This post marks the second of an ongoing series I am writing about my adventures in reforming my diet and trying to eat paleo. You can find the first post here.
Happy long weekend, everyone! I hope you all have a chance to step a back from your usual routines and visit with family or friends. For me, this is the first occasion since starting the paleo diet (at the beginning of 2018) that I’ll be getting together with extended family, and this has caused me to reflect on the difficulties of eating in social environments when you’re on a special diet.
Sticking to modified eating habits is no easy task, but it’s a whole other beast altogether when you add the layer of social eating into the mix. This often entails being in an environment beyond your careful control, whether that means you’re a guest in someone’s house or you’re a patron at a restaurant. The trick to staying on track, I’ve learned, is in knowing what to expect and in planning ahead. Here are 5 things you must consider to successfully navigate social occasions when you’re on a diet:
- You will face social pressure to break your diet.
If there is food around, people will inevitably tell you to try something you shouldn’t eat in one manner or another. You have 3 choices:
a) accept that you’ll break your diet;
b) be comfortable with saying ‘no’; or
c) avoid these types of situations altogether.
The most sustainable option is going to be b). Earlier on in my diet I was lax in my ways and thought that straying from my diet on special occasions would be okay, but eventually I realized that this was setting me back and deterring me from meeting my dietary goals. I also tried to reduce the amount of times I was put into eating environments beyond my control, but I became unhappy about that because I didn’t want the limitations of eating paleo to extend its reach to my social life too. So I’ve learned to be comfortable with saying “no” to the people pressuring you to eat food that doesn’t adhere to your diet. It’s not the easiest option, but I believe it’s the best way forward in the long run.
- Your self-control will be tested.
When you eat at home, it’s a lot easier to avoid temptation simply by virtue of the fact that you shouldn’t have food around that doesn’t comply with your diet. However, in a social environment, temptation will be all around you. You’ll see people eating foods you used to freely enjoy, and may even hear them comment on how delicious it is. I know how tough that is; I never put restrictions on what I ate before 2018, and I used to love trying a little bit of everything. The best solution I’ve found is to ensure you’re not hungry either by eating beforehand or planning ahead to make sure there will be enough food around that fits your diet.
- You may not get full.
What you can actually eat will probably be a small subset of a larger selection of items present. Don’t let yourself run out of your own dietary compliant food and cave into eating restricted foods just because you’re still hungry. Bring an extra snack along such as a banana or cut-up vegetables so that way you have something safe to munch on if your food supply runs out.
- You will face the question of “Why?”
People won’t understand why you’re restricting yourself to eat a certain way. This is especially true if you’re not on a diet for weight-related reasons, or you’re with people who have never had to go on a diet themselves. The usual response you’ll get to “I can’t eat that” is “Why?” In order to avoid becoming flustered, make sure you’ve thought ahead of time of a concise way to articulate how you expect your dietary choices to benefit you. The better your answer is, the more likely your choices will be respected, and the less pressure you’ll face down the line (subtle or otherwise) from those people to break your diet.
5. You will be more concerned with what you’re eating than everyone else is.
At the end of the day, people won’t really care about what you’re eating, and how big of a deal the matter becomes lays almost entirely in your own attitude towards it. Be mentally prepared for what you’ll face, but once you’re there, don’t over-concern yourself with the food you are/are not eating and being on the defensive. Remember that it’s a social occasion, and you’re there to enjoy the company of others.
I hope these considerations and suggestions will help you overcome the challenges of sticking to your diet on social occasions. Happy eating, everyone 🙂