Its hard. When you find something that completely changes your life it is hard not to stand from the rooftops and shout at everyone passing by. You want to help everyone the way you just helped yourself. It comes from a good place, but it is not always productive. In fact, it can be counter-productive. Turning people away from your message instead of interesting them. I totally get it. After 21 years of suffering from serious digestive issues that often left me completely miserable I felt entirely enlightened when I realized that I didn’t have to look 5 months pregnant with a bloat baby all the time, when I realized that it wasn’t normal to only go to the bathroom once or twice a week and when I figured out how to live my life without being on 20 different medications. I wanted to enlighten everyone, and to be honest sometimes I still do. But I realized early on that shoving information down everyone’s throat was not going to help a soul. Here are some tips about talking to people (productively) about healing chronic illness and adopting a nourishing food diet.
- Be Humble: The first step is to recognize that in reality just because something worked for you doesn’t mean it is the magic answer for everyone. Sure, the principles of cutting out processed foods and transitioning to real food diet may be beneficial for us all but just because you realized that dairy was NOT your friend doesn’t mean that everyone is sensitive to it. The idea is to inspire others to educate themselves on what steps they need to take for their personal health journey not force them to take the steps that worked for you. Nothing is more of a turn off to someone who is chronically sick than you telling them that you can cure them. They have been told that countless times and it has never worked. The idea here is to spread information, not a cure.
- Be Educated: I was recently talking to a woman who was completely against going gluten free because she had had countless conversations with people who always just pushed a gluten free diet as something that could help her without explaining why. She felt like they were just looking for any opportunity to preach the evils of gluten without really knowing whether it would work for her or not. It wasn’t until I sat down with her and actually talked about why gluten can be an issue for some people that she was able to let her guard down and start to think about what going gluten free might do in the context of her own life. Educate yourself before you talk to others, nothing hurts your credibility like telling someone to make a radical life change and hen not being able to explain why.
- Meet People Where They Are: Right now I am healthier than I have ever been, and that is a result of following the autoimmune protocol. However, my journey didn’t start there. It started with a diagnosis, then a desire to limit my medications, then going gluten free, then paleo with dairy, then paleo without dairy, then the autoimmune protocol… that journey took about 3 years. There is NO way that I would have gone from eating a standard American diet to following the autoimmune protocol. None, it would have been way too big of a change. I needed the gradual steps in order to be successful and most people do. So, remember that fact when you are talking to others. Try to talk to them about what steps would be best for them to start with and encourage them in that process, do not bombard them with information and tell them to remove everything they are used to eating in one day. They will leave defeated, overwhelmed, and not at all likely to succeed.
- Talk about Yourself: None of us can fully know what is going on with another person or if something will help them or not. Even doctors have no way of knowing if a drug or a course of treatment will work until they try (otherwise I wouldn’t have broken out in hives and gotten shingles twice from going on steroids). You cannot cure someone’s disease, you are probably not a doctor, you cannot make someone change their diet or lifestyle, you cannot replace someone else’s desire to take initiative in their own life. As a result, I have found that it is much more helpful to just talk about yourself, your struggles, your journey and your achievements and allow others to put the pieces together for themselves. You have done a lot of hard work, you have spent a lot of time educating yourself, and you have reaped the benefits, that is inspirational and speaks for itself.
Finally, remember that it is not your job to educate, enlighten, or change anyone. Be a friend first and foremost. Offer support, understanding and sympathy before offering solutions. Give resources when they are asked for but don’t brow beat anyone. Healing through diet should be an individual and empowering journey, allow others to experience that on their own and in the timing that works for them, you just be there to offer encouragement along the way.