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How to Start Healthy Habits when your Family is Not Supportive

 It’s hard changing your lifestyle and diet when someone else is buying the groceries. For anyone who is living with stubborn parents or unhealthy housemates, this post is for you.

I get a bunch of questions daily about how to deal with parents who are not supportive of their teen’s dietary changes. Moms can be very hard headed when it comes to diet. Sometimes the topic of what ends up on the dinner table can get emotional and offensive. After all, she is the one who has been feeding you these past years – why all of a sudden are you rejecting her “love” and “care”?

For those of us that are Asian, telling your family that you will no longer eat white rice can be an extremely epic and awkward event. It is an Asian staple. You have rice at everyday. They will probably not take you seriously and then just tell you that you’re too skinny already and encourage you to eat more. In fact, they will most likely just start scooping you larger heaps of rice and filling your bowl for you. Oh, and don’ forget that they won’t let you leave the table til you finish every last grain of rice in your bowl either.

I’ve gone through numerous diet changes throughout the years – Pescatarian, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, Paleo…and it’s hard and very frustrating eating with people who are not very mindful of your dietary standpoint. In college, I did not eat red meat or poultry and every time I came home for Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, or Spring Break, my parents just could not fathom the fact that I could not eat what they were eating. My mom would PURPOSELY make ribs for dinner and be like “Oh, you can’t eat that? Haha, just have one, it’s ok!” My dad would actually make me feel bad and say “People have been eating meat for millions of years, you’re being unnatural.”

Then when I moved to the East Coast, I officially gave up white rice. I replaced it with veggies – one of the best and easily effective things I’ve done with my diet. Again, when I visited home for the h0lidays my parents would BERATE me for not eating rice.

“Oh you’re not eating rice again?”

“How can you just eat vegetables? That’s disgusting, I could never do that.”

“You’re being unhealthy by not eating grains.”

These comments made me feel so uncomfortable at the dinner table. And even though they are my parents, I found it disrespectful that they chose to not respect my dietary choices. If you are serious about making changes to what you’re eating, you really need a supportive environment. What the people around you say or do will have an impact on how successful you are. Here’s what you can do:

– Start buying your own groceries

– Start cooking for you and for your family – introduce them to your style of delicious clean eating

– Educate your family on why you’re doing what you’re doing – back it up with scientific research. Seriously. Most people shy away from attacking you if you know your stuff.

– Announce it (or just slip it in a conversation). Let your family know how you want to eat. They need to be aware of your healthy habits. This also holds you more accountable for your actions because you know there are others watching.

A really good trick in getting your mom to be on your side is to go grocery shopping with her and asking her how to pick the best fruit or choose a good vegetable. These are life skills you should learn anyway. You guys can have great conversation/bonding time and this is your chance to show her you respect her guidance while educating her on your new dietary needs. This makes her feel important and also sets the stage for a successful dinnertime experience.

If you are really SERIOUS about cutting out rice or going vegetarian but don’t know how to tell your family, just follow the steps above. I can assure you that if your family or housemates really care about you, they will respect your decision and actually help you do what you want to do. So don’t compromise, don’t settle. You’ve got this. It’s your body and your health. Fight for it.


This post was inspired by a question Glam.com (my ad network) and H&R Block posed to their authors: “How did you complete a goal without settling?” I thought this would be a good time to share with you guys how I broke away from eating rice and I how dealt with my parents’ stubborn behavior! Did you guys experience any of the same things?

I know this isn’t really related to our usual health & fitness topics, but just in case, I wanna let you know about this sweepstakes that H&R has going on:

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Hope you have an awesome GREEN THURSDAY!!!!! Don’t forget to post your green foods on facebook. Today will be easy. Tomorrow…blue…will be hard.

<3 Cassey

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  • Kyla

    I can reaaalllyy relate to the rice issue. My mother grew up in the Philippines where basically her every single meal had rice. She was also naturally skinny, and very athletic. When I had decided to live a more healthy life style around a year ago,I had told her that I didn’t want to eat white rice anymore. Thinking that I was just being picky with my food (I had never really liked eating plain white rice), she would just get mad at me, and I wouldn’t be allowed to eat my dinner without it. Then came summer 2013. With summer here and homework gone, I finally had the time to ask my mother to teach me how to cook. We went to the groceries, and started buying tons and TONS of fruits and veggies (especially watermelon), and I was even able to encourage my mom to no longer buy cans of pop for our home. I was able to switch from white rice, to whole grain rice, though I was a little hesitant to buy it, since my mother warned me that I might not like it. Turns out, I liked whole grain rice a lot better than white rice! more than once, my mom has stated that she was “too busy to care” about eating clean, or that she had too many things on her mind to even think about cooking something different. Now with me helping prepare supper, and going to the groceries with her, not only am I able to take the load of planning and preparing dinner off her chest (and having better control over what I’m putting into my mouth and body), but I’m also helping inch my mom towards a healthier lifestyle as well. We’re moving slowly, but surely to a healthier diet, and this time together. (\^o^/)

