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Social Strategies to Eating a Low/No Sugar Diet

Social Strategies to Eating a Low/No Sugar Diet

by Laura J Hieb, ND on June 6, 2021

Social Strategies for Eating a Low/No Sugar Diet

So you are eating less sugar, or you want to, but you still have some doubts.

Sugar is such a big part of our lives, it's a challenge to imagine our lives without it: The birthday party with the birthday cake. Meeting friends for coffee(or mochas) with cupcakes. Going out for ice cream with the family. Getting together for dessert with friends. So many social events are centered around eating, and sweets figure largely in that social eating.

So if you don't eat sweets, where does that leave you?

It's easy to feel like the odd one out. You aren't joining in. You might even make people feel guilty or angry that you aren't eating what they (and everyone) know deep down is really not that good for them. Or that is adding to, not subtracting from, their weight problem.

So what to do? There are 2 issues here: the social one, as mentioned above, and the personal one.

We'll start with the social one. First rule is that you do not have to explain your behavior. Period.

If you are offered birthday cake, ice cream, etc, all you have to say is "no thank you". You can just keep repeating it, or versions of it: "It really does look good, but no thanks".  Thanks, but I'll pass".  "Thanks, but I'm fine". If you really feel you have to explain, keep it short, as in "No thanks, I'm full" Or "No thanks, I just ate". Or you can be a little more specific if you absolutely can't say no thanks without explaining. You can say, "No thanks I'm doing a cleanse" or "No thanks, I'm gluten/dairy-free etc --but only if you are AND you are sure that what you are turning down contains the ingredient(s) you are "free" of.

I know this can be hard. People can be very insistent on your accepting what they are offering and can seem like they won't take no for an answer. If it seems easier, you can accept what they are offering and then don't eat it. This works best if everyone is mingling and you can put down your piece of cake somewhere and move on. But regardless, you are not obligated to eat anything you do not want to eat and you don't have to say why.

When you" say why", you are offering an opening for the person to argue with you. You have engaged them and now they can do their best to convince you to accept (or guilt you into accepting) something you don't want.

If you want to explain, you can say that you've quit eating sugar, but only if you feel comfortable with others' responses. And that you know you won't be making others feel uncomfortable. When we make a big change, we are excited about it and want to share about it. But know your audience and make sure the timing is appropriate--maybe not when the birthday cake is being cut.

Other things to avoid include refraining from saying you "can't"--as in "No, I can't have that". "Can't" is very disempowering! What do you mean you "can't"? You CAN physically put it in your mouth, right? Instead, you are choosing not to, or you are choosing something else. "Don't" is much better if you have to be clear, as in "I don't eat sugar" or "I don't eat dessert". Sometimes it seem easier  blaming it on others: "I would love to have some but my doctor/wife/husband told me I can't". I mean, if that helps, fine, but isn't it better to own your own choices?

Now for the personal.

First, you may feel deprived. When we feel deprived we often make a food decision we may regret later. So promise yourself a "treat" that isn't based on sugar. You can have it before or after the event, just not during. Also, having a meal, light or otherwise before you go can make it easier to say no, since you aren't starving. Another option is to have a bite or two as a treat--if you want to, and if you know it won't put you on the slippery slope back to eating sugar.

To avoid feeling like you are not participating, plan something entertaining  to talk about while others are eating, focus on your beverage, volunteer to help with the serving, etc. Remember, others aren't nearly as focused on us or what we are ,or aren't eating, so just relax and enjoy yourself.