Dec 08, 2020
We are social creatures and summer is the time for most of us to get together, for barbecues, al fresco lunches and, of course, for many of us, Christmas and / or New Year celebrations. These events are the beads on the thread that holds family and friends together. They involve love, friendship, occasional rivalries and, of course, food. It seems true to say that across the human race, where there are gatherings of people, there is always food.
So, how do we navigate these events?
How do we balance our own need not to ‘mess up’ with food when everyone else is on a ‘gastronomic holiday’?
How do we deal with the comments and questions and how do we say, “No, thank you.” and not cause offence or have to deal with questions about our food and drink choices?
The basic point is that in these situations you are being presented with choices, and only you know what is right for you and how you should act.
Every choice is a calculation and expresses what matters to you.
So, when you go to, or host, a gathering, what is most important to you? Is it connecting with others? Getting your nutrition right? Feeding your soul? Having fun? Making sure everyone else is having a good time?
In asking this question we are taking the focus away from food and placing it on other reasons for being at the gathering – onto different things to look forward to and enjoy.
At the actual event, however, there are some basic tips that can help you to navigate situations involving food:
If possible, avoid arriving at the event feeling really hungry;
Always start with the protein;
Stay hydrated with plenty of water – you can make or bring a fruity water infusion to make it even more special by adding slices of fruit, berries, mint and other natural flavourings;
Avoid grazing. Beware of being within reach of a bowl of chips, dips, lollies, etc.
Once you have taken your selection of food, sit away from, or with your back to, the buffet, and treat your meal as you would any regular meal. Remember what works for you;
If you are asked to bring a plate, choose a ‘you-friendly’ dish – that is, food that you can eat – and keep it near to you;
Start a new tradition! How about a walk after the meal? You may be surprised at the number of takers!;
Beware of alcohol. Alcohol reduces inhibition and can seriously affect judgement. Having had surgery you can be up to five times more susceptible to the effects!
Focus on the people, not on the food;
If you are hosting a gathering, give away left-over food if you want to avoid a fridge full of temptation;
If you're worried about needing to look like you're eating or that you may overeat then remember that if you hold a drink in one hand and a plate in the other, it will be impossible to eat what is on the plate (because you don’t have three hands!);
If you do choose to have a treat, savour it, relish it, and thoroughly enjoy it! Give yourself permission to be free of guilt afterwards.
So, you have inner expectations of yourself and all is under control, but what about the expectations of others? Many of us have spent a lifetime of being compliant and enabling others to feel good – at our own expense.
How can you, therefore, be firm but kind in refusing when your host says, “I made these especially for you. I know how much you like them...” And you’re thinking, “This is not going to go well, but I don’t want to hurt her/his feelings”?
So, have a pre-planned statement ready to use that you feel comfortable saying, or use the following formula:
YOU – ME – SITUATION
This is a formula used in high-conflict situations that can equally be used to handle difficult situations such as refusing a well-meaning offer.
Basically, your reply covers these three points (you-me-situation) in that order. You firstly acknowledge the feelings or efforts of the other person, then put your position forward, and, finally, state the situation.
A typical reply might therefore be:
“Oh, wow, that looks great, thank you so much for thinking of me (YOU); unfortunately, I’m under strict orders / having to be quite strict about what I am able to eat (ME); and so I’m going to have to say no thanks” (SITUATION).
Ultimately, the point is: Are you going to spoil your day to make someone else’s day?
Finally, remember this:
Only you know what is right for you and how you should act.
Enjoy the summer and, with a little planning, all should be well... and, if you do make some choices that you later wish you hadn’t, go easy on yourself – remember what worked and what didn’t work so well so you can be better prepared for next time!
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year!