Hi, Carolyn: I'm going on vacation soon with my in-laws, siblings-in-laws and their spouses. Over the past few years, I've been working on eating fewer unhealthy foods like bread and dairy and as a result I feel much better. This hasn't resulted in visible weight loss but has resolved many stomach issues I've dealt with.
Every time I am with my husband's family, the mood is "vacation" or "celebration" and the foods they serve are always those I try to avoid, like pasta for dinner and chocolate cake from scratch for dessert. My in-laws keep kosher and my mother-in-law is an avid baker, so suggestions to eat at a restaurant where we can all pick our foods are met with confusion.
I get looks and occasional comments about declining those foods, such as how annoying the gluten-free trend is. I'm already anxious about this vacation and having either to join in and suffer the stomachache or decline and get eye rolls about fad diets. Do you have a suggestion for how to handle this?
— Lifestyle Choices Burn
Lifestyle Choices Burn: Yes, the commentary and eye rolls are annoying and pushy — not to mention the fact that a welcoming family would make at least a minimal effort to provide food everyone can eat.
But they're saying a lot about themselves and virtually nothing about you, because they're butting into something that just doesn't affect them. You're taking personally what isn't personal.
That makes their eye-rolling a "so what" waiting to happen.
Through trial and error, you learned that you could resolve your stomach issues by not eating bread and dairy. Okay then! So you don't eat them, that's a good start. Now finish the job by responding just as matter-of-factly to your in-laws: You're you and they aren't, so let's move on:
"Yes, thank you, the gluten-free thing is annoying — I'd give anything to eat cake without feeling sick. Oh, and bread . . . don't get me started." Right? It can annoy you and the family commentariat for completely different reasons, but it's still true that both parties are annoyed.
You can use shorter answers after that — "Eyes say yes, stomach says no"; "[sigh] Aren't my food reactions old news yet?"; and eventually to, "_____." As in, you just do what you do without feeling the need to respond to commentary about it. Cut to the last step right away if you feel game.
I do take issue with one remark you make here, and it might point to why this family isn't more sympathetic: When you refer to "unhealthy foods like bread and dairy," you reveal judginess of your own, no? Bread and dairy are not unhealthy, they're just fine for . . . people for whom they're just fine. If you want to be left alone to your food choices, then the most productive thing you can do is leave others to their food choices, too.
In fact, for your own and others' health, please break anything close to a habit of vilifying this or that food or food choice. Your gut, your business, the end.