Sharing the Holidays with Family and Friends
Holiday gatherings are about people, not the food. The holiday meal may not be the optimal time to be an evangelist for a plant-based diet. Make food a non-issue by avoiding divisive discussions about animal products. As Uncle Jimmy is slicing into the turkey or Aunt Dolores is ladling on the whipped cream, our silence and our smiles are a gift. When they comment on how great you look or how delicious your contribution to the meal is, then offer a well-planned word or two. "Thank you. The best part is I haven't felt hungry while the weight came off." Or, "Thank you. It's amazing how many plant-based recipe sites there are these days." But keep it short and sweet. If they're interested, they'll come back for seconds for more of your good advice.
Make extras of your no-added-oil, whole-food plant-based dishes. You'll be surprised. If you don't tell people that the dish you made is "healthy," many times they won't guess. Mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and stuffing can all easily be made without the added oil or animal products and no one will know the difference. In fact, you'll have to be quick or you'll find the serving dish empty when you go for seconds!
Say "no," but stay friendly. When asked to try food items you know are unhealthy simply smile and politely decline. Or blame it on your doctor or your medical condition. "My doctor says I'm pre-diabetic, so I have to be super careful." Or, tell them how much better you're feeling and you just can't compromise that. "I haven't had even one asthma attack since I changed my eating, so I'm going to pass." Remember to say something nice about the offered food like "That looks yummy, but I just can't" and then change the topic. People really want your company, not just your compliments.
Respecting our loved ones' choices now paves the way for future changes. After we experience the multitude of benefits that a low-fat, whole-food plant-based diet provides, it can be difficult to watch as family members continue to eat foods that are literally making them sick. If our family members are not open to gentle suggestions, then staying quiet about food but keeping the lines of communication wide open on other subjects will be our best route. As our friends and family watch our health grow and flourish, and as they feel respected by us, they will over time become more open to suggestions on diet.
Sharing the holidays with omnivores can be tricky. Food is a very personal issue and can be as volatile a topic as politics or religion. Although keeping the occasion pleasant is only part of the holiday puzzle, it's an important one. If we are experiencing peace in our relationships, we're less likely to indulge in eating for stress-relief, and we're more likely to maintain the relationships that have nurtured us. Maybe best of all, harmony now is our best hope for helping our loved ones in the future.
What tips have you found helpful for sharing the holidays with those who choose a different eating style? Leave your comments below to help others enjoy a plant-based holiday.