Pizza, Cake and Booze: Managing Social Pressure to Eat What Makes You Feel Terrible
“Have a drink – it’s Friday night, and we’re all drinking…”
“Seriously, that gluten stuff is BS – how could a piece of toast hurt you?”
We’ve all heard this kind of often-well-intentioned cajoling around food, alcohol and jumping off bridges. This kind of social pressure to eat (or drink or whatever) can be Really Hard, particularly if you’re just starting on your journey to healthier eating, and haven’t learned how to coach yourself to shift your thoughts. Those of us working to eat healthfully (whatever that may mean to you today) face this all the time.
And so the old adage, What Other People Think of You is None of Your Business comes to bear. It’s a hard one to internalize, and the key is getting clarity about your own goals around your health and the steps you are taking Today to get yourself there.
If people judge, they judge.
There is nothing you can do to stop that, you can only work to take care of yourself the best way you know how. If eating pizza, drinking a beer, nomming cookies or pies, or smoking a cigarette or twelve is not in line with your best health, then it’s vital to find the language to explain that to the people at your office, in your social circle, or to family who may be pressuring you to make other decisions.
The script for saying no to things (food, drink, alcohol, LSD, etc) will likely be different in different situations. And remember that a polite “No, thank you,” is often enough, and is all you need to offer. Be prepared for questions about your choices, and know what you do and do not want to explain. You owe no one an explanation, but might feel the need to proffer one. Practice saying “No thanks, I hope you enjoy that cake!,” in the mirror, with a trusted friend or coach, so that they roll off your tongue. Being prepared will help alleviate some of those icky feelings when a gooey, frosting covered cupcake or fourth martini gets thrust in your face.
Be Nice To You.
So you had a bite of birthday cake. Okay. Great. What is done is done. You may still be at the point on your path where you WANT THE CAKE. And that’s okay. Eventually your taste buds will change (I promise) and the things that once called you like a siren beckoning you to crash upon rocky shores will no longer hold sway. But that’s gonna take a minute. In the meanwhile, please, be nice to you. Guilt is a nonstarter. It gets you nowhere but back in to the cycle of feeling lousy about yourself.
If you’re gonna do it, DO IT.
If you’re going to have the cake, sit your butt down. Pour a cup of tea. Take a deep breath. Center yourself. Ask yourself if you Reallllly want it and if you’re ready for the inevitable sugar crash. If the answer is still “YES!” then commit to that. Own it. And tell yourself that you are Not Going To Feel Guilty about the choice you’re making. And savor each bite. Maybe one bite is enough, and you can toss the rest before you go over the edge into full sugar high/sugar crash. Maybe you have the whole piece. But at least you savored it. You licked the spoon. Maybe you licked the plate. Maybe you licked your neighbor’s plate. But the point of it all is that you brought some mindfulness to the situation. And that, my friend, is a damn good start.
Pre-game that Happy Hour!
I find that hunger and low blood sugar fuel some of my worst decisions. If you know you’re going to a birthday party, work function or happy hour, eat before you get to there. Good choices include homemade bone broth, steamed veggies with coconut oil, a smoothie or fistful of nuts or jerky, or a big salad with fat and protein (think chicken or beans and blue cheese, walnuts… yummmm).
Chose something fulfilling, emotionally satisfying and nutritious so that when you walk into Sugary-Gluteny-Boozey-Crazyland, you’re not meeting it with CrazyHunger. Maybe pick up a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free paleo-style yummy treat, or make some paleo cookies or a savory side dish to share. Have something ready at that holiday or office party to eat so you’re not the only one with an empty plate while everyone else is destroying the buffet line. Remember to order the vegetarian option if you know the only meat that will be served will be hormone-laden, factory-farmed scariness.
Remember that not eating the cake is not depriving yourself of a treat, it’s saving yourself from a sugar and gluten meltdown. And that is a gift that only you can give yourself.
Victoria Albina, NP, MPH is a licensed and board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, herbalist and life coach, with 20 years experience in health and wellness. She trained at the University of California, San Francisco, and holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and a bachelors from Oberlin College. She comes to this work having been a patient herself, and having healed from a lifetime of IBS, GERD, SIBO, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
She is passionate about her work, and loves supporting patients in a truly holistic way - body, mind, heart and spirit. A native of Mar del Plata, Argentina, she grew up in the great state of Rhode Island, and lives in NYC with her partner. A brown dog named Frankie Bacon has her heart, and she lives for steak and a good dark chocolate.