Cultural and Family Challenges When Adjusting to a New Dietary RegimenPublished on Wednesday, October 25, 2023 by
Navigating Dietary Regimen Adjustments: Challenges and Solutions Amidst Family and Cultural Factors
Adjusting to new dietary regimens can prove challenging, especially when socioeconomic and cultural factors come into play. The lack of support from friends and family can make it even more daunting.
Cooking is one of the most challenging factors to manage when you have dietary restrictions and live with others.
If you are responsible for cooking, it can be easier because you are willing to do it, but it is still challenging to prepare your meals with different ingredients than those you use for your family. However, their cooperation becomes crucial if you rely on someone else to cook for you. Unfortunately, this isn't always possible. If you can't get their help, you may need to explore other options, such as ready-made meals. However, it's important to note that this is only sometimes a simple solution because finding food that suits your needs is more challenging than you think.
But beyond cooking, there are other cultural considerations.
On multiple occasions, I have felt people's annoyance and curiosity when knowing that I have dietary restrictions. Sometimes, they make fun of me on my back with expressions like, "Now she doesn't eat this and doesn't eat that; l don't know who she thinks she is. She wants to feel she is special." It usually happens with people who don't know I have health reasons.
Unfortunately, many of us who have dietary restrictions for multiple reasons are often victims of bullying and discrimination and don't feel supported while adopting our new habits. These situations may be associated with a purely cultural issue and ignorance, preventing many from following the recommendations.
In numerous cultures, food is associated with love and care. Providing generous food portions at social events and in everyday family settings is customary. Consuming the food offered is viewed as a gesture of gratitude towards the host, and in a family context, it is a way to show appreciation for the cook's efforts. Refusing the food could be interpreted as a sign of disapproval towards the dish or the cook. However, the refusal might be due to following a specific diet, and some of the food offered might not align with your dietary needs or preferences.
Sometimes, people insist that you eat something you don't usually consume. They might use phrases like "Just have a little bit; it won't hurt" or "You can continue your diet tomorrow." It can be challenging to say no in these situations, and you end up eating it anyway, which makes you feel bad trying to make someone else happy. It happens frequently when the people around you are not aware of the importance of your restrictions.
On other occasions, people may ask why you can't eat it, and you might have to explain and justify your decision every time. It can be exhausting to constantly explain that it's not a matter of personal taste but rather for health reasons.
There are other times when you don't wish to make your restrictions public due to confidentiality or to avoid feeling vulnerable. It makes it difficult for other people to actively participate in their process of adopting new eating habits.
Attending a dinner or party.
Nowadays, people are willing to host parties and pamper their guests, so it's common to inquire about guests' food preferences, restrictions, and allergies, but it is only sometimes done. Therefore, it's wise to eat something before going out if you are still determining what will be served or when it will be served. It is crucial if you have a specific time you need to eat. When you get to the party, you may select small portions of the food you know is good for you and enjoy it without pressure.
A crucial step towards getting the support you need is communicating your dietary restrictions to family and friends. They will likely be happy to assist you during visits by providing suitable alternatives for you to consume.
Thankfully, a supportive environment always provides me with the best options. Tell your family and friends about your dietary restrictions to maintain a healthy family and social life.
- MD Anderson Cancer Center, & Alexander, H. (2020, July 24). 5 barriers to diet change and how to overcome them. MD Anderson Cancer Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/5-barriers-to-diet-change-and-how-to-overcome-them.h28-1593780.html
- Douglas, M. (2019, September 30). How to host a dietary-friendly dinner party. Grotto Network. https://grottonetwork.com/navigate-life/health-and-wellness/how-to-host-party-for-people-with-dietary-restrictions/