  • I’m half-Asian and grew up with my Korean mother, so this post really hit home. I don’t remember when, but I don’t remember eating a lot of Korean food growing up… (though, my mom basically only eats Korean food… we probably always had separate meals), BUT I did eat rice. With almost everything (steak and rice, hotdogs and rice… when I still ate hotdogs, haha, etc.). I’m staying home for a year, while I work on applications/etc. and have been buying my own groceries. It does help that my family all loves produce and eat pretty healthfully (no fried foods, fast food, soda, etc.), so we share in the fruits and sometimes the veggies.

    My sister completely cut out rice a few years back. I don’t remember the reason (it’s not because of the refined carbs…), but my mom went along with it – though she seemed disappointed at the time. When I gave up rice a year ago, I suppose she was used to it, so she didn’t really care. However, when I went to study abroad in Korea 3 yrs. ago, my Korean side of the family there had me eat rice at EVERY meal… and if we went out to eat and didn’t have rice, they’d ask me if I wanted rice afterwards (because to them, a meal is not a meal without rice). It’s going to be difficult when I go back (I’m planning on teaching there…), but I just hope they’re not too offended and are supportive… There’s a bit of a language barrier, so it’ll be a bit of a struggle…

    • Also, I’ve been trying to make the rice for my mother… a lot of Asians have difficult breaking away from white rice. My mom is diabetic, so when I get a chance, I mix her white rice with multigrain/brown rice, flaxseeds and chia seeds (which she doesn’t mind… as long at least half of it is white). I guess it’s a compromise, though I know she wouldn’t do it for herself once I move out.

  • Pam

    I’m also Asian and having this problem for years…!!!
    I used to have eating disorder so it’s even harder for my parents do deal with my diets, even though I’ve gained all my weights back (and plus). After my recovery, I’ve done some research about food, tried to eat healthy, and maintained my weight. But no matter what I do, my parents don’t seem to support me. It’s like they always think I still try to limit my calorie intake. But what my mom cooks for us always include rice and starchy noodles. Yes, she makes vegetable dishes too. But when I indulge specifically in vegetables, everyone will say things hurtful about my eating habits. I love going to the grocery with my mom. I love to cook too. However, when I suggest what to have for dinner, mom usually denies.
    It’s hard to eat healthy while living with my family. I can’t have what I what to. I can’t just skip the meal others are having. I get angry at them from time to time. :(

  • ZaraRose

    That is a great post! My partner is constantly trying to feed me up with cakes biscuits etc, but I have so far resisted. It is really difficult to plan family meals though as my daughter and partner need to gain weight.

  • Kat

    This is the wonderful thing about being 45. When people wonder why I eat the way I do, work out the way I do, and inquire about it, I tell them that HBP and diabetes run in my family (which they do BTW), and that I eat healthy to stay healthy. Being thin is merely a “side effect” of a healthy diet. When you talk about things like HPB and diabetes, they simply nod and say, “Ohh…” And then nothing. Probably because it’s something THEY should be thinking about doing too! :)

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  • Aenia

    In my case, I am dealing with Pakistani/Indian parents and grandmother. All of Indo-Pak food is cooked with tons of oil and salt, most of it is either deep-fried or fried! Every meal is served with roti(basically bread made with white flour). For the past few months, I have eliminated refined carbs, fried foods, traditional baked goodies, and all meat except chicken and fish. My family is always telling me that what I am doing is unhealthy and that I need to expand my portion sizes! Most nights, I will make a salad for myself; however, refusing my grandmother’s cooking hurts her feelings. Whenever we go to dinner (with oil laden foods) at somebody else’s house, I get comments on my healthier plate of food. I would love to separately prepare my own food, but I am a high school junior! I have no time, and if do actually get time, nobody enjoys it and says that it needs more oil. I want to expand the healthy foods I eat(like quinoa, kale, jicama, bulgur, etc.), but I get held back by the fact that nobody else in my family will eat it. I need help on how to eat more clean and healthy, with my limitations!!! Also, can granola bars be a part of a clean diet? I only eat Clif(all natural and organic), Luna, and Kashi granola bars.

