Set Boundaries: Don’t Let Others Sway You From Eating Healthy

March 07, 2017 by Kathleen Renner, L.C.S.W.

An obstacle often encountered in the journey to healthy eating is family and friends, who, perhaps while well meaning, can sabotage one’s resolve. “A little cake won’t hurt,” or “don’t be such a downer,” can demean your efforts and can deter your good intentions. Whether family members or friends, they may feel threatened by your changing lifestyle and attempt to disrupt your new Nutritarian diet. I refer to these people as saboteurs or food bullies.

The answer is to be confident in yourself and your goals and set boundaries to what is acceptable from others and what is not.

Why is setting boundaries so important? Personal boundaries protect our individual interests and shield us against harmful influences. Learning how to create healthy boundaries is a critical social skill. Finding a balanced approach, however, is essential because it’s important not to ruin otherwise good relationships. When we learn how to create boundaries from a place of self-love and wisdom, it serves us well. Setting clear personal boundaries is key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, caring, and supportive. Boundaries are a measure of self-esteem and they help set limits for acceptable behavior from those around you.  Establishing healthy boundaries helps empower you to make healthy choices, feel respected and understood. Otherwise, not setting such boundaries often is fraught with fear of rejection or abandonment.

The key to boundaries is consistency. People in your life are used to you being a certain way, when you change, often you will encounter resistance. It’s important to continue to stick to boundaries even when entrenched in your new healthy lifestyle.


  • COMMUNICATE I highly recommend sitting down with family and friends and letting them know you have started a new health journey. Ask for their support and help. Don’t be defensive or accusing, just ask for their understanding during this transitional time.
  • SET PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES: If your family is unwilling to change their eating lifestyle, insist on separate kitchen space for your food. Out of sight and out of mind is key. Tell them not to offer you SAD foods and to be respectful about eating foods not acceptable in your healthy diet in front of you, especially in the beginning of your transition.
  • Many people will be very interested in this new life change and want to know more.  This may make you feel defensive, but never get into a debate or try to justify yourself to anyone. Simply stating that you are excited about your new journey is enough. If people have questions, answer them, but do not get stuck in a cross examination or argument.
  • GIVE A HEADS- UP: If people typically tend to serve or bring you SAD foods on special occasions, reach out to them in advance and say you are on a special diet that restricts these foods, but you would love to see them!
  • BE CONSISENTENT: You set the tone for your new lifestyle. If you are wishy-washy about it and are not consistent, people will not take you seriously.
  • Your success is up to you!

Kathleen Renner, L.C.S.W. is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with significant clinical experience working in the mental health and substance abuse fields. After undergoing further training with Dr. Fuhrman and his clinical team, Ms. Renner has developed a specialty in food addiction counseling. She also has completed Dr. Fuhrman's Nutritional Education Trainer Program (NET). She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, motivating individuals to improve their health. Kathleen has worked with addiction in all age groups and in various settings, including individuals and groups. She holds the title of Food Addictions Counselor in Dr. Fuhrman's SUCCESS Program.


Comments (0):



03/10/2017 03:30 PM

Great post Kathleen.  Maybe "broken record" technique from Assertivness training would be useful.  Pick a phrase that supports your boundaries and repeat it with just a few word differences over and over until your host gets the message.  e.g. "Thank you, I have all I want".... "I understand, I have all I want"... etc. 

Krenner replies:

03/10/2017 03:59 PM

Hi PaulB!!! Great suggestion! I think that would be super helpful as well. I always use the phrase "play the tape through" with my clients. We always want to give into the initial urges but it helps to have phrases to stop us and make us think :)


03/10/2017 04:08 PM

Great suggestion; thank you! 


03/10/2017 04:54 PM

This is such a good topic. This is my main challenge. Thanks for the good info.

This comment was last edited on 03/10/2017 04:58 PM

Krenner replies:

03/10/2017 04:58 PM

You are welcome!

This reply was last edited on 03/16/2017 01:22 PM


03/10/2017 06:01 PM

Unbelievably Brilliant Article, very very good. Thank you!


Krenner replies:

03/10/2017 06:21 PM

thank you!


03/10/2017 06:22 PM

What is SAD food?

Krenner replies:

03/10/2017 06:26 PM

Standard American Diet (SAD) Food


03/10/2017 08:56 PM

Great Tips,

Short & sweet naturally...


