I receive a lot of questions about how I share my dietary choices with my family, friends, and strangers. It's a fair question, especially if you haven't done it before or seen someone else do it. To me, it's all about being upfront, kind, and accepting. It just takes a little forethought and the right words for everything to go smoother than you may have expected.
I always make sure to communicate ahead of time to people cooking and to supportive allies about the basics about my diet. Personally I just keep it simple by saying I am vegan. It's not completely true (I eat some goat/sheep cheese, free-range eggs, and shellfish) but if vegan food is made, I will always eat it. Simple and easy to convey. I don't want to see anyone's eyes roll back in their head while they try to decipher a dietary puzzle I just laid out for them 😂
I also like to participate in the cooking, making a dish to share with all. This shows I'm willing to put in the legwork to make it easier for everyone and I know there will be at least one thing I can eat. My roasted brussel sprouts are always a hit! It also allows me to connect with people in the kitchen over food - which is what gatherings are really all about.
I love to acknowledge people's dishes and the work they put into it, even if it is not something I'm going to eat. When people say, "you're not going to have some?!", I say, "no thank you, but it looks amazing - please have some for me!!" The key is kindness, saying everything with kindness and acceptance. When people feel that from me, they don't mind how I eat because they feel how I support them in their choices too.
Some common questions and reactions I've had:
Person: "Do you eat __(pizza)___?"
Me: "No, I'm eating vegan these days."
Person: "What does that mean?"
Me: "I don't eat any animal products, but I still eat all the vegetables!"
Person: "Oh. Why are you doing that?"
Me: "I'm just into health right now."
Person: "Did you try _(insert dish here)___?"
Me: "I didn't - but it looks delicious!"
Person: "Have some _(insert food/drink here)____!!!"
Me: "It looks delicious!" (And then I don't have any)
Person: "Why aren't you having some of ____(grandma's cheesecake)____? I spent all day making it!"
Me: "Oh my gosh, you are so sweet. It really looks amazing, I wish I could, but I'm lactose intolerant."
Person: "Why won't you just take a little? It's your favorite!"
Me: "Gosh I know, it looks so good!! I'm just working on my health and I really appreciate your support in that. It means a lot to me."
Person: "Why don't you eat cow's milk?"
(Depending on who's asking and how:)
My answer A: "It upsets my stomach." (easy out)
My answer B: "It makes me breakout." (if I think they really want to know).
Person: "Just have a little - a little won't hurt you!"
Me: "Thank you!!" (And then I don't have any)
Person offering a drink: "Hey, what are you drinking?!"
Me: "Sparkling water would be great!"
Person: "Have a shot/drink/etc. with me!"
Me: "I'm good. You enjoy it!" :)
Person: "Why aren't you drinking?"
Me: "I'm sober right now."
Me: "Just because."
Person: "We're all doing shots!!"
Me: "OMG, let me take the picture!!"
If someone really pushed me to eat/drink things after these types of responses (which is very odd behavior by the way since I've kindly made my needs clear), I would likely stop responding. Sometimes silence is the best way to respond, especially if someone is persisting after an answer has been given. It is everyone's right to eat what they want. If I make sure that others feel respected in their choices but they continually pushed mine, I would just stop engaging with them. Hopefully it doesn't have to go there! But sometimes people need that space to hear themselves and what they're saying.
I hope this helps you start prepping yourself and others to support you in your skin health. And if you have a relapse, it's ok! Your body always wants to heal, just come right back and your skin will clear up again.
Elise May, CN + LE, is the owner and practitioner behind SKINutritious. She has helped over 1,200 clients clear acne with detoxing treatments, holistic coaching, and botanical skincare.
Work with Elise. Book online here.