Our Food Choices Spark the Curiosity of Others. Feasting on foods that are heavily processed and high in animal products, fat, calories, salt, sugar and oils while deficient in nutrients tends to play a central role in social gatherings and celebratory occasions. Therefore, it can be extremely awkward to eat healthfully and keep your health goals in mind amongst those with differing opinions. No matter how much effort you put forth into being courteous, respectful, complimentary and reserved while enjoying your meal, without doubt, there will be numerous remarks (some inflammatory) directed towards your food choices. Without provocation, suddenly everyone in the room is concentrating on what "isn't" on your plate while the topic of conversation changes and everyone's attention is directed towards you!
Instead of feeling as if you need to defend or explain your position, and keeping a positive demeanor, you simply say that you feel much better since you've made positive diet and lifestyle changes. By responding in a way that explains your personal goals and not inflicting accusatory remarks towards their personal choices, you've reduced their anxiety and satisfied their curiosity. If someone is genuinely interested, tell them that you'd love to share some information with them at a later time. Changing the topic as quickly as you can will help divert everyone's attention off of your plate and onto other matters. Waiting to be the last in line to select your foods may further help to reduce the number of comments. That way, there's no one behind you that sees you passing up the holiday ham. Also, as you bring your plate to the table, everyone's attention will be focused on eating what's on their own plates. Maintaining and fostering close relationships is essential while at the same time not compromising your convictions in a supportive and loving manner.
How to Respond to a "Food Bully". Once in a while there will be someone who is argumentative and offensive who wishes to control and dominate and insists on debating the issue. Dr. Joel Fuhrman refers to these individuals as "food bullies." In his article, Celebrate the Holidays Healthfully, he states, "Don’t give in to 'food bullies.' Friends, family or co-workers will inevitably push unhealthy foods on you; remain confident in your pursuit of excellent health and decline unhealthy foods in a kind and loving manner. Not only will you be pleased with your food choices, you will give the bullies a chance to learn from your example." For additional resources on how to respond to "food bullies" see Dr. Fuhrman's articles, Is Pleasing Grandma Ruining Your Health? and Holiday Challenge - Food Bullies - or listen to his recorded webinar, Standing up to Food Bullies.
Be Sure Not to Turn Into a Food Bully! It's important to mention that WE can easily turn into the "food bully" if we don't control our emotions. I must stress the importance that we should never attend social gatherings with an agenda to convert everyone into eating as we do. Remember that before WE transitioned to a plant-based diet that the majority of us used to consume the very same foods. We won't be changing anyone's perspective by being rude and overbearing! Remaining calm and exhibiting a spirit of gentleness and compassion is key to building and cultivating close relationships. Our food choices shouldn't cause us to become divided.
By knowing ahead of time that these situations will come up, and thinking through them carefully, you can "Get Along Without Going Along" like Doug Lisle's video presentation encourages us to do! Additionally, seeing how trim and healthy you look may even inspire others to follow in your footsteps! So go out and enjoy the holiday season both healthfully and happily!