03/10/2017 10:37 PM

I have noticed that when I travel to places like the Dominican Republic..The Bahamas..not the tourist areas...and Haiti..I've stayed in very nice places one does recreational eating like in the USA


03/11/2017 09:44 AM

This is a great subject.  Lots of my family and friends are supportive. I usually bring my own food and they used to get offended by saying I made sure I had something healthy too which was a salad with chicken in it maybe even croutons. Then the dressings are a whole other story. Lol While everyone else is eating a huge Italian meal with a side of salad.  The little salad  for everyone was the size I would normally eat for myself. Lol  When they have Italian I bring my vegetable lasagna I make with cashew cream. It works for me to bring my food always in my Dr fuhrmann bag. If they truly have something I can eat, I will bring my food home. I also will bring a dish I can eat other places and friends have been pleasantly surprised on how good it is. 

Krenner replies:

03/11/2017 12:23 PM

That's great! No one likes change, but eventually if you are consistent, people get used to it and adjust. You make these changes because you are worth it :)

This reply was last edited on 03/16/2017 01:23 PM

June Dominguez

03/11/2017 10:53 AM

I feel like this is very important advice & have walked this out. I have struggled with family members sabotaging my efforts in the past. Recently I  found it much easier after letting everyone know about my new life style & diet changes  in advance. Once in a while, despite explaining my new changes previously, I still hear "why are you doing this?"  But I just try to reinforce briefly & lovingly my goals....I found recently I am sometimes my worse enemy. Struggling with binge eating for many years, it seems not to be with what I am eating, but how much I am eating. I have lost 60 pounds over 2 years. I have a fatty liver & seem to hold on to every pound & seem to be at a stand still with loosing weight. My lipid profile for the first time went down with the last lab work (although not normal yet.) I feel frustrated with my self! Can't seem to follow my own boundaries! Though my kitchen & rerig has been cleansed of any foods that are not nutratarian, I'm having difficulty not eating when not PHYSICALLY hungry! How do I stick to my own boundaries?

Krenner replies:

03/11/2017 12:26 PM

Setting boundaries out in advance is so key! I think it is so key to be consistent with others, but more importantly to be consistent with yourself. I think part of the problem may be is that you are overwhelming yourself and thinking too much into it. We need to keep it simple and take it one day at a time. Each day is a new day you can do anything you put your mind to. Start to put the clean days together and that in turn increases your confidence and motivation. Don't think about next week or the summer..just focus on today and what you need to do to be succesful. Keep it simple.

June Dominguez

03/11/2017 02:49 PM

Thank you. I will try this.....simplicity. I always want to achieve my goals yesterday, but the truth is it is unrealistic. How does a man remove a mountain? By carrying away small stones: if I keep doing what is right day by day that mountain (of weight) will be removed. I will simply focus on doing what is right for TODAY! Thank you for correcting my perspective.

PJFOX2 replies:

03/11/2017 03:18 PM

I too struggle with eating when I am not physically hungry - for many different reasons.  I'm learning to realize what those reasons are and not give into them.  Along with the "take it one day at a time"  I read something I like even better.  Someone asked a heroine or cocaine addict (can't remember which) who was now clean if they managed that by taking it one day at a time.  The reply was "No I take it one decision at a time" (or something like that).  For me that's  better because then each decision I need to make, or each choice I'm given, or each challenge I'm faced with, is a new opportunity for me to choose to eat the right way or to not eat in that moment.  There's no "I blew it already today so I won't worry about making more bad choices today I'll start again tomorrow".  And stringing "one decision at at time" together gets us to a full day, then a full week....etc.

Krenner replies:

03/11/2017 09:45 PM

glad i could help June!

June Dominguez

03/11/2017 03:52 PM

Thank you - Really good food for thought. It makes sense: pause long enough to ask myself which decision do I want to make?....after I ask myself am I really physically hungry? This has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever done!

Krenner replies:

03/11/2017 09:46 PM

yes its very hard but I promise it gets easier, it's a muscle you have to grow

This reply was last edited on 03/13/2017 02:38 PM


03/11/2017 04:53 PM

These e-mails are wonderful.  I remember seeing Dr. fuhrman in Aspen, Colorado many years ago.  Just started reading again the book I purchased back then from a table sale.  If you report to him, Tell him I would enjoy knowing when he is again in Ski country... Anywhere .  I will book my vacation from Florida to again hear him speak live.  Thank you Dr. Fuhrman.......

Anyway, My comment....... Excellent article on support from others to stay on track.   Wondering if you can start some type of singles dating group on line?  All are into healthy eating and can do more Han just share recipes .... Share company among those that have chosen to eat a more dense nutrient diet.  Think of the thousands of singles out there who long for co support in this life change.  Maybe the ones that get married will be honored enough to have Dr. Fuhrman there?  Just a thought.  It is a social revolution.  Who knows?  Maybe a couple found on The new Dr. Furhman's single site will get married, have children, and start.out on a heathy lifestyle.  New healthy life created.  This all might sound way out there, but it can happen.  I would be your first singles club member/customer.  

