How to defend your diet at the holidays

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by brenda on November 25, 2013

 

 photo credit: AJ Schuster

The holidays are coming up. For some of you, because you’re choosing to eat “differently” than the rest of your family, the holidays are something you dread. You’re going to be questioned, scolded, and possibly downright persecuted for taking a stand for your health. I write this post because I’ve been there–I’ve experienced the attacks–and I have recently learned things that I wish I knew back then.

See, I’ve been taking logic lessons. Ok, that’s not really true–I’m teaching my kids logic, during homeschool. I think I might just love this book, The Fallacy Detective, more than my kids. Through this book, I’ve learned how to spot a “Red Herring,” an “Ad Hominem Attack,” “Special Pleading,” etc. I can see immature reasoning, points that take an argument off track, and personal attacks that have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Because of the things I have been learning, I’ve decided that the best way to defend your diet (or any other stance you take in life that is being attacked) is to avoid it. Don’t argue back. Say something like this:

“I am an adult, and I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

If the person chooses to continue on, it is their own doing, and you did not add anything to their “fire.” At this point you have a decision to make–do you stay and endure the attacks, or drive to the nearest restaurant that’s serving gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free (or whatever-free) Thanksgiving dinner?

I want to set up some ground rules, first. Don’t make your dietary restrictions a burden on your extended family and friends. The way that I have chosen to do this is:

Bring your own food

I’ve brought an entire holiday meal for my family several times, so that the food wouldn’t be an issue. I’ve made it a point to never ask others to make special foods for us. One particular family member (who has sadly passed away) was so sweet and would specifically ask us what she could make for us, and she would call to check if particular ingredients were ok. These types of family members are a gem, but they are unique–don’t count on being treated this way. Just bring your own food to avoid any drama associated with people feeling “put out” by you.

Host

If there are particular holiday foods that you aren’t eating and others might miss, have them bring those foods. I would host and ask gluten-eating guests to bring rolls and pies.

If you’re hosting, go out of your way to meet the dietary restrictions of others. Do unto others as you would have them do to you. For example, I once chose to make a small pan of my green bean casserole without the cheese for a particular family member who couldn’t eat cheese.

Don’t talk about your diet

My husband and I set up this rule for ourselves. I would do so well at not talking about it with most people and in most situations–until particular people starting bringing up our diet and attacking it. Responding to attacks with defenses is still talking about the diet. Don’t talk about it. When they bring it up, drop it. Again, “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.” I speak freely about the GAPS Diet and eating real foods on this website, but I do not preach these things to people that I spend time with in person. You are here reading because you want to be, and you can click away at any time. I don’t assume that everyone who spends time with me wants to hear about the dangers of buying conventional potatoes, etc…The way we eat does not need to be a topic of conversation at the table. Period. We have enjoyed meals with many people who eat different ways (example, we have very good friends who are vegetarian, and we are big meat eaters), and we have no problem eating together and enjoying each other’s company. This is the way it ought to be. Food and dietary preferences or allergies should not divide relationships.

 

Ok, now that we’ve set up those ground rules, I want us all to remember something: people who attack your diet (or however you choose to live differently) are insecure. They feel like you are judging them because you are making a different choice from them. Approach the holidays with this knowledge, and realize that they’re coming at you from a point of defense. Imagine that they’re saying something like this: “…but I’m an ok person even though I eat this red number 5 jello with genetically modified hydrogenated soybean oil whipped topping, right? You still like me, right?” And of course, the answer is “yes.” So again, there’s no need to defend the diet or even respond to these attacks with anything other than ”I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

Now I want to cover some of the basic types of attacks, and why you should always diffuse them with the “I am an adult….” quote.

Someone might say to you:

“I saw on 20/20 that sugar is actually good for you.”

Everything in you wants to fight back, but don’t. It doesn’t matter. This is a Faulty Appeal to Authority. They believe that 20/20 is a good source of information. You disagree. You could whip out some points from Dr. Mercola’s site in 2 seconds flat, but don’t. They’ll argue that you can’t believe everything you read on the internet, or that they think Dr. Mercola is a quack, or whatever. Never mind that you also can’t believe everything you see on TV. It doesn’t matter. In order to have an argument that depends on what an authority said, you have to agree on the same authority. This probably isn’t going to happen, so drop it. Your response could be something like this “That’s interesting. Well, I’m choosing not to eat sugar.” And if they keep going; “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

“You’re only eating this way because your mother was a hippie in the 70′s.”

You want to argue it, but stop yourself. This is a Genetic Fallacy–they’re condemning any choices you make, based on your beginning. Shake off the feelings they’ve riled up in you, and again, say: “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

“All of my friends agree that this gluten-free diet thing is a fad.”

