Holiday get-togethers can be tricky and even uncomfortable for those of us who follow a “strange” diet. Everyone has an opinion or a biting remark. As tempting as it is, you can’t just yell, “I’m not weird, you’re weird. I am eating SPECIALLY APPROPRIATE NUTRITION! “On Aunt Martha’s face as she tries again to put a cookie on your plate.
You have to say something, don’t you? Or do you When do you need to explain your food choices?
I am tempted to say Never. End of the post.
By and large, your diet is nobody’s business. But communication is vital in relationships, and this is where it gets difficult. On the one hand, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, and on the other hand, it is disrespectful for them to expect you to justify or defend your decisions. Often, however, people are just concerned, confused, or just curious. You don’t owe these people an explanation, but in a spirit of open communication you can offer them one.
General tips for keeping the peace:
Keep it personal. You won’t get as much pressure if you focus on how your diet is making you feel. Don’t start with a talk about phytates or how soda is ruining our country’s health. Nobody is looking for a lesson about leaky bowels and inflammation during dinner.
Don’t explain yourself and don’t get defensive. Keep it short and sweet and then move on.
Do not try to convert them. When you start preaching, do to them what they do to you. Your simple explanations will plant the seed for anyone interested in learning more later.
Don’t get involved in an argument. Realize that you’d rather not discuss your diet. If the other person continues to challenge you, walk away (or step out of the zoom in 2020).
In addition, the best strategy for dealing with diet questions depends on who is asking and why:
This is the “I don’t get …” and “Wait, so you won’t eat a filling?” Quantity. There is no malice. You just can’t understand why someone would give up bread and pasta.
- “Haha, I know I thought it was crazy too when I started but I can’t believe how much better I feel. I can also eat the whole turkey. Ooh will you give me a leg Hey how is work going “
- “No filling for me, thank you. I’ll try this experiment for a while longer. Did I see you writing a book on Facebook? “
- “It’s true, I now eat Primal / Paleo / Keto / Carnivores, but you don’t want to hear me touch my diet. Let’s see if mom needs help setting the table. “
You can tell these people by their tone of voice. They are really interested in hearing what you are doing (and maybe even trying it yourself).
Strategy: educate easily
It’s up to you how deep you want to go here. My advice is to stick to the basics and offer to talk more later. Avoid arguing about why you should cut out grains and sugar while having a bite of cake halfway up your lips.
- “I kept hearing people say how much better they felt after cutting out gluten and dairy products, and I decided to try it myself. You were right. It has helped me a lot with some health problems. It was hard at first, but every time I eat bread now, I remember how much worse I felt. I am much happier when I eat like this. “
- “Really, it just means I eat tons of plants, meat, eggs and things like nuts and cheese and dark chocolate. Easy. The big thing I noticed is how much more energy I have. My skin also cleared up. If you’re ever interested in giving it a try, I can tell you more. “
- “Some of my friends wanted to try keto, so we all read this book called The Keto Reset Diet for our book club. It’s been five months and I’m still strong. The book made it easy for you if you ever want to borrow it. “
Good-natured teasing is one thing, but ridicule is another. Keep calm and get out of these conversations as soon as possible. There is nothing to be gained by getting involved. Depending on your relationship with the person, you can use humor or directness, but either way, you should include them.
- “Good, Uncle Greg. Hey, I’ll get an eggnog. “
- “Isn’t it great that we don’t all have to follow the same diet, but we can still be friends? I will check the result of the soccer game. “
- “I’d rather not argue about it, so let’s change the subject.”
This is a little more complicated as criticism can come from very different places. Some people are just evil grins who like to criticize others. Use the escape strategy described above with them. Don’t let them bring you to their level.
However, when people criticize your diet, it often comes from a place of fear or uncertainty, not hostility. Fear, because what you do contradicts everything you believe to be true about health. For example, all they know about your keto diet is that a fitness celebrity told them it was dangerous. Or they feel threatened by the uncomfortable realization that they could do more to be healthy themselves.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they are from. You won’t unpack all layers of flawed conventional wisdom, self-esteem problems, and complicated family dynamics in that one conversation, but at least you can respond with compassion and grace.
Strategy: Confirm, calm down (for fear-based criticism), change the subject
- “Thank you for looking after my health. My doctor knows how I eat and my labs are great. Let’s see what the kids are up to. “
- “People say this is a fad, but honestly everyone has eaten like this in previous generations. It’s nothing new and I’ve never felt better than eating like this. But still, I heard that you were adopting a puppy! “
- “Yes, I know that whole grains are important for health. I’m always open to changing my diet again, but I’ll try this type of food for a while. Do you think someone might want to go for a walk before dinner? “
- “Yes, this ‘documentary’ caused a stir, didn’t it? To be honest, there have been a lot of problems with science. I don’t want to bore you with all the details, but I can blog post for you. It describes all of the shortcomings and has a range of magazine citations if you’re interested. Just send me an email to remind me. Do these green beans have bacon? So good!”
The feeling of guilt
These people pretend your diet is a personal affront to them. “You won’t have a cake that I’ve worked so hard on?” “What is Christmas without cookies?” “But you always loved my corn bread filling!”
You don’t have to understand or approve it. You just have to respect your decisions, or at least be silent about them.
Strategy: turn them back
- “Oh Aunt Mildred, I love your cake! At times like these, I wish I hadn’t discovered how sick gluten makes me. I know you would hate it if I spent the rest of the evening in the bathroom! “
- “Cookies are great, but the only thing I really want is to hang out with you. The family is so important to me and we don’t see each other enough. “
- “You’re right, but I’ve learned that I feel so much better eating this way. It’s hard to say no, but I’m sure you will support me as you always have. Thank you for your understanding! “
The exceptions to the rule
I said you never have to explain your food choices but it is only customary courtesy to let your hosts know in advance. Explain your situation and make it clear that you do not expect them to change their menu to suit you. Offer to bring a side dish or dessert.
If you’re a host and only want to choose options that suit your diet, there is no need to notify your guests. However, if that means you’re not making traditional dishes that your guests are expecting, then you can give them a hint. Let them have the opportunity to bring their own Hawaiian rolls.
Finally, remember that while it’s okay not to owe it to anyone, it may be okay to stick to some of your diet rules for one night. A few bites of cake could be a small concession to keep the peace (as long as it doesn’t make you sick). If your family or friends make it so uncomfortable, you can of course decline the invitation.
Have you had to deal with less than supportive friends or family members since changing your diet? How did you deal with it?
About the author
Lindsay Taylor, Ph.D., is Senior Writer and Community Manager at Primal Nutrition, a certified Primal Health Coach and co-author of three keto cookbooks.
Lindsay is the author of Marks Daily Apple and the leader of the thriving Keto Reset and Primal Endurance community. Its job is to help people learn the what, why and how of a health-oriented life. Before joining the Primal team, she earned her Masters and Ph.D. in Social and Personality Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, where she also worked as a researcher and educator.
Lindsay lives in Northern California with her husband and two sport-obsessed sons. In her free time, she enjoys ultra running, triathlon, camping and game nights. Follow @theusefuldish on Instagram as Lindsay tries to balance work, family and cardio exercise while maintaining a healthy balance and most importantly, enjoying life. More information is available at lindsaytaylor.co.
If you’d like to add an avatar to all of your comments, click here!