Below are some scenarios you might run into, with some alternative, sensible and productive ways to respond:
Scenario one – You’re the only vegetarian at a festive gathering and while the host is thoughtful enough to have accounted for your needs and has prepared/ordered the vegetarian option, fellow diners are not so graceful e.g. “I feel so bad for you – I just couldn’t live without bacon”, “What’s the point in fake meat?”
How to respond – Although it’s difficult, try to stay positive instead of becoming defensive. Try saying something like: “My veggie option is actually really delicious, you should try some!” Though they make not take you up on your offer, they’ll understand not to pursue an argument with someone who feels confident in their choices.
Scenario two – You’re home for the holidays and are seeing a lot of your extended family and friendship group, which means you are fair game for commentary on anything and everything from your career choices to your figure. When we haven’t seen people in a while, how we look often prompts comments such as “You’ve lost so much weight, how much do you even weigh now?” or “You look like you could do with fattening up”.
How to respond – People often judge the eating habits of others when they feel insecure or threatened and this criticism could veil jealousy. Keep this in mind when responding and try to diffuse the situation by taking the focus away from your appearance and sharing how your habits have helped you in other ways e.g. “I feel so full of energy since I started working out more regularly, can you believe I actually do sit-ups now?”
Scenario three – You’re at a party with a great buffet but there isn’t much you feel you can eat so you steer clear of some of the options. The host however, notices your empty plate and calls you out on it.
How to respond – You shouldn’t really have to justify what you do and don’t put in your mouth, so try saying something like “This is plenty for me thank you, thanks for preparing all this!” Another great one is to politely change the subject e.g. “Oh I’m just pacing myself with this great spread! … How was your holiday in France?”
Scenario four – It’s happy hour after work but you are there for the company not the booze. When you pass on the cocktails you are met with “Oh you’re so boring, just have one drink!”
How to respond – Unfortunately, the more you make excuses the more likely your colleagues are to pry. First, try giving a short answer about your choice e.g. “I just don’t feel like drinking tonight”. Limiting your behaviour to that particular moment will hopefully deflect a larger debate. If this doesn’t work try humour e.g. “Well one of us needs to remain responsible so we can get lightweights like yourself home!”
Try to remember that any jibes are likely to be misinformed, but well-intentioned nonetheless, and are often an expression of a persons own insecurities or disappointment about their own health decisions. Before you bite back, stop, take a breath and consider whether they might have a point. After all, all lifestyles need balance. If your choices are sound however, stick to your guns but with good grace.