You think back to the margarine and boxes of low fat cookies in this person’s household, and you just want to respond with a “so what if it is, you’ve succumbed to fads, too!”…but this would be Tu Quoque (“you too!”) reasoning, and it is an immature form of arguing. Or you want to argue “but all of my friends agree that gluten is evil!” It doesn’t matter. You’re both “Appealing to the People,” meaning, you think that your point is valid because many others think the same way. You will never get anywhere with this argument. Repeat after me; “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

“You’ve lost so much weight that pretty soon you’re going to be anorexic.”

This is the Slippery Slope fallacy–they assume that because you’ve taken one step, you’ll take 100 more giant steps that will lead to certain death. If you’d like, you may reassure them “I am not going to become anorexic.” And then, back to our phrase; “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

“You’re starving your children on this diet!”

Obviously, if you’re sane, you’re not starving your children. This is the Straw Man Fallacy. They’re exaggerating your situation so that they can make it easier to refute. In this situation, they’re also attacking your parenting. Another phrase that might be more appropriate here is: “I am the parent, and I have the right to make my own parenting choices. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

“You’re worshiping this diet!”

If you’re a Christian, this is the ultimate attack, and there is so much enveloped in this claim. You’re breaking the second commandment, you’re worshiping an idol, and the future of your very soul is in jeopardy because you’re choosing to eat differently from the rest of the family. Wow. That’s big stuff. You could argue back, that there are many things this person “worships”–but don’t. Stop it. Just say: “I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

There are many more arguments that people in your life may come up with. A good answer to many of them is; ”I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together.”

 

Unacceptable situations…

Unfortunately, there are some people who cannot be reasoned with. They will not respect the fact that you are an adult and can make your own choices. They will claim that you are an inconvenience to the family because you are on a special diet (they will forget the fact that you brought all of your own food and asked nothing of them). They will feel judged by you simply because you’ve made a different choice. No matter what you say, these people will not stop attacking you. For your health and well-being, you might want to consider eating your holiday meals somewhere else. These are a few examples of unacceptable situations:

  1. People spiking your food with the very ingredient(s) you’re avoiding, to prove a point (“see, you didn’t get sick!”) or to make you the center of their joke and to get other family members to laugh at you.
  2. People who have no allergies or dietary restrictions who suddenly refuse to eat any food that you make, only as a way to tell you off.
  3. Family members ganging up together and pinpointing you as a person to attack because you’re doing something different.

I hope that these unacceptable situations never happen to you. It is hurtful to feel manipulated, attacked, and unsafe around family members. You have hopes for the holidays and for your family–that you can eat peacefully together and be accepted by these people, no matter what foods you choose to ingest. When you try your best and there is still no acceptance or peace, sometimes leaving is the only healthy option.

Most people are pretty sane and reasonable, and when you say: ”I am an adult, I have the right to make my own choices in life. Please don’t make my choices an issue between us and let’s enjoy our time together,” they will stop attacking you. I hope this is the case for you. Whatever your family situation, my prayer for all of you is that you have a peaceful holiday! Stress upsets the digestive system just as much as bad food. Avoid stress, avoid bad food & enjoy your holidays!

How are you going to handle attacks on your diet this holiday season?

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  • Doug

    I enjoyed your article. I’ve tried to do most of these things in the past myself, including bringing my own food and cooking for everyone. Unfortunately this was taken as saying their food was not good enough and/or we were too good for their food and that we were judging everyone.

    Sometimes all we can do is grin and bear it, and then move on as quickly as possible.

  • Marisa

    Thank you for writing this. I was just happy to read that someone else goes through the same type of situations. We’ve been on GAPS for years now, and it has made a significant impact on healing our bodies. Unfortunately, we are attacked even STILL, just as Doug mentioned. I never considered that family would get offended that we brought our own food!

  • Audry Strain Pettit

    Now, how to defend the diet you have put your child on to your ignorant soon-to-be ex husband?

  • Lee

    Thanks for this. I just wish I had read this before the Holiday season started. Helps to bring a lighter reasoning to how people are, but thankfully, I haven’t had too many challenges with my family and my parents are on board with my diet requirements even if the other halves are still a little set in there ways and don’t understand all the information I have been reading on the web, and what the Vegetable fats/oils and sugars will do to my kids when they look after them.

    Anyway, have a great holiday season even if a little late and look forward to reading more in the new year.

    Now to just get myself back on the correct bandwagon and off those foods I have been a bit naughty with over the holiday season.

  • Di

    Unfortunately these things won’t work with an ex. Simply as the kids just get junk food there, while we do gaps. Not sure whether we should continue as the kids are there on weekends and holidays.

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