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A survival guide for social eating with dietary restrictions

dinner partyBy Rebecca Bailey for

As we plan to sit around the dinner table this season with friends, family, and lots of food, I thought it was time to address this tricky topic.

A while back one of the lovely NMDL readers suggested I do a post on the social aspects of eating when one eats in a manner not typical. For me, some of this revolves around dealing with other people and their issues, and some of it is pure logistics!

Since I eat in a way that is quite different from most people, I am often reminded of just how worked up people can get about how other people choose to eat.

Please note, I am not addressing eating disorders here, but rather adults making decisions about how to eat. I’ve had many experiences where people have judged me about the way I eat. When I was a much larger person, others would shoot me nasty looks as I ordered a dessert. Since I’ve been a healthy weight for my frame, people still criticize how I eat. Often, it seems as though others think my personal choices are a negative judgment of their choices, though they are not. These are a few concepts I use in my life to help me deal with the complications of eating differently from most people around me.

Don’t let other people try to shame or bully you into eating a certain way. You are the only one who knows what it’s like to live in your body. We should be able to make our own decisions about our own bodies. This covers a lot of things, including food. I hope everyone makes healthy and informed choices, and listens to their body. Sometimes another person will have a genuine concern about your health. If it is someone who cares about you, listen to the concern, and address it respectfully (if you need help, take the opportunity to receive it). Eating disorders are real, but not all atypical ways of eating are disordered. Make an honest, informed, responsible assessment of how you choose to eat, and do your best to make it work.

Be willing to be somewhat flexible. While I prefer to eat raw, as long as the options are vegan and gluten free (my essentials for health), I can manage in a social situation. Figure out where you are willing to be flexible and be prepared for this when you eat with others.

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