Holiday Dilemma # 1- Family Acceptance of Your Paleo Lifestyle

Thank you, readers, for sending in your holiday eating-related questions.  So far I’ve received many great inquiries about how to handle a variety of tricky situations, and the fact that some of them are nearly identical to one another illustrates what I’ve written about before- that many of the questions you as readers have are similar to those of others all around the world.  So, send them my way!

Here’s the first of several posts I’ll be doing on the subject:

I love visiting my family; however, there’s always a lot of tension between my mother and I when I decline the food she prepares and offers me (my family eats a lot of whole grains, crackers, cheese, baked goods, loads of processed ice cream, etc. Those are honestly the ‘staples’ of the family food culture). She knows I don’t enjoy eating grains or dairy, I have explained this all to her, but she probably just feels like she’s not feeding her college daughter well enough. Naturally, as I’m eating Paleo, I’m quite well fed! But she’s always so hurt whenever she tries to get me to eat something she’s made, and I don’t want to have it. This always gets worse around the holidays. How do I stay paleo while easing the tension?”

I’ve had clients in this exact situation before.   How can you balance eating how you normally do, which supports you feeling great, with not hurting mom’s feelings?  I had to laugh when one woman I worked with, after overcoming this very circumstance, proudly stated, “No one is ever making me eat cake again!”.

  • Try to have a private conversation with whomever is potentially going to be offended before the day of the holiday meal, rather than risking a big blow-up at the dinner table.  Explain that you realized that certain foods were making you feel ill and that now since you’ve cut them out, you feel better.
  • Compare to someone the family knows who has an allergy; it’s really no different.  If your cousin is horribly allergic to cats and everyone knows it, it would be rather unlikely that they’d be forced to pet the family house-cat.   Let it be known that if you eat gluten/soy/dairy etc., you will have a migraine/stomach ache/joint pain etc. and that as such, you’d prefer not to eat those things.
  • You may want to omit the fact that ‘you follow the Paleo diet’ as sometimes, others can be more sensitive and judgmental, as weight and ‘diets’ are such a touchy subject for many.
  • Also share that it means so much that mom (or whomever) wanted to go out of her way to cook something special for you, so think of something she can make that you would love to eat, if there’s a dish that fits that bill.  Was there a childhood treat or activity that you loved doing together?  For example, one client had happy memories of going to an apple orchard with the family and picking their own apples. She suggested they do that, but rather than make pies, they made paleo-friendly baked apples.
  • Take the focus off the meal.  Divert the conversation to other topics that demonstrate how the way you eat is actually making you a better student/athlete/parent/ etc.. because you have more energy, sleep better, are rarely sick, etc..

Ultimately, you can’t please everyone, but you can certainly try the ideas above and more often than not, the person who was previously giving you a hard time will at least begin to understand!