Two years ago, I started counting my macros. One of the things I was most worried about with my new way of eating was going back home for the holidays. I wanted to remain on my plan, but I knew being surrounded by treats—and the external pressure, however unintentional—to eat said treats would be difficult. While my family is generally very supportive of my choices, sometimes I can tell they think I’m being “too L.A.” (Okay, sure, one time I did describe my favorite type of food as “anything farm-to-table,” which fits that description… but still.)
All that to say: Navigating the holidays while making the best choices for your body and not offending anyone can feel like an impossible task. How do I turn down Grandma’s famous rolls when gluten-free is just not in her vocabulary? To get some advice, I checked in with Elise Museles, certified eating psychology and nutrition expert and creator of the Food Story platform, and Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, of Maya Feller Nutrition, to learn how to deal with food shaming.
Be up-front about your needs
“For patients of mine that feel that they need to engage in what I refer to as ‘obligatory eating,’ or anticipate comments because their food choices are different, we talk about going in with a plan,” Feller says. She says that if you think you will feel like you have to eat certain dishes that don’t fit in with your current eating plan, it can help diffuse the situation if you talk to the host or to your family ahead of time and see if there is anything you can bring to share.
“I have many patients who talk about feeling obliged, and we have found that talking in advance can really take the pressure and stress out of an already stressful situation,” Feller says. It’s a way to tell people that you’re following a certain eating plan before you’re passed the turkey or stuffing, so that no one’s surprised (or offended) if you keep the tray moving. Plus, bringing a dish that works with your dietary needs guarantees that there’s something at the table you can feel happy about eating. (And hey, other people probs will love it, too!)
Talk about your choices sans judgement
People not in the know are likely going to ask why you’re skipping the eggnog, or why you didn’t try some of their loaded mashed potatoes. If compelled to “explain” why you’re choosing to avoid or limit certain foods, Museles says it’s helpful to frame your dietary choices by your body’s needs. “People won’t feel as defensive—or feel like it’s a personal assault—if you explain your decision in biological terms,” she says.
So if your uncle throws shade on your veganism, for example, Museles suggests responding with something like: “I never thought I’d give up eating so much meat, but my body just feels a lot better without it. Of course, there are lots of people who need more animal protein to function, but that’s not true for me.” You’re explaining your position without appearing to be judgmental of people who do eat meat.
Don’t try to convert people
The last thing you want to be is that obnoxious person who exclusively talks about how amazing their diet is—and who keeps trying to push it on others. So refrain from waxing poetic about MCT oil/intermittent fasting/CBD at the dinner table. Yes, these things are all awesome, but Museles says it’s better to show rather than tell. “When you discover the healing properties of turmeric, it’s tempting to tell everyone at the table, but your 10-year-old cousin probably doesn’t care,” Museles says. “More effective is simply living your life as a happy, fit, energetic human who happens to drink turmeric lattes.”
Try not to get emotional
Unfortunately, when it comes to food, people can get really judgy really fast. And that’s tough to handle, especially coming from loved ones. If people get rude about your dietary habits, Museles says to try and keep your cool, and calmly explain (with the response you planned) why you’re eating the way you are. “You don’t need to get upset or over-explain, since you’re just eating in a way that works for you and your body,” she says. If the comments become intentionally hurtful, Museles says that it’s more than okay to physically remove yourself from the situation for a break. At the end of the day, it’s your body—you know what’s best for it, not your aunt Carol.
Still stressed about going home for the holidays? Here are five essential oils that can help you chill TF out. Oh, and here’s how to deal with the four most stressful holiday situations, because it’s important to be prepared.
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