, and most of the time was sadly alone, and feeding herself. Needless to say, I begged her for forgiveness, and learned a very powerful lesson that day: we can never know for sure who people are, where they come from, or what drives the way they nourish themselves. Respect your fellow humans no matter what they eat.
5. Inspire people beyond good food:
I believe if we’re going to tell others what to eat or indeed how to eat better, then our dietary advice has real nutritional value when it’s more than just about food. Does it truly matter to any of us what kind of groceries someone chooses to entertain their palette with? There’s a bigger and more useful point to eating healthy, and that point is to have the kind of vibrant biology that allows us to express our fullest human potential. Good nutrition is meant to launch us into the highest possibility that incarnation holds for each one of us. So don’t just tell people what to eat. Let them know that the ultimate meal is to feast on their own greatness, and serve it to the world.
Please feel free to share with us some of your own nutritional wisdom around how you’ve inspired others to follow the kind of diet that speaks to both body and soul.
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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