Your Thanksgiving FAQ's (How to communicate your diet, deal with judgment, politely decline, get back on track, most omni-friendly dishes & more)

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon

OMG! Thanksgiving is just around the corner ::home alone face::

Don't worry, I got you!!!

First, download my step-by-step game plan, full menu, RECIPES, and expert tips in my ultra useful FREE Thanksgiving ebook. Get it right here and gobble up ALL THE ZEN!

There's also TWO videos!!Including one of me cooking 6/8 courses (basically everything but the pie and cranberry sauce!) in 30 minutes.

Now for all your OTHER questions ;)

Q: “I've told my host several times that I am plant-based but nervous she doesn’t understand. How can I communicate respectfully?”

A: Most folks don’t know what “plant-based” means. Heck, most folks still offer chicken and fish to vegetarians! You’ll need to be super specific, listing off exactly what you do not eat.

“Thanks so much for having me. I have a lot of dietary restrictions and I don’t want you to go to any trouble for me, I’m happy to bring something to share that’s also suitable.” This will open the door for further communication. Offer to provide a list. Something like “Unable to eat meat (including fish and chicken), dairy (milk/butter/cheese), eggs, [etc] — pasta, vegetables, beans, grains, fruits are all great!”

I like to include a quick description of foods we DO eat to help the host, especially if they are totally foreign to our dietary needs. After seeing the list of “Do nots” they might be wondering what on earth you can eat, so seeing the “do” list helps them.

You can also send a few recipes from the eBook to the host.

Here's what to say:

“I’m so touched you’re preparing a meal I can eat — this is such a treat! Here are a few tried and true recipes I know every will love you need ideas. I’m happy to help in any way I can.”

Q: "How to not let the judgement affect you?"

Uncool to admit this, but: the judgement isn’t going to NOT affect you. It hurts. Overtime you start to be less sensitive to it, but there’s always still a little bit of discomfort, even for a 10-year vegan like me.

It’s okay to admit other people’s judgement or criticism bothers you, even if you’re only admitting it briefly and privately to yourself (I totally get needing to wear a public Poker face!)

Instead of exhausting your energy trying (unsuccessfully) to let it NOT bother you, accept that it will and focus on what you’re going to do about it.

Think about what people might say and what you can diplomatically say back to them. Notice I didn’t say conjure up a clever “comeback” because the holidays aren’t really a time to draw swords.

Ain’t nobody’s mind gonna be changing right there so don’t waste your breath.

Also remember whatever someone says about you, says a lot more about them. By passing judgment on YOU, they’re unveiling their insecurity.

Q: "How can I communicate why we made this choice (or do I even bother)?”

It’s not your job or duty to defend or explain yourself to anyone. I welcome honest curiosity but I refuse to live in a defensive position. I don’t ask my family and friends to explain or justify their diets or lifestyle choices and expect the same respect in return.

“Thank you for your interest in my diet / lifestyle. I’d love to talk to you more about it later but right now I wanted to hear more about [your job, kid, hobby, something about them] How is [your job/kid/hobby/etc] going?”

REDIRECT my friends, redirect.

Q: "How to also feel like I'm treating myself to something special for the holidays without going backwards.”

FOMO is real and I get that. I like to remind myself that I’m not there for the food. That’s not to say I don’t love or enjoy my meal, I do, but I remind myself the day is about gratitude and spending my time with those I hold most dear. Live life for the experiences because those are the memories we relish. (We rarely remember the food we eat socially but we remember the socialization).

I also like to ask myself: is eating foods that I normally wouldn’t, foods that are going to make me feel bloated or crappy, how I can “treat” myself well?

I’m always so much happier when I stay committed to myself and my goals. It’s not always easy, but the momentary pleasure I might experience is never worth the fall out afterwards.

Remember: There’s two sides of deprivation. There is depriving yourself of the thing you “want” and then what you deprive yourself of by having the thing.

For example, I can deprive myself of a second cocktail, or I can have the second cocktail and deprive myself of feeling 100% the following day because I’ll have a slight hangover.

Likewise, I can deprive myself of a seconds, or I can have seconds and feel uncomfortable all night afterwards from overeating.

Q: "How do you say no when the dish was made specifically for you but you can’t actually eat it?”

Start with gratitude “Oh wow, that is so nice of you! Thank you so much for thinking about me. I’m really touched”

Then merge into an apology: “I’m so sorry, I must not have fully explained my dietary restrictions to you. It’s totally my fault! I’m not able to eat [cheese, meat, whatever the problem is] right now. {sad face} but that looks really good. I know everyone else will enjoy it a lot. You’re such a good cook!”

If needed, tack on another apology, “I feel so bad about this but thank you so much. I really appreciate you doing this for me. You are so kind and thoughtful.”

Most people don’t really care if you eat the food or not. They just want acknowledgement of their efforts and to feel appreciated, which you can give with your words.

