Five tips for preventing food fights and mayhem

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…

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  1. I’ve been eating low-carb for about 3 1/2 months now and have lost a little over 15 lbs. I would like to lose another 5-10 lbs but am not stressing over it. I’m 5’4″ and am at about 134 lbs right now so I’m feeling pretty good! Most everyone has been supportive. When they’ve questioned, I’ve done as you suggested and let them try my food. I took chocolate chip cookies on a family vacation last week and got rave reviews. I think, for the most part, if you don’t advertise what you’re doing, most people don’t pay much attention to what’s on your plate.

    I went waaayy off the diet last week (over the 4th – after the cookies were gone!) and actually had to leave work early yesterday due to how I felt! It was almost a “hung-over” feeling. I’ve learned my lesson and will not be doing that again soon. Although, it was a nice reminder to realize how much better I feel eating this way.

    I have to thank you, Jamie for your wonderful recipes. I’ve been eating Oopsie waffles (made with sugar-free choc chips) every morning for the past month. They really help me feel like I’m not missing out on anything and they are super-delicious!!! I don’t think I would have been this successful without you!

    • Lisa, you are absolutely amazing. I love reading your successes and am so humbled that something I’ve done has helped. But really, you did all the work. I’m just the chick in the corner seeing what happens when I put weird ingredients together. Seriously, you righteously rock, and I’m darned proud of your efforts. At 5’4″ and 134 pounds, you are a teany beany! You have to keep rocks in your pockets so you don’t blow away when you sneeze.

  2. OMG I LOVE your sense of humor! I laughed throughout my reading of this. Oh, so true. Now if I could just remember all these great tips next time people in the room are looking at me sideways. LOL

    • You are such a sweetheart, I’m thinking everyone just loves you and you can do no wrong. Me, I am an obnoxious foodie. Sometimes I toe the line and other times I’m kicking it in the short hairs.

  3. Great post! I actually got in a yelling fight with my OB appointed dingbat nutritionist yesterday about this. Her solution to me being on the lowest available dose of a medication, not needing insulin, and keeping my glucose in check by controlling carbs? “You aren’t eating enough carbs. That’s where your body gets energy from.” To which I replied “Maybe your body. My body, my child’s body, and my husband’s body get fuel from protein and fat. Unlike you , our lifestyle isn’t controlled by the pharmaceutical companies who make diabetes drugs.” It seriously got loud after that. I did take it too far as ask if get if carbs were the way to go , why is she easily 50lbs heavier than when I saw her with my last pregnancy. Low blow, but true. How can you push a “diabetes friendly diet for weight loss that I use myself” with results like that?

    Most people, even those some of us rely on to know better, don’t. Even with full blown diabetes- controlled before pregnancy entirely by diet, I know that real food makes me feel fabulous. Carbs, whether in a sugar bowl, slice of bread, or baked potato- make me feel like crap. I like my way better.

    • And the OB-GYN isn’t a nutritionist. I hope you guys become fast friends again. Then again, depending, the guy giving the caudal block is the one I want in my corner. I had three babies fully naturally, and one with the caudal, and if someone’s in there poking around my spine, he’d better like me. 😀

      • I should have phrased that better. It was the nutritionist. The scariest part- she pushes her 150+ carb/day plan on ALL the pregnant diabetic!

        • It’s my opinion that 150 carbs is way too high for a pregnant diabetic. Even Atkins recommended maintenance levels, and we know those are nowhere near 150 carbs per day. Boo I say! But that’s just me. I think somewhere around 60-90 is probably much more reasonable.

  4. This past weekend, for not the first time, my in-laws questioned my diet choice. I was counseled by my sister-in-law, who could lose at least as much as I’m aiming for, that when she diets she always builds in a “cheat day”. (eye roll) She’s a doll and I love her, but I had no rebuttal. At least not one that was logical and didn’t start with “well, look at how well your dieting goes…”

    What I’m getting to here, is a sincere and heartfelt thank you for the words and logical sequence of thoughts when trying to explain the whole lo-carb dieting thing. I understand what I’m doing, I just didn’t have the whole thing thought out so I that I could explain it to others. So, thanks for all that.

    Oh… and thanks for the Ooopsie Rolls, and the quick Hollandaise, and the cheesy round crackers and the doughnuts (ooooohhhhhh!). I’m so glad I found your site! Keep up the wonderful work!

    • I am so glad you found this site, too. I love your energy and the way you come out with the love. Sharing sincere thanks for questions is a positive, loving way of disarming combatants who plan to come at your life choices.

  5. Oh my gosh, where to start! My gym friends don’t even bother me about my eating, they are just amazed at how I look. BUT they still sigh, and complain because they can’t lose. I’m just, whatever and don’t shove it down their throats. As for some of my other friends, and when we are in a restaurant (like this past Sunday), they all look at me and feel sorry for me. You aren’t going to order the Bloody Mary and pancakes with maple syrup? You’re getting a salad? And you know what? That was the best darn salad, greens, fried chicken (all they had on the menu, so cut the outside off because I KNOW it was made with regular bread crumbs), and a yogurt lemon dressing. I’m not pushing this on them but I am the smallest in the group. Now a lot of what they do is complain how they need to lose weight and their clothes don’t fit too well. DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “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.” You are sooo funny!!!! Guess I really did not answer your question, what do I do. I smile a lot and say “I’m good”, have learned to let my plate, and my dress size speak for me. I am now between a 4 and size 6. NEVER been that small, yeah!
    Thank you for all you do with humor and encouragement and recipes shared.

