One of the biggest challenges with adopting a Paleo eating plan is how isolating it can become. Even my husband has on various occasions threatened to issue me with an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order, for those not UK based) .
Aside from the fact I never order anything from a restaurant menu that doesn't require at least two tweaks, substitutions or omissions, I am often overcome by guilt for making friends and family wary about inviting us for meals because of my perceived 'fussy eating'.
I have long learned to accept some judgement but I rank my health and how I feel as of greater importance. Gone are the early days of reluctantly forcing down some of my mother in law's fruit crumble because I was too afraid of offending her - then having to suffer the sacrifice of stomach cramps for the rest of the evening and most of the next day.
I recall eating out going from being a fun, sociable event I looked forward to, to something I feared and dreaded. Instead of spending the days running up to social events planning outfits and getting excited about catching up with acquaintances, I'd spend the days worrying about what to do if there were no 'safe' options on the menu, or how I was tired of explaining what foods I no longer ate and justifying why. It was exhausting and not at all enjoyable. Slowly I stopped wanting to go out at all.
As I've become more comfortable with how I have chosen to eat and the reasons why, it has become a natural part of who I am.
Most of my friends now know I am dairy and gluten intolerant. As for the less onerous non-Paleo foods like legumes, gluten-free grains eg rice, which don't cause me an immediate negative effect, I will graciously accept and eat in moderate amounts, knowing that in the grand scheme of my health, a serving of green beans or lentils is far less detrimental to my wellbeing than being relaxed amongst my friends is helpful to it.
When I host dinner parties these days (less often than I should, as life just seems to get in the way) I relish being able to introduce non-Paleo eaters to meals (especially desserts) that surprise and shock them when they realise that eating with a focus on natural, whole, nutrient-dense foods does not mean bland, boring, puritanical plates.
One thing is for certain, I am grateful for no longer contemplating the last resort of bringing my own food to restaurants or friends' homes – a sure-fire way to ensure eternal 'un-friending'! Though I have since discovered that children are immune to such social niceties when the mother of my 6yr old's playdate offered to pack her dinner for reheating next week to ensure no dietary regulations are breached.
As general awareness of the benefits of a Paleo-type diet become more prevalent, my 'fussiness' has become more acceptable and the offerings of most menus include at least one thing that is vaguely Paleo eg a piece of plain grilled meat or fish with a side of undressed salad or veg. Simultaneously I've learnt to relax my compulsion to be so perfect. I have to accept that eating out is not what cavemen did and ANY restaurant, bar perhaps a paleo specific restaurant which I am yet to come across, will always use a non-Paleo oil to cook with. This is a more than willing compromise for being able to enjoy the quality time shared with the people I love and the benefits I gain from that.
In the succinct and dulcet words of Elsa, "Let it go!"
**My Paleo-ish choices from Saturday's date night with hubby - seared scallops followed by sizzling beef steak on onions and peppers with a side of mixed veg - you see the non-Paleo corn and beansprouts? And generally I try to avoid the dressings with sugar/soya sauce in. We went home for dessert of Booja Booja Hunky Punky ice cream and 90% chocolate! That was a good night x