  • Mary

    I just discovered this website the other night because I was trying to learn about Pilates and have now decided to add it to my lifestyle. But you definitely sold me on your blog for talking about this subject. I’ve been a vegetarian since the eighth grade, and now I’m a senior in high school. My family accepts my choice, but sometimes they assume that if we have, say, steak and potatoes for dinner, I can just eat the potatoes. Not fun at all. It hurts that they think a person can live off potatoes and ramen noodles for the rest of their life. I also hate it when people say, “You are a vegetarian? What do you eat?” I think I will have to try the whole “buy your own groceries” thing.

  • Lea

    Oh Cassey, thank you so much for this! This “eating clean and workout freak” story is quite deeper in my situation. Now it is cool and mum is supportive now. Can I email you, cuz I wanna tell you all my health history?

  • I dealt with sooo much criticism when I first went vegetarian it was incredible. I did my research though, proved my facts, and they shut up ;)!

  • YY

    Ohmygosh this post seriously is spot on! I’ve been pescetarian for a year now and my parents are always commenting “youre not healthy! you need a bit of meat in your diet! Theyre asian too and I cant actually translate what proteins are…” Then there’s the rice as well as noodles which my mother loves making. Rice is basically translated “food” in chinese so not eating white rice to them is like starving urself. You need to eat “food” theyll always say. I tell them I do but they just cant seem to see veggies as food! And i still have no idea how to translate simple carbs to them either:( but my mums been a little more accepting lately since I do eat A LOT of veggies & fruits and appear very fit and healthy (thanx to blogilates!)

  • Stacey

    I am a college student so I really don’t have the time, space, ingredients, or energy to make all of these scrumptious things you have on your site so…. What would you say is your favorite, most health beneficial snack? I’ve been eating multigrain cherrios every morning and I need something new! I was looking to buy some CHIA SEEDS! What would you suggest? THANKS

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  • Laura

    I’m lucky that my parents were always ok with me eating what I wanted once I got to the age of wanting to prepare my own meals. They eat quite healthily in any case, which was handy. I’ve always been fussy about what meats I eat because I don’t like a lot of them, so I generally had something different from what they were eating.
    They’re also good about me not having cake and biscuits even when everyone else is. I do get told that I don’t need to diet or lose weight, which is just their perspective because they only ever see me fully clothed.

    Living with my boyfriend is more of a challenge because he likes to have unhealthy foods like crisps, pasties and frozen chips in the house. I don’t mind, but it’s easy to give into temptation there. Still, if I want to eat different foods and healthier alternatives to the things he wants, he doesn’t mind. I’m still trying to sneak the healthy stuff into our evening meals as much as possible, though!

  • Thanks for this post! I struggle with this all the time.I maintain a healthy diet when I eat on my own, but the second I go home I start eating terrible because the food is in front of me and I feel bad making them cook different food just for me. For instance, my boyfriend is Italian and his family eats pasta almost every meal! How can I tell them I don’t want to eat white pasta anymore? I try to pick around the pasta and eat the veggies and meat but it is hard. Your tips are very helpful and I will try to incorporate them into my life! Thanks!

  • Anna

    Definitely show your parents/housemates studies supporting your diet. The F-Factor Diet worked/works well for me. My dad, who happens to be a physician, read at least part of the book and said the the nutritionist’s studies looked good and it made sense to him. I could generally eat with my family because carbs were seperated from meat and veggies except for special occasions like major feast days and birthdays. If you can, definitely cook some meals for them as well. I actually cooked for my whole family once or twice a week, and they all liked it, except I often forgot to make a starchy side :-)

  • MCels

    Hi Cassie,

    This is a big issue in our house! I’m filipino and our rice cooker is on ALL day in addition to my dad frying almost everything he makes. I talked to my sister about grocery shopping and I told her that the only way we can afford to buy more “clean” foods is if she helps me out more. Now we split our grocery bill in half instead of asking my mom and dad to chip in–since they don’t really eat much of our “healthy” foods.

    I’m going on vaca to Guam in March and I know i’ll get crap for not eating lots of rice! Thanks for a great post!

  • Emilia Lehtonen

    Thank you for this post! My parents have never had any issues with me being a vegetarian for many years, but it’s been harder for them to accept the fact that I don’t want to eat potatoes (which is pretty much like rice for Asians for Finnish people… you can guess I’ve had a hard time with my parents about this)… Sometimes I refuse to eat them and make my own food, but sometimes I’ve felt really bad for standing against them so I’ve just settled and don’t like it at all. So I’m definitely going to try this! :)

  • milka ortiz

    Cassey what is your recommendation on soya products? I like to buy the dehydrated meat of soya and I just eat as it is, I like the crispiness, since I don’t eat chips anymore. Is that healthy for me? Thank you for your advice.

