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Dietary changes run afoul of controlling family's dinner plan

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dietary changes run afoul of controlling family's dinner plan

Tacoma: I've recently made some dietary changes for health and personal reasons. I've never felt better, except for when it comes to eating out with my husband's family. His sister likes to order for the entire table, which was never a problem when I wasn't watching my nutrition as carefully.

Now, my husband butts in to order things he knows I can eat.

However, we're having a dinner at their house soon, and I know I won't be able to eat most of what's prepared. I'm bringing a few dishes of my own that taste good and meet my dietary requirements, but I know my sister-in-law (and probably mother-in-law) will say I'm not eating enough.

How do I refrain from sticking a fork in my eye? I usually just demur, but I feel like if I don't say something, I'll be dealing with this forever.

For what it's worth, my sister-in-law asked if a doctor had diagnosed me formally. I replied there's no diagnosis, but I can't argue with the difference in how I feel.

Carolyn: Please just ask them outright, "Why the concern about my eating habits?" You don't even have to respond to their response(s). Whatever rationale they come up with can be met with an "I was just curious" if you don't feel like engaging further. But if they do have a concern you feel you can effectively address, then by all means try (once, calmly, with an eye to minimalism) to make your case.

Also consider running your dietary changes by your doctor. I harbor no illusions that saying, "My doctor's on board" will be enough to keep boundary-challenged people at bay, but keeping your doctor apprised is a good idea, anyway, just as a safeguard for your health.

I realize this is a long-standing source of stress for you, but from what you say, you're down to having just this one situation (dinner on in-laws' turf) that's a problem. From where I sit, that looks more like a victory.

Anonymous: They are asking questions because it is extreme, a diet so strict that exceptions aren't made for a holiday meal or a special night out.

I'm not saying you should eat anything you don't want to, I'm just pointing out that people get curious/nosy over big changes. Just ask that they encourage you to stick with it.

Carolyn: They're asking because their normal is super-controlling; remember, Sis orders for the table. She doesn't get the "it's just normal curiosity because your new diet is extreme" treatment. The family is extreme.

There are good arguments for dietary flexibility: courtesy to a host, a defense against overzealousness (since zeal and dieting have a problematic history), the proven utility when it comes to sticking with a diet, etc.

But if someone chooses to adhere to a restricted diet for whatever reason, then no one has a right to run after them with pie saying, "Just take a bite!"

Even in situations where there's an eating disorder or other dangerous form of diet control, the answer is for the inner circle to act on the professional guidance of a reputable specialist in that disorder — not to get into the person's face.

Dietary changes run afoul of controlling family's dinner plan 03/13/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 13, 2011 4:30am]
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