Avoiding food-stress with relatives over Christmas

There are two big groups of people who we “have” to associate with in life, whether we like it or not.

One of these – your colleagues – are people who you probably won’t see much of for a week or two.

They’re going to be replaced, though, by the other group – who you might be seeing for longer than at any other point during 2008: your relatives.

So how can you make sure that your relatives don’t have a negative effect on your bodily and mental health this Christmas?

Accept that relatives may not understand your diet

Even if you’re trying to stick to a stringent diet over Christmas, be willing to relax on occasion. If your sister-in-law refuses to grasp the concept of “vegetarian”, insisting that “turkey’s a bird, not an animal”, don’t go into your meat-is-evil rant. Just stick with the veggies and potatoes, and make up for the lack of protein later on.

Don’t obsess – but do stay in control of what you put in your mouth

If you’re counting calories religiously, try not to worry too much when you’re being fed by relatives. Don’t by any means feel obliged to clear your plate, but don’t insist that they provide an entirely separate meal for you, either. If you’re being urged to eat something that you really don’t want (a giant slab of cake, for instance), simply say that you’re full and you might have some later.

Remember to follow the same sort of guidelines as you would with cookie-pushing colleagues: even if it’s your mom this time, screaming “Are you trying to make me fat?” is unlikely to make Christmas go smoothly.

Let other people eat what they like

When you’re the one paying host, especially to relatives with young children, do not under any circumstances comment on what the kids do/don’t eat. Sure, you might be rearing yours to avoid artificial sweeteners and E-numbers, but it’s just not good manners to remark on someone else’s parenting. If the kids turn their noses up at what’s put in front of them, ask their mum or dad what you should offer them instead. You might be appalled at their behaviour, but it’s not worth getting into a fight with your relatives over it.

The same goes for older relatives who are picky eaters. If your annoying brother always refuses to eat brussel sprouts, don’t make a big deal about it. If your (very rotund) uncle eats six helpings of Christmas pudding, resist the urge to comment on the growing similarity between him and the pudding…

Above all, enjoy spending time with your family this Christmas; don’t let food turn into a battle ground. The main thing is that you, and your relatives, should be able to eat what you like without negative comments from others.


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