Dear Jenna is a feature on The Paleo Project. Similar to an advice column, Dear Jenna was created by the questions I receive from readers. Topics generally involve Paleo but are open to: crossfit, relationships, writing, photography, friendship, family, blogging and the like. It’s written in the style of Dear Abby with the candor of Carrie Bradshaw. Want to be featured on Dear Jenna? Send me an email at paleoblog(at)gmail(dot)com with the subject: Dear Jenna
Thank you for this column it has helped me a lot lately as I just started Paleo for the New Year and I’ve been going through old ‘Dear Jenna’ posts for advice. My question is this: how do you do Paleo when you’re out with family or friends or away for the weekend? I think Paleo is challenging enough in my house with my own groceries – adding the unpredictable factor of restaurant menus, judgment from others who don’t understand, or the temptation of what my friends are ordering, is enough to make me not want to leave my house ever.
I hope you have some tips for this type of situation – it would help me a lot!
You’re right – this is probably the most challenging aspect of being Paleo. It adds an element of surprise and stress and anxiety that no amount of prep work can ready me for. Two years ago, I worried about this all the time and would miss out on fun nights due to that anxiety. A year ago, I kind of got side tracked, stopped thinking about it, and ate more of a 50/50 Paleo/Non-Paleo lifestyle that left me feeling like I took 10 steps back every weekend. Now, I have strategies that allow me to feel good about my choices when I’m out but don’t make me feel like the odd-man-out. I hope this helps you too.
Treat It Like an Allergy
I know this sounds strange, but even though I don’t need an EpiPen, I believe I’m “allergic” to dairy and grains because I have an adverse reaction to them. Maybe it’s simple like a breakout or a bad stomach ache, maybe it shows up a few hours or days later, but it isn’t fun and I take it seriously. So I’m upfront about this to my friends and family and waiters. I tell them I won’t enjoy the night if I eat those foods, I tell the waiter please don’t bring me a bun, please don’t bring me a birthday cake, please don’t cook my steak in soy, etc. People may not take you seriously if they think you are just “dieting” but people always take allergies seriously.
Read the Menu Before Dinner
I learned this from my best friend Chelsey, who is allergic to every thing. Whenever she knows she has dinner plans at a place she’s never been before, she looks up the menu online. With technology, you can literally see a menu on your computer at work a few days before, or on your smart phone in the car as you pull into the restaurant’s parking lot. By doing this, you can pretty much get a feel for what the restaurant offers in privacy, rather than waiting until you’re surrounded by your friends who are all ordering paninis dipped in chocolate covered cheese bread dusted in sugar (OMG). Often, I’m able to find a good dish with chicken or steak and vegetables, a salad with some seafood or meat on it, or a bunless burger with lots of toppings. It’s not impossible, it’s not!
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
If I had a dollar for every time I was with someone who was afraid to speak up, I’d have SO MANY DOLLARS. Fortunately, though I have many awkward tendencies, this isn’t one of them, but I have many friends (and a boyfriend) who really feel uncomfortable being forward about something they ARE PAYING FOR. That’s how I see it. I’m paying you to give me food, or clothes, or candlesticks, whatever it is, and if that means you have to: check if there is cheese in that, check if there is another size out back, or check if I can have a discount on this broken candlestick because it’s the last one here, then I would like you to do so. Here is my money, good day! Perfect example: I was out to dinner at this nice restaurant with James’ family and literally every person around the table wanted to order the steak special. I felt good about ordering steak and didn’t have any questions. James’ mom asked the waiter if he recommended the steak? Do you know what he said!?! “Yes! It’s amazing. We cook it in a COCA-COLA BROWN SUGAR GLAZE bla bla bla” I didn’t hear anything else, too busy looking for new menu item/avoiding diabetic coma. Imagine if no one had asked? I mean, I wouldn’t have died or anything, but this is what restaurants do! They coat your meat in soda pop and don’t think to put that on the menu. AMERICA. Now, I speak up.
Find Your Drink
On drinking: my drink is vodka soda with lime. Find yours. Choose the cleanest drink that you can stand and stick to it. Also, get a DD and don’t text anyone who is in your phone as “Don’t Text This Person”.
Suggest Where to Go
This is my last piece of advice: if you do know places that are more akin to your lifestyle, do some research and suggest these places. Why not? I’m sure along side their grass-fed steaks and sweet potato fries, your friend can still find a chocolate covered panini ice cream sandwich thing. It’s not like your healthy choice has to interfere with anyone else’s healthy/unhealthy choices.
Have any healthy tips to add, Allyson and I would love to hear.