Refusing Holiday Food and Staying Low-Carb by Dana Carpender

Refusing Holiday Food and Staying Low-Carb by Dana Carpender

It’s Halloween weekend, and you know what that means: the holidays are straight ahead, and with them piles and piles of carby junk, and worse, people nagging you to eat the stuff. Why so many people think that saying things like “But you have to eat it! It’s traditional!” and “I worked all afternoon making it just for you” constitutes an expression of holiday goodwill, I have no idea, but sadly this behavior is all too common. You need to think ahead about how to respond to this sort of thing.

You have absolutely no obligation to eat anything you do not want to eat.

If you had a terrible allergy, the sort that would throw you into anaphylaxis at the merest taste, you would not hesitate to refuse that food, nor would you apologize for doing so. Similarly, if you were a recovering alcoholic, you would feel free to say “No, thanks,” to a drink, and would consider rude anyone who pressed you. Carbohydrate addiction and hyperinsulinemia don’t kill as quickly as allergic reactions, but they kill vastly more people, and a case can be made that dying quickly of anaphylaxis is preferable to the long, drawn-out years of deteriorating health and increasing debility that carb addiction can wreak on the body.

So no feeling apologetic. When offered food or drink one does not care to consume, “No, thank you” is always a polite thing to say. Conversely, nagging people to eat foods they have politely refused is rude-rude-rude. You are in the right here, no matter how people try to browbeat you into thinking you’re the unmannerly one.

Do not JADE: Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain. Do you really want to bore everyone at the table with a stirring defense of low carbohydrate diets, complete with medical journal citations? Heck, no, it’s just not festive.

More importantly, any explanation or justification past “No, thank you” or “I don’t care for any, thanks” will be seized upon as an opportunity to argue with your decision. You’ve heard this sort of thing:

Avoiding the Food Pushers

You: “No, thanks, I’m on a diet.”
Them: “Nobody diets on Christmas!”

You: “No, thanks, I’m avoiding carbs.”
Them: “That crazy diet! Everyone knows it’s unhealthy. You’re killing yourself! Come on, you have to have some!”

Etc. Every good salesman works to get the hesitant prospect to state his objections – because that’s the moment he can start arguing them away. Do not let yourself in for this. YOU DO NOT NEED A REASON BEYOND “I don’t care for any, thanks.” You just don’t.

However, it can be hard not to embellish on “No, thank you.” So instead of offering an explanation or a defense, change the subject. Like this:

Them: “Oh, you have to try my famous cornbread stuffing!”
You: “No, thank you. Hey, what’s playing at the local movie theater? Is RED still there? I’ve been wanting to see it.”

Let’s try it again:

Them: “You haven’t had any banana bread! I used great-grandma’s recipe. You have to have some!”
You: “No, thank you. By the way, does anyone want to go shopping tomorrow? I hear there’s a huge sale at Macy’s.”

You get the idea. If you know that you’re going to be confronted with busybodies and nags, practice this in advance. Come up with a list of conversation-changers. “What do you want for Christmas?” “Has anyone heard from Uncle Bill recently?” “Can you believe how our football team is doing?” “I got the coolest new app for my phone the other day, you’ve got to see it!” “When does Junior’s holiday break start?” Anything will do, really.

What this does is make it far, far harder for the person shoving the food at you to continue. If you only say “No, thank you,” you’re going to hear “But you must have some!” and it’s going to turn into a whole back-and-forth tug-o-war – “I don’t want to.” “But you have to!” “But I don’t want to.” “But you have to!” Argh. But once you’ve said “Hey, have you seen cousin Suzy’s new house?” or whatever, the food-pusher is going to look just a tad obsessed if she keeps going. Instead of the other diners looking at you funny, they’re going to look at the food-pusher funny. It’s a neat form of social ju-jitsu.

One tangential but related tactic: If you come from a family where holiday get-togethers are an occasion to be “honest” – in other words, for people to say unkind things to one another – arm yourself with my all-purpose comeback: “How very kind of you to say so.”

Again, let’s practice:

“You’ve been on that diet for six months now, and you’re still fat.”
“How very kind of you to say so.”

“Haven’t you gotten married yet? You’re not getting any younger, you know.”
“How very kind of you to say so.”

“Your sister just got a promotion. Thank heaven ONE of my children amounts to something.”
“How very kind of you to say so.”

Isn’t this fun? You’re driving the thrower-of-darts out of their flippin’ mind, and making him or her look like an ass, all while remaining impeccably polite.

Next year, have dinner with friends.

© 2010 by Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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