2021 is the year of reconnections. After months of lockdowns and travel restrictions, many people are excited to travel and to reunite with friends and family. That often means meeting for dinner, picnics, or afterwork drinks.
If you’re on your journey to optimal wellbeing, the way our culture organizes these moments around food can turn a happy evening into a minefield of temptations and awkward conversations.
You made the trip to see your grandparents, but that tray of fresh baked cookies looks delicious. Oh, and grandma is reacting poorly to your reluctance to eat sweets. She wants the best for you, and she sees giving her grandchildren homemade food as an expression of her love.
Still, you have goals, so you politely decline again. And then your cousin sitting a few chairs away says, “One cookie won’t hurt.”
And now you feel your willpower fading.
Does this story sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. Nearly all of us have been in this situation during family gatherings, holiday celebrations, or even work birthday parties. Unhealthy foods are so woven into our culture that, in some situations, our choice to make healthier fueling decisions triggers alarm and concern in the people around us.
Here’s how to thrive in these moments:
- Eat healthy fuelings ahead of time. Do not go to a big event hungry. Time your fuelings so that you can arrive at the event already feeling full.
- Stay hydrated. Taking a drink of cold water can help to quench cravings, so keep your bottle of water on hand.
- Visualize and rehearse. You probably know your family well enough that you can predict the kinds of conversations about food you are going to have. Rehearse these conversations ahead of time and see yourself making the healthier choices.
- Bring support. Talk to an understanding friend or family member prior to a gathering. Share your goals with them, and request their support. Having a spouse or a sibling in your corner in these moments can keep you on track.
- Have challenging conversations beforehand. If grandma is likely to insist that you eat her desserts, call her before the gathering and explain your goals. You really do love her baking, but what’s most important to you is spending time with her and having the health to make even more of those memories.
- Be the example. Many of our community leaders were the first in their families and friend groups to choose optimal wellbeing. Their success and the behaviors they modeled helped others see that they could create health too. You could be that force for your loved ones as well.
Gathering will get easier with practice, so think of this as a skill to master over time rather than a situation where you either succeed or fail.
If you are farther along in your journey, how did you overcome these challenges in your life? I’d love to hear your stories!