    • Way to stick to your guns, Nancy! I am really proud of your positive attitude and your success and for not for letting the comments rattle you.

  6. Gladiolia says

    Wonderful….I love the gluten intolerance….I do say I am allergic!

    However, what does one do….when….

    Ok, I jet had linch….5 ounces of New York Strip Steak
    With a grilled Caesar salad….and two glasses of water,

    I simply am still hungry! So I left my condo…to go people watching in the lobby,,,,I am there as I type this! Could 5 ounces of steak hbe too little food?

    Any suggestions? I find your web site such a blessing!


    • If you are hungry, you do need more food. There are days I am superbly starving and other days when I simply can’t eat. I also think that I might add more fat, especially in the absence of carbohydrates, since fat is so filling and satiating.

  7. LOVE! Especially Love the part about keeping church and plate separate. It’s a reminder to *me* to not be so evangelical – though it’s so difficult when my heavy friends continue to tell me about their “healthy” whole grains stuff.

    • It is so hard, I agree. I have found out too many times that talking to someone who’s that bent on converting you to their lifestyle isn’t going to have an open heart and mind about my lifestyle. So if you keep doing you and remaining true to what you’re doing, if she’s tired of what she’s doing, she can ask you what you’re doing.

  8. I just loved the post. The “killed by a flying toilet” is my kind of funny! I found this website somehow not very long ago. I’m 62, 5’5″ tall, and I weigh 215 lbs. I love eating a low carb diet, however, carbs scream my name and I must be an addict because I seem unable to STOP eating. I’ve always loved meat, and vegetables. Problem is, I can eat more than a lumberjack and I wonder if I’m gorging myself on too much food? Between January 2012 and now, I have gained over 15 lbs. I have some chronic medical conditions that make exercise challenging and I keep dreaming of putting on my walking sneakers and walking, and walking, and walking…..but of course I work full time so that won’t work. Is there anybody in this group who works on the “buddy system” for lack of a better word?

    • Hi, Kathleen! Working full-time is really hard. I work from home and I make excuses not to exercise. Boo! Boo on the two of us! Can you sock me what your normal daily intake of food looks like, and don’t hold back. I can take a peek for you. Walking works those large twitch muscles, but is there a sport you enjoy that would get you out and let you have fun and work out without feeling like it’s a drudgery?

      • Today’s “normal” meal (maybe I need to also post yesterday’s, which is more normal)

        Breakfast: 1 slice bacon, 1 LARGE egg cooked in bacon grease

        Lunch: 1 medium sized steamed zucchini with butter and salt, and 2 hard boiled eggs

        Dinner, brought to me by my vegan friends: Noodles; tofu cooked with olive oil and Japanese tamari (Shoyu); added to the dish was sliced red radishes, chopped purple cabbage and I can’t remember what else other than fresh cilantro)


        Breakfast was 3 slices of bacon and 2 eggs

        Lunch was a mostly organic Romaine lettuce salad with some cooked zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes, all fresh

        Dinner was 2 small burgers (from grass fed beef), with cheddar cheese, then I went on to eat 4 slices of toasted multi-grain bread soaked in butter……………….

        The state I live in has many organic bakers and more bread to choose from than you can shake a stick at. No sugar, no junk, just pure grains, often just grain and salt.

        • I might be able to help! What you might honestly be experiencing is food intolerance. Food intolerance will cause cravings and hunger, even when you’re fed. You might want to test for soy allergy, and you might want to also consider a possible gluten allergy.

          Also, try increasing your fat intake. Fat provides 9 calories per gram, but it’s also more satiating. A little goes a long way.

        • I might be able to help! Some thoughts:

          1. Not enough fat.Fat provides 9 calories per gram, but it’s also more satiating. A little goes a long way. I know when I eat more fat, I have trouble eating as much food. The fat is really honestly very filling. So much so that in Atkins induction, Dr. A recommended about 60% of dietary calories come from fat. You might try adding in a bit more butter, lard, and/or mayonnaise to help satiety.

          2. What you might honestly be experiencing is food intolerance. Food intolerance will cause cravings and hunger, even when you’re fed. You might want to test for soy allergy, and you might want to also consider a possible gluten/wheat allergy/intolerance. Eggs will also cause issues for many, so check eggs and see if they create any specific problems. I know my son starves when he eats eggs; it’s a possible sign of food intolerance.

          To test an intolerance, I really love Dr. Julia Ross’ method of going without the food for 10 days. Then, add it back in for all three meals and record how you feel. We did this with wheat and it was insane how many of us crashed after we ate it again!

  9. Holly Psurny says

    I LOVE this blog. You have such a way with words. I’ve been eating low carb since 2006 and have had plenty of naysayers and such….but they can’t argue with my ability to lose, maintain, and the numbers that have come back on bloodwork! Love following you here 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, and wowsahs on your sticking with it! I am so proud that all of your efforts have paid off, and know that you are an inspiration to others–me included!

  10. Just wanted to thank you for great reminders why and how to stick to this WOE. I have to tell you that your chicken/cheese pizza crust was literally the thing that “clicked” me back into LC. In 8 weeks I’ve dropped 12 lbs and pizza is a regular menu item in our house again. It was exactly what I needed to get back into the right frame of mind to get healthier again. So, thanks for everything you say and do to support all of us in eating healthy and luxuriously.

    • I am so glad you have really liked that chicken crust. I really like it as well. And wow! Congratulations on your weight lost. You’re doing great!

  11. Don in Arkansas says

    I usually just say “No. Thank you.” Or “I don’t believe I care for any, thanks”. Repeat as necessary.

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