When you are on a restrictive diet like the Wahls Protocol, an anti-inflammatory diet designed for people with auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, then figuring out how to survive social situations can be a real b*tch. Managing dietary restrictions in social contexts can become such a headache that I’ve seriously wondered if I should just stop hanging out with other people, or attend parties or other types of events, because of my diet.
Interestingly enough and for a bunch of unrelated reasons, my social life has been a lot more active since switching to the Wahls Protocol. And I’ve been faced with the same questions over and over again: should I just eat the food there and shut up? Should I bring my own food? Should I bring food just for me or for everyone? And more importantly, is it rude to bring your own food to someone’s house?
I felt like exploring that topic today.
Why would you bring your own food to someone’s house?
There are many reasons why you’d want to bring your own food to someone’s house, to a party, or any other type of social event.
Maybe you are trying to lose weight or gain weight, maybe you are a committed bodybuilder, or perhaps you are on a diet (keto, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) for personal reasons. Or maybe, like me, you are on a diet for health reasons.
I will be talking specifically about dietary restrictions for health reasons here. The reason being that I’m in that boat right now (and I’ve been in that boat for a while). And those of you on a specific diet will know all the struggles associated with managing your food restrictions in social contexts.
Is it rude to bring your own food to someone’s house?
Here’s the real answer: it depends. And also, that’s not the right question to ask.
It is not rude to bring your own food to someone’s house in itself but it depends on how you do it, and it depends on your host’s willingness to be flexible. There are more and less polite ways of bringing your food to another person’s house, just like there are hosts who will be gracious about it, and others who will take offense no matter how ‘delicately’ you put it. You will have to learn to deal with that.
Also, your host’s reaction is not (necessarily) about you, it’s often a lot about them. Understand that so you can move on quickly.
Ask yourself better questions:
- Why are you on that diet? If the food you eat impacts your health (say, you are diabetic for example), then whether or not it’s rude for you to bring your own food to social gatherings is completely irrelevant. Either your host adapts to your need, or you bring your own food, or you don’t attend.
- How flexible is your diet? Honestly, unless it’s a matter of health, I think you should be just as flexible as you are asking your host to be. It goes both ways.
- How badly are you willing to stick to your diet? Are you willing to put your health above all other considerations, like other people’s sensitivity?
- Is it worth risking offending someone? Again, if you are on a diet for health reasons, the answer to that question should be: YES!
- Are you willing to re-evaluate your circle of friends for your diet? As I’ve mentioned, some people will support you, and some will be offended by your choices and prioritize their ego. At some point, you might have to make a choice: will I compromise my health, or will I let go of that person for a while?
The cost of being too flexible
In my case, my diet* is my lifeboat. When I don’t follow it, I get really bad joint pain and horrible stomach pain. I’ve ended up in emergency rooms, I’ve had to end trips, I’ve had to quit (very good) jobs, because of it all. But I’ve also tried to avoid rocking the boat and drawing attention to myself at social gatherings and I ate what people gave me. I was being “flexible” and polite.
* Anti-inflammatory diets such as the AIP diet or the Wahls Protocol.
Yeah. After 1.5 years of doing that, of hitting setbacks after setbacks, and of seeing my progress deteriorate (+ one fun trip to the hospital while on vacation), I no longer do that.
Fuck ‘polite’. My health, my rules.
A more pragmatic way of looking at it
There are empty questions, that keep you in the same spot even after weeks, months, and years of asking them, and there are questions that lead you somewhere. It is pointless to wonder if it’s rude or not to bring your own food to someone’s house.
The bottom line is, if your diet is restrictive and complex, if you do it for health reasons, if not following your diet has negative impacts on your health, and if you’ve decided that sticking to your diet is your priority, then the question is not if it’s rude or not to bring your food to someone else’s house; the real question should be HOW can I stick to my diet while still attending X or Y social event.
After being in dozens of social situations, I’ve realized that the “is it rude to bring my food” question is one that leads me to stress, guilt, trying to control other people’s reactions to my diet, and just a lot of worrying.
And 2 years later, I was still wondering the same thing.
The truth is, you either decide to stop all social interactions in the name of your dietary restrictions, or you find a way to adapt, i.e., bring your own food (almost) everywhere. It is as simple as that.
So, HOW to not be rude when bringing your food to someone’s house?
Of course, you might do everything “right” and your host or the people present might still get offended. That, my friend, is beyond your control and is not your problem.
Your problem should only be your behavior: how to be as polite as possible when bringing your own food to a social gathering.
- Start by telling your host about your restrictions ahead of time. Honestly, if you’ve accepted an invitation and didn’t say anything in advance about your dietary restrictions, I would (almost) advise you to shut up and eat.
- Maybe you will not even have to bring your own food. Your host might gladly adapt to your needs if it’s something they can do and know how to do.
- Just don’t expect them to. It’s your job to care for your health, not other people’s.
- Offer to bring something for everyone to taste. That way, even if you still bring a separate bowl with your meal, it won’t be as rude because you will have brought something for everyone else to try.
- Do take some time to explain your choices to your host. People are a lot more flexible when they understand the reasons behind your actions. Don’t be all smug about it in a “my way or the high way” type of attitude. Be humble and be willing to share your experience a little.
Wondering if it’s rude to bring your own food to someone’s house is pointless. You have most likely already understood that their food will not be appropriate for you as is.
Stop looking for permission to follow your diet. Especially if you are doing it for health reasons. Just straight up talk to your host about it ahead of time. There is no other way around it.
Try to be as polite about it as possible, as considerate of others as possible, and try not to be too selfish about it (like bringing a huge salad bowl to a party and keeping it to yourself). Beyond that, do what needs to be done and accept the consequences of your choices.
This is a more pragmatic and less ‘touchy-feely” way of dealing with dietary restrictions in social contexts, but one that gets you to move past self-doubt, worry, and anxiety.
How do you deal with your dietary restrictions in social gatherings? Let me know in the comments!