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How to React When People Give You Advice—Eating or Otherwise


It’s not always true that, as my client Penny said to me, “No one likes to be told what to do.” Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. It depends on several variables.

  • What’s being said. People who are already highly sensitive to hearing comments about eating or weight, might be more touchy about being told about what to eat and not eat, than “normal” eaters. They often ignore advice givers because they know in their heads and hearts what’s better or worse for them to do around food.


  • Who’s saying it. If a beloved friend says she’s worried about your eating because she knows you have type 2 diabetes and she’s someone who’s always had your back and your interest at heart, you’ll likely react differently than if your doctor, whom you just met and who doesn’t even look you in the eye, makes the same comment. 


  • How someone makes comments or ask questions. My client Penny said she felt very cared about when a nurse explained how about she might change her eating because the woman was kind and not pushing anything on her. Many higher weight clients have complained (rightfully so) about strangers walking up to them and lecturing them on what makes for a healthy diet.


  • Your view of being told what to do. If you grew up in a child-centered family in which you were spoken to with respect and given advice in an age-appropriate, helpful manner, you might be happy to receive it. If, however, you were bullied by your parents or relatives who scolded and discouraged you from making your own decisions, you might be tired and resentful of anyone telling you what to do.

My suggestion: When receiving advice, separate what’s being said from how you feel receiving it. Take a breath and just listen. Just because you’re angry that someone’s telling you what’s good for you doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And if you automatically poo poo what they have to say, you might be missing out on important information. Moreover, if you then go and do the opposite of what they say is good for you, you’ll only dig yourself more deeply into a hole.

So, when being given advice, pay attention to your feelings and evaluate the message without judgment. Don’t immediately act insulted that someone thinks you’re too stupid to care for yourself. Don’t push back or close your ears and mind to what’s being said. There are two different issues here. One is your emotional reaction and the other is learning something that may (or may not) be useful to you.