Irony is a perfect word for a dietary-restricted lifestyle. Society feels that those with dietary restrictions are high-maintenance and annoying. Some personal friends feel this way, at least, and that’s one way of thinking. But with a different mindset, that perception is inaccurate. Instead of elaborate and decadent meals, all that’s wanted is a plain one.
Less is more, right?
As a dairy- and gluten-free individual, the previous statement describes my life. Instead of an elaborate and sauce-filled stir-fry, all I desire is a bowl with rice noodles in water. Nasty and plain, right? Not to me. I will chomp-chomp-chomp that up and be satisfied. My stomach is smiling right now at the thought. Yes, my stomach has an