Thank you.  I have Joel & Lisa's CDs, "Secrets to Healthy Cooking" and "3 Steps to Incredible health".  Excellent.  

Hope I hear from you.  Would like any promotional deal on your lasted work, and maybe I will be able to get.  On quite a budget for I'm one of those people who had a heart attack and now spend incredible amounts of money for pills I know killing me slowly in other ways.   Please understand I am not bitter.  I was stupid in believing a balanced diet was a burger in one hand and a chocolate shake in the other..... If they weighed the same, It was a balanced diet.   I am just glad to be alive 3 years from my event with a stent.  I am hopefully now going to do more than read your book.... I am going to follow it.  Anything I can do for you I will.  Hope you have something extra I can buy.  I also have your cooking recipes book.   Thank you again.

Mr. Michael Reiman, 2505 South Ocean Boulevard, Apt 501, Palm Beach, FL. 33480

[email protected]

Krenner replies:

03/11/2017 09:49 PM

Hi Michael! We do have a singles forum in our communities in our Nutritarian Network. I'm not sure if you are a member , but the information you gain from being a member and having access to our member communities is a highly valuable resource.

This reply was last edited on 03/16/2017 01:18 PM

joanknabel replies:

06/02/2017 02:29 AM

Michael:  They will be in Aspen in April 2018--I think beginning the 2nd for a week.  You can check with the Events Group.

Sincerely,  JK



03/12/2017 11:05 AM

This topic is very helpful....  it's good to have a plan...  when friends/family say...  you NEVER have meat?  or  I could never eat like that!   or some other ignorant phrase which would never be acceptable if you were to reverse the commentary toward their health issues... 

Here's one...  " This is working for me, I'm not deprived at all...  I eat plenty of food...  just different foods than I used to " 

"I don't think the Standard American Diet was working for me, this is...  each person decides for themselves what works for them"

(Once at ideal weight...  when folks that are used to you having extra weight tell you you're too thin ) "The doctor think I'm perfect"  that shuts them up....  (of course I'm referring to Dr Fuhrman... lol !)

To the question ...  what happens when you go back to eating normal ?   "I don't see any point to go back to what caused the problem to begin with...  why go back to what doesn't work for me?"

I give very few details...  make no apologies...  be as non-confrontational as possible.   I might say they could read about it on Dr   If I were to  explain all of the priniples to the lifestyle...   it really doesnt educate them-  they don't want to be educated...  it just insults them,  as they have all the medical issues that I'm trying to avoid  :o)  lol....  


Krenner replies:

03/13/2017 10:06 AM

Hi Pitakid!!! These are great suggestions! I think many will find them really helpful :)


11/19/2017 09:40 AM

First of all, thank you so much for these fantastic emails. This blog topic is near and dear to me. I started the nutritarian journey 4 years ago at age 53 after reading Eat to Live. In one year I lost over 60 pounds, corrected high blood pressure, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. I have maintained my gains and now run half marathons. The response from friends and family has been a challenge. People are curious and defensive and tend to argue if I try to explain. I agree that the best thing is to simply state how wonderful I feel eating a nutritarian diet. The nutritarian label is best I have found and it does not have the baggage attached to other terms like vegan. Now I always tell people who are interested to read Eat to Live or another of Dr. Fuhrman's books. That way they don't start with arguing points that they really do not have any scientific information on. There is so much misinformation out there. My 80 year old parents have now adopted a more nutritarian diet and they have seen amazing benefits too including weight loss and getting off blood pressure and cholesterol medication. My dad's Hemoglobin A1C came down to 5.5 from 6.3. Thanks again for these posts!  Now that I have healed my own body, my dearest wish is that my loved ones could experience the same physical and mental vibrancy that I feel. I feel that the books written by Dr. Fuhrman are the best option for getting the information out there.

This comment was last edited on 11/19/2017 09:42 AM


05/06/2018 12:49 PM

Eating when not really hungry, I have found, is often out of a need to relax for a moment, give yourself a treat, have a couple of cookies. I now can achieve the same feeling of a relaxing treat by having a cup of green tea and reading a bit of a good book, or 'allowing" myself the indulgence of a few rows of knitting. We are always so busy, it's good to build in some food-free ways of pausing.

This comment was last edited on 05/06/2018 12:51 PM

Kathleen Murray

05/06/2018 10:39 PM

Yes!! Exactly! So glad you have found other healthy coping skills to avoid the eating. Good for you!


02/27/2020 05:19 PM

Another thing to keep in mind is that in some parts of the world vegetarian only means no beef. I've requested vegetarian and have received a plate  full of chicken!