It happens time and again in break rooms and at parties all across the world. Tens of millions of us have made health and dietary choices that others either don’t understand (and can you blame them? They’re not our keepers) or who want to debate (I’m a luncher, not a fighter).
Whether it’s Aunt Sally, who doesn’t understand why you refuse to eat her knish, or fellow employee Barbara who side eyes your egg salad, social situations become awkward. Hostesses and people who provide tend to feel rebuked when you say no. Coworkers and social friends, whose dietary choices are important to them, become threatened by your success–and differences.
It’s human nature to fear what people tend not to understand, so you can keep others in their safe zone while avoiding a tussle over meal times. And in the end, who knows–maybe the lack of confrontation will create an eventual dietary lifestyle friend.
Here are five tried and true tips for staving off impending debates about your eating lifestyle in social settings.
1. Avoid diet labels. Anything like, “Atkins” or “primal” or “paleo” makes it sound as if someone is engaging in a fad, even though we know many who have made these permanent lifestyle choices. It’s like Amway; mention the name and people run, shrieking, in the opposite direction. Other rebuttal comments typically include, “Oh, you’re one of those,” or “My cousin’s kidney fell out of his face when he ate that way,” or, “I didn’t lose weight with that. The bagels and bars stalled me.”
Tip: Instead of labeling, use words like “healthy” and “whole” and “fruits” and “vegetables.” No one will argue with those words. If they do, you’re debating Homer Simpson who says things like, “When you’re in my house you shall do as I do and believe who I believe in. So Bart butter your bacon.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
2. Medical trumps opinion. People will debate when they think you’ve made the choice to not consume something, but no one argues with a medical condition. Say, “My Doctor recommends…” or, “That cake looks amazing, but my doctor would kill me if he knew…” No one needs to know your doctor is Dr. Atkins. And yes, while he has passed away, I’m positive he would be happy to be your go-to guy.It’s a quick, safe way to not hurt the feelings of your hostess who will likely feel shunned. Providing is one of the greatest gifts of a social animal; this response doesn’t make your giver feel like a failure because the blame has been placed on medicine and not on Granny Mehatebal’s mincemeat pie.
Tip: Use, “I have insulin issues and can’t have that.”Honestly. With a world filled with diabetes, no one will question you. Mention words like “diabetic coma” or “compulsory vomiting and toilet ruination” and you’re likely sharing a little too much… but hey. Go where you need to go.
Another tip: Claim gluten intolerance. Everyone seems to be suffering from grass-based overload right now. No one questions gluten intolerance.
3. Keep it factual and use the food pyramid. I don’t give a rippy dip that the Charlie-Brown-head-shaped plate model has overtaken the righteously-shaped food pyramid. The food pyramid is the geometric standard, damn it. Nobody puts food pyramid in a corner. When dealing with face palmers or side eyers, I simply say, “I have to avoid grass-based foods and sugar, but I consume more than the recommended daily allowances of fruits, vegetables, dairy, fats and healthy proteins.” Who can argue with that? Who?
Tip: If they look confused, ask them how many servings of vegetables they’ve had today. Tell them you’ve had seven. Seven. That’s only 3.5 cups of green, leafy vegetables. They faint dead away from your amazingness because all they had were fruit roll ups and a canned vegetable drink. That pretty much shuts it down. You win.
4. Share your food. Gourmet foods contain two things: fat and flavor. When you share your cheesecake, your gluten free pizza crust or your zucchini lasagna, these folks know nothing except it knocks their taste buds down and does the macarena on their face. The corners of their mouths turn up into a smile. They may even do a little jig. They’re also full for hours afterwards. They may even ask you for the recipe. Try not to pass out. Smile. Keep it cool. You’re a pro at this.
Tip: Share this website with friends and family. I know a lot of family members of friends sent my way looking for healthy, whole food ideas and have to maintain insulin levels. Look at it this way, too: if they love the recipe, you can take the credit for knowing about this site. If they smack your face for intimating a pizza crust can be made with chicken and cheese, you can make me the bad guy.
5. Do you. At the end of the day, when it comes to debating eating lifestyles, diets can be like religion to people. That’s neither right or wrong; people just hold beliefs close and feel threatened when someone attempts to undo beliefs. So live the lifestyle, thrive, and be fabulous–because you are. I believe in separation of church and plate, so if you’re looking for a nutritional debate, that’s one thing; but sometimes it’s better to praise the lard and pass the bacon.
Tip: If you do find yourself in a debate, know it’s all right to agree to disagree and remain friends.
Regardless the methods used, remember that others really don’t mean harm and in fact want to help; they often simply want to make sure you’re healthy. Like me, they want to keep you around for a long time. Can you blame us?
What works for you? Please share in the comments below and help someone else wriggle out of a potentially awkward situation…