Life Hax

Carolyn Hax

What to say when I won’t eat their ‘unhealthy’ foods?

Ar 171229930
Carolyn Hax
Ar 171229930
Carolyn Hax

I’m going on vacation soon with my in-laws, siblings-in-laws, and their spouses. Over the last few years, I’ve been working on eating fewer unhealthy foods like bread and dairy, and as a result I feel much better. This hasn’t resulted in visible weight loss but has resolved many stomach issues I’ve dealt with.Every time I am with my husband’s family, the mood is “vacation” or “celebration” and the foods they serve are always those I try to avoid, like pasta for dinner and chocolate cake from scratch for dessert. My in-laws keep kosher and my mother-in-law is an avid baker, so suggestions to eat at a restaurant where we can all pick our foods are met with confusion.I get looks and occasional comments about declining those foods, such as how annoying the gluten-free trend is. I’m already anxious about this vacation and having either to join in and suffer the stomachache or decline and get eye rolls about fad diets. Do you have a suggestion for how to handle this?Lifestyle Choices Burn

Yes, the commentary and eye rolls are annoying and pushy – not to mention the fact that a welcoming family would make at least a minimal effort to provide food everyone can eat.

But they’re saying a lot about themselves and virtually nothing about you, because they’re butting into something that just doesn’t affect them. You’re taking personally what isn’t personal.

That makes their eye-rolling a “so what” waiting to happen.

Through trial and error, you learned that you could resolve your stomach issues by not eating bread and dairy. OK then! So you don’t eat them, that’s a good start. Now finish the job by responding just as matter-of-factly to your in-laws: You’re you and they aren’t and so let’s move on:

“Yes, thank you, the gluten-free thing is annoying – I’d give anything to eat cake without feeling sick. Oh, and bread ... don’t get me started.” Right? It can annoy you and the family commentariat for completely different reasons, but it’s still true that both parties are annoyed.

You can use shorter answers after that – “Eyes say yes, stomach says no”; “[sigh] Aren’t my food reactions old news yet?”; and eventually to, “[blank].” As in, you just do what you do without feeling the need to respond to commentary about it. Cut to the last step right away if you feel game.

I do take issue with one remark you make here, and it might point to why this family isn’t more sympathetic: When you refer to “unhealthy foods like bread and dairy,” you reveal judginess of your own, no? Bread and dairy are not unhealthy, they’re just fine for ... people for whom they’re just fine. If you want to be left alone to your food choices, then the most productive thing you can do is leave others to their food choices, too.

In fact, for your own and others’ health, please break anything close to a habit of vilifying this or that food or food choice. Your gut, your business, the end.

Arriving from a work trip, I texted my fiancé that I had landed safely and would be home soon. He responded with, “I love you. I’ll bring home pizza for dinner.” Thirty minutes later: “Actually, I can’t be in a relationship anymore. I need to experience living on my own for a while. We aren’t getting back together.” He then blocked my number and signed our shared home over to me in full.I sold quickly as I can’t afford the mortgage on my own, and I have not found another place to live yet. I have a 7-year-old son, and my ex has two sons. We were a family and lived together for four years. I miss my “stepsons.” I never got to say goodbye. My son is broken-hearted at losing the only dad he ever knew. In two weeks, I lost my fiancé, two stepsons, my home, and the family I thought I had. It’s like a death to both of us.I have him in therapy. I will go once we move and I can afford it again.I’m a level-headed person and can safely say I could not see this coming. In our few brief conversations, he agrees with that assessment. We had intimacy, laughter, were a great team around our house, always made time for each other with a date night once a week.When he said he loved me and looked forward to our future, he said it was because he always hoped for, how he worded it, “better days.”I’m shocked. Stunned. In disbelief. What’s next in carrying on? How will I learn to trust again?Ghosted

So awful – I’m sorry.

I think you’re as close as you can get to an answer in treating this as a death. Something so sudden and transformative and final (with the added slap of his having chosen it) has a set of rules of its own – along with license not to hold yourself to any rules too tightly.

The first step is relieve yourself of any responsibility to figure out long-term issues like how to trust again. Your job now is to think of the immediate, because that’s plenty. Housing. Kid’s emotional needs. Getting through today, then tomorrow, then the day after.

Our bodies are built to help us through truly horrible things by, for lack of a cheerier word, normalizing even acute pain. What is agony now will dull with time. And, as it dulls, your abilities to function will return, including those that help you make sense of what happened and help you rebuild your optimism. Which is, of course, emotionally synonymous with trust.

Obviously, people can get stuck in this process and may need help getting there.

So the moment you get your housing resolved, yes, therapy for you, whether you’re stuck or not. A support group might also help you on the cheap – check NAMI (www.nami.org) for listings.

You probably know this, but I’ll say it anyway: Anyone who can leave so abruptly has problems serious enough that you can’t assume all or even half of the blame for the outcome yourself.

He also isn’t representative of most people; he’s a sick outlier.

But that’s for later. Now, just console yourself and your boy.

Carolyn Hax is a syndicated advice columnist for The Washington Post. She started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. Email her at tellme@washpost.com.