It’s easy to say, “if they love you, they shouldn’t be offended… they should want what’s best for you and respect you” but they’re human too and it’s totally normal to be “offended” and feel hurt or defensive when you feel rejected or rebuffed, especially if you invested some time or energy like they did. It’s important to remember this and be sensitive to it when you’re saying “no thanks.”

Their being offended also doesn’t mean they don’t care about you (they do) they just care more about their ego in that moment, which is why you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself. Don’t divert from your moral compass for the sake of someone else’s feelings — their feelings do not supersede yours. It’s okay to hurt someone else’s feelings, just apologize if you do.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: your mom or aunt Sue, or brother-in-law is different. They hold grudges and never let things go... but even those types tend to forget by the next day and even if they DO remember, they’re over it by next week and if they aren’t? That’s not your problem.

Q: "Any suggestions for the most omni-friendly Thanksgiving dish?"

Here's where I reiterate: Download my step-by-step game plan, full menu, RECIPES, and expert tips in my ultra useful FREE Thanksgiving ebook. Get it right here and gobble up ALL THE ZEN! ;)

If you don't want the menu shortcut, that's okay -- here's the deal:

Serve anything that’s familiar and isn’t pretending to be something else.

This means bring butternut soup or something like acorn squash stuffed with rice, walnuts, and cranberries.

Definitely do NOT (I repeat DO NOT!) bring “faux turkey”, tofu, tempeh, seitan, vegan cheese, kale, chia seeds, or anything else that’s “weird.”

These foods may not be “weird” to you, but they definitely are to most omnivores.

You’ll have better success if you feed them something they recognize, know, and already like.

Since some omni’s can also be weird around beans and lentils, I tend to stick to vegetables and whole grains, or pasta if they’re really not adventurous eaters.

"I cook for my family and in-laws but only two people are vegan. I WANT to make vegan food but I feel compelled to please my husband and his father, who expect a “traditional” meal. What do I do?"

You have to compromise and what that might look like is different for every family, but just make sure YOU are not the only one compromising.

Most of the traditional dishes can be made vegan without much disruption to the family recipe. For example you can use vegetable broth instead of turkey broth in a gravy, Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine) instead of butter on the vegetables, soy milk instead of milk.

I’ve also conveniently forgotten to mention that the pie or cornbread or soup was vegan ;)

Over time, your family might also change their own preferences and expectations, too, if you open them up to new possibilities.

For example, my parents spend every Thanksgiving with my cousins and aunt, all of whom are omnivores. My cousin (the host) offered to set aside some of the vegetables for my parents before tossing them with butter and cheese. Knowing this, my parents brought my mushroom gravy with them, plus a vegan pumpkin pie to share.

There wasn’t any pie left (no surprise!) but two of my cousins were curious about the gravy and asked if they could try it. “Mmm wow that’s really good!” they said, so the next year, my mom doubled the recipe in case anyone wanted extras. No leftovers!

The following year my cousin specifically asked my mom to bring her gravy (“everyone loves it”) and the pot was licked clean while the traditional turkey gravy remained largely untouched.

Now, my cousin doesn’t even bother making her turkey gravy anymore. Only my mom’s gravy --- the VEGAN gravy -- is served at Thanksgiving.

My cousins, by the way, deep fry their turkey. Not bake it -- deep fry it. So I say with zero hesitation that they aren’t even a little bit vegan :) Yet their minds changed and their preferences shifted.

Q: "My stress/concern is that apparently I am already supposed to be at some magically thin place because I am vegan. “Gosh, you’re the biggest vegetarian I have ever met” was said once. What can I do?"

You say, "I’m glad you brought this up. I have to say that my health has been improving so much since I changed my diet. I feel so great. I have a lot of energy now and more mental clarity. [fill in some other benefits, can mention weight-loss if some has happened.] I know I have some weight to lose, and I’m sure I will, but my focus is my health and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been.”

P.s. I’m so sorry that happened to you! How AWFUL!

Q: "My mom is a food pusher. I think she wants to connect with me but she uses food to try to do it."

I'm sending a super helpful email about this on Thursday -- with phrases to say and everything! (so make sure you're on the newsletter) but briefly for now:

You’re absolutely right. Most food pushers are coming from a place of love. Some aren't and how you handle those people is totally different, but with the well meaning family (like your mama), let mom know you love and appreciate her, and reassure her that you have a good relationship and you are connected. You can also tell her other ways she can please you and reinforce when she does those things. For example, my mom loves to buy me socks (of all things) so I tell her "I'm wearing those socks you bought me!" and I even text pictures of me wearing them sometimes.

Q: "Help with after the holidays getting back on track."

If you’re a member of meal mentor, you can do the 3-day refresh, a mini “detox” meal plan (it’s available to all members on your dashboard).

The refresh is a fantastic way to get yourself back on track after too many sweets, drinks, and massive holiday meals! So if you need a POWER reboot post-festivities, this mini meal plan is the ticket!

The members and I are also doing a full 7-day reboot TOGETHER in January to start 2017 right! Stay tuned for more deets on that!

and since we're on the subject of the meal plans...

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