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Addressing Dietary Changes with Grace When Eating with Friends

gwyneth-made-me-do-it-logofood-restricitonsA funny thing happens when you start changing your diet and food intake – your friends start to notice. Put it all out there by also blogging and Instagramming your sudden lifestyle change, and they start to become both fascinated and terrified by these changes. Questions are asked, defenses are sometimes raised. While I’ve attacked this lifestyle change pretty agressively in our own home and when dining out, I try not to impart my new found obsession on my friends. Inevitably though, even if you’re the least bit social, a few awkward moments may arise.

For instance, a friend invites your family over for New Year’s Eve dinner, and a disclaimer is included, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy good meat.”

Or when out trying to decide on a restaurant for a couple’s date night, friends ask if you’ll be able to eat anything from the place you all agree on.

You may even be put in an awkward position when eating with new friends and acquaintances who may not be privy to your newer lifestyle. Just last week when out for a group dinner at the blog conference I attended, I asked the waiter if something was vegetarian, which prompted a fellow diner to ask me if I was a vegetarian. I was caught a little off guard and said yes, finding that the easiest answer to avoid questions. As the conversation continued and her questions went on, I admitted I wasn’t in fact a vegetarian, I just didn’t eat certain types of meat and limited the meat I ate when dining out. She then replied, “Oh, like in Portlandia!” While I’d like to think I’m not as annoying and far-fetched, I can’t help but acknowledge a startling resemblance.

So it got me thinking, how can I continue on with this way of eating, without being the annoying friend with all the food limitations and restrictions, that makes people uncomfortable to be around? How can I prevent myself from becoming the type of person I used to roll my eyes at?

I came up with a couple of ways to stop myself from turning into a character from a Portlandia episode:

- Be a gracious guest: If a friend offers to make you a special type of food, tell them how appreciative you are, but it’s not necessary. You’re happy to eat whatever. Don’t go making demands on buying an organic locally raised, pastured chicken they’ll have to travel 50 miles to get.

- Be honest but don’t lecture: If questioned, explain that you have limited your intake of certain types of food, but don’t go into a full blown lecture on why. Don’t proceed to tell them the horrors of factory farming, or how dangerous food additives can be. And definitely don’t point to their food and say, “Do you know what’s in that?!” If they ask, proceed, but the truth is, most people just want to enjoy their dinner with friends and not be made to feel guilty about what they’re eating.

- Don’t bring attention to yourself: This is probably something I need to work on, especially if I want to bypass potentially awkward conversations. I can simply pull the waiter aside and ask for a vegetarian option, without asking out loud in front of all those in attendance. I think those of us who eat a certain way sometimes feel compelled to “spread the news” about eating a healthier diet, and do so by subconsciously bringing unnecessary attention to ourselves. Again, unless asked, I’m going to try and keep my food aversions and restrictions on the down low, especially when eating out with new friends.

These are some of the strategies I’ve come up with, but I am open to more suggestions. Do you have any food aversions or issues, and how do you handle topics like this with your friends and family?

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