…Without Alienating Yourself from the People You Love!
Imagine walking into your parents’ house to find your entire family poisoning themselves. Mom and Dad are sitting on the couch munching dioxin. Grandma is in the kitchen doing a shot of formaldehyde. And Aunt Betty is stuffing her face with antifreeze. But just when you think you’re shocked and horrified, it gets worse. Before you can yell out the words, “Stop, you’re killing yourselves!” Your family approaches you and offers you some of their poison. So what do you do? If you say no, you won’t be part of the group and you’ll feel left out. If you say yes, you’ll be poisoning yourself just to fit in and be accepted.
Sounds like a scary scene from a science fiction film or a really bad dream. But it’s not—it’s Christmas!
Don’t the holidays look just a little different from the eyes of those who know where their food comes from? And once you know, it’s hard not to want to share it with anyone who’ll listen. The problem is that most often that does not include your own family. So no matter how badly you want them to be aware of good nutrition, informing them over the holiday meal is probably not a good idea.
Let’s face it, most of your family probably already feels a little annoyed by your healthy eating habits, whether you talk to them about it or not. Anytime you make a choice that is different from the mainstream, it challenges others’ belief systems. For instance, just by choosing to eat organic foods, you raise the question for others, “What’s wrong with the regular produce from the grocery store?” The problem is that most people don’t want to know the answer to that question. So the conscious choices you make about the foods you eat challenge people to think about things they would rather not think about. Unfortunately, some people would rather not know the truth about certain things, especially when it comes to food.
But when you know, there’s no going back, is there? So the question is, do you join them in celebrating the holidays by pigging out on foods that destroy your health? Fortunately, you don’t have to. Here are seven tips to help you eat healthy this holiday season—without alienating yourself from the people you love:
1. Bring a healthy dish to pass
This is one way to ensure you’ll have something healthy to eat, while sharing something nutritious with your family. Bring a tasty dish like meatballs or a hearty soup that you can fill up on without having to eat so much of the other stuff. If you’re still tempted by desserts or feel the pressure to join others in eating them, bring a healthy desserts well. Almond cookies are perfect for sharing and allow you to satisfy your taste for sweets while still being part of the group.
2. Have the party at your house
This is the best way to ensure that you’ll have something healthy to eat while celebrating the holidays with your friends and family. Hosting a party gives you a little more control over what kind of foods will be served. Suggest that your guests bring salads or some of the healthier family favorites. And you can provide the real stuff like homemade salad dressing, real butter, whole grain breads and a free-range turkey with real gravy. Now you may be asking yourself why you should spend the extra time and money to provide better quality foods when most of the guests wouldn’t even appreciate them? But remember, you still have to eat and, amazing as it may seem, this could be the first time some of your guests have ever had good nutritious foods. Once they taste real food, you may even get a few converts!
3. Arrive later
What do you do when you are invited to the kind of party where you know there won’t be anything healthy at all to eat (only pizza, pop, cake and ice cream)? You could pack your own meal but then everyone will stare at you and wonder why you’re too good for their food. Nothing like drawing more attention to the “health freak.” You could also skip the meal and sit there while everyone else eats. But then you might be considered rude, or you’d be asked repeatedly “Are you sure you don’t want something to eat, not even just a little piece of cake?” So if you want to avoid the nagging questions and totally alienating yourself from the group, maybe it would be a good idea to show up after the meal. Without lying or making up excuses, simply tell the host that you won’t be able to make it for dinner, but you’d love to come and visit with everyone afterward.
4. Eat before you go
A common strategy for attacking the holiday meal is to skip breakfast and lunch—this way when the party gets started there is plenty of room to pig-out for the rest of the evening. Now this way of thinking doesn’t really work for someone who is trying to avoid eating foods that are harmful to the body. Instead, it would make more sense to start off the day with a balanced, hearty breakfast. Make sure that you eat a protein-based breakfast balanced with natural carbohydrates and plenty of good fats. And to avoid having to eat more compromised foods than you’d like to, eat a good nutritious meal before you leave for the party.
5. Learn to say no
All right, so you’ve make it through dinner doing your best to make the healthiest choices possible but now here comes Aunt Betty peddling her famous Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake. Even if you’re not tempted by the dessert, how do you say no to someone who simply won’t take no for an answer? Well, you just say no. If you make up excuses like, “Not now, I’m too full,” people will continue trying to push their desserts on you for the rest of the evening. Get in the habit of saying, “No thanks, I don’t eat dessert,” without feeling the need to explain yourself. At first you may be met with some resistance, but eventually people will get the point and stop asking you.
6. Avoid preaching
It’s hard to watch people you care about knowingly and unknowingly eat foods that destroy their health. But the quickest way to alienate yourself from your family during a holiday meal is to tell them everything wrong with the foods they’re eating. You figure that if they only knew. . . but if they really wanted to know, they’d ask you. By now your family has probably figured out that you have an interest or passion for health and nutrition, so if they really want to engage you in that topic of conversation, they will, and then by all means let them know!
7. Take the focus off of food
Make celebrating the holidays with your family and friends more fun and meaningful than pigging out on a bunch of nutrient-depleted junk food. Bring some games that get everyone involved. Plan activities for the kids such as making ornaments or making a snowman. Or, get out the old family photo albums and tell stories as you reminisce about the good times you’ve shared together—that didn’t revolve around food!
Have a healthy, happy holiday season!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2001.