Happy Labor Day! I’m actually writing this post on Friday, a couple of days before Labor Day, because my dad is flying down to visit us for the weekend. Therefore, I want to enjoy spending time with him, and I don’t want to have to take time to write a blog post while he’s here. 🙂 So, I’m doing what I need to do in order to get ahead and to make sure that my boyfriend and I get to spend some quality time with my dad!
I know the title of this post doesn’t mention Labor Day at all, but I was inspired to write this post with the thought of it in mind. Mainly, I was thinking about all of the picnics, cookouts, and barbecues that happen on holidays like Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. It’s really hard for those of us with dietary restrictions to navigate those types of get-togethers, mainly because of the food that’s common at those types of events. This post isn’t about how to go about doing that–although, now that I think about it, that’s a good one to save for the next holiday. I want it to be more like an empowerment piece for you to do you when you’re at these types of events.
I think there are a few things that tend to happen when these gatherings come up:
- You feel uncomfortable attending because you’re so “limited” in what you can eat, so you decline the invitation. You don’t want to inconvenience the host by asking him/her to accommodate you.
- You accept the invitation and attend, but you don’t eat anything while you’re there, even though you’re really hungry.
- Your family and/or friends know you have dietary restrictions, but they either don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or don’t want to accommodate you, so they don’t extend an invitation to you.
None of these situations are fun. They don’t make you feel welcome, they don’t make it easier for you, and they make you feel like everyone thinks you’re a weirdo. However, I think these are all perceptions that you’re forcing on yourself or that you’re pretending others have about you. Yes, following the Paleo or AIP lifestyle is dramatically different from the Standard American Diet and the way a lot of people eat, and the beliefs that we Paleo/AIP folks have about food are pretty outside the norm. But, think of it this way: Vegetarianism was probably weird once, and veganism was, too, I’m sure. Those eventually gained traction and became accepted dietary lifestyles, though. Do people look at vegetarians and vegans like they’re stone-cold crazy these days? Nope, not for the most part. Why? Because vegetarians and vegans were adamant about their lifestyle and beliefs until they became mainstream.
Before you start thinking I’m saying that Paleo dieters don’t stick up for themselves, I’m not. I’m saying that although the Paleo way of eating isn’t new, it is new to the mainstream audience. It’s only been within the last couple of years that the Paleo diet has really gained a lot of attention. When a vegetarian or vegan tells someone what they believe, it’s not questioned because it’s very common knowledge now, and people know what those things mean. So, yeah, most people aren’t going to know what Paleo is or what that means, and they’re going to think you’re off-the-deep-end crazy for refusing to eat gluten-filled foods. Should you let that stop you from eating the way you want, regardless of how many people think you’re off your rocker? Absolutely not.
When you hit up that Labor Day cookout today, don’t be afraid to show up with your own food or take an opportunity to teach someone about your beliefs when they ask why you won’t eat that heavenly-looking, dairy-slathered cheeseburger. You’re doing what you feel is best for your body and your health, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. My boyfriend and I have gone to cookouts before where we brought our own meat and asked the host to grill it, and it was no problem. Will other guests think you’re weird if you do that? Maybe. But what’s more important is that you’re sticking to your goals and beliefs, and you’re not letting yourself down. You’re also being a role model and a source of inspiration for somebody else who wants to change their diet but hasn’t had the courage yet. Do you, and you’ll be happy that you did, because not only do you get to eat your preferred food this way, but you also still get to socialize and spend time with loved ones.
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