    • I’ve heard that too much soy is not good for you. You can google this, limit to just a few times a week. Like anything else, moderation is key.

    • Roveston

      Indeed. Soy meat is as healthy as normal meat, somehow, you’re not supposed to eat it more than twice a week. Always hydrate it and don’t eat more than 50 grams (a portion) out of it. Soy meat is not a snack.

  • Lauren

    I just spent Christmas break at my family’s and can totally relate to this! My mother would go grocery shopping and come back with disappointing food, and then prepare nutrient dense meals. I found it best that I went grocery shopping with her and really participated in choosing what food items to purchase, and then to share new healthy recipes with her and make it sound like an exciting endeavor to try something new.

  • Amrin

    Awesome post!!! I’m an Asian and deal with an unsupportive environment- especially parents at times. It has gone better. Being a student, I need to improve on time management- being able to cook dinner for myself when I come home or just make healthy changes- to tweak and modify the dinner my mom makes. Its a process. I have to make the best of it. :)

  • Sunny

    Thanks Casey. My mom actually eats really healthy whenever I’m away. When I come home from University she ALWAYS prepares things in the unhealthiest ways and says that she can’t get away with eating like that, but I can, so I should enjoy it. I was quite overweight in high school, clearly I can’t get away with it either.

    • Renate Meyer

      Sigh.. lol! Gotta love em tho ;D

  • Gina

    I am asian too, but luckily my family only eats brown rice ever since I was a child. I can’t eat white rice, and sometimes people don’t understand why. I am away for school now and school only serve white rice. I just gave up eating rice completely on campus.
    My dad freaked out when I first became vegetarian. so I told me I still eat seafood. which is true, but rarely, it’s unless I have to when I am eating out. But my mom would cook a lot of seafood and fish whenever I go home. It’s really kind of frustrating.

    • People freak out when they don’t understand the reasons behind what you’re doing. You just need to educate them.

  • Renate Meyer

    Yeah people’s ignorance is mostly the issue. My parents have finally started to acknowledge my eatinghabits and when i come home for the holidays they no longer forcefeed me stuff. They actually pay for the stuff I want to eat and don’t butt in because of my weighloss and success. But during christmas it’s all about gluttony and my mom kept insisting: It’s only once a year, enjoy yourself. But when I spent most of christmas day at the bathroom.. yeah.. that’s me enjoying myself :) And when my dad told me to come eat xmas breakfast with them I said no thanks I had my own mealplan, and then he came with the sarcastic comment: YOUR LOSS! Yeah.. hehe. But yeah, at least for my sake, the more I push through with my diet and show people my results, they immediately get curious and impressed and wanna try it. So guess I have a upper hand there.But they aren’t consistent enough and wants a miracle cure as we all do and give up.

  • Anissa

    Awesome post!! Thank you for all your wisdom and encouragement! Have a blessed day :-)

  • Are you related to MY parents? LOL! My roots are Southern Baptist, and we grew up loving one another with food. Somebody in the church get married? Send them some fried chicken. Someone’s grandfather pass away? Hurry, make up a casserole! And eating a meal when my husband and I return home is no easier.
    We both have to really struggle to lose, then keep off the weight. If she isn’t attacking me for not eating her bread (You’re not getting any fiber!), she tries making my husband eat unholy amounts of slab bacon or sausage for breakfast. She’s even gone so far as to wake up super early and cook it all before we get up so she can then say, “Don’t let this go to waste now.” when we won’t eat her outrageous portions.
    I’m sorry you have to deal with the same sort of thing, but I have to admit, I am SO glad I am not the only one! I’m inspired by your list of actions, and I shared this post with everyone I know! Thank you for sharing it with us!

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  • Kailey

    Great post, Cassey! This is something I’ve struggled with but have learned to get better at working around. My family especially raises concerns because my sister struggled with an eating disorder and is now recovering, but my family sees my healthy eating habits as “restricting” and falling into similar patterns my sister went through. They are very concerned that I will become anorexic/bulimic too, and sometimes I’ll even get comments like “you didn’t throw that cookie up, did you?” or “you’re not eating enough” or “oh that’s right, you don’t *eat* this stuff”. It can be really hard because I truly only want to be living a healthy lifestyle! Any tips for overcoming the eating disorder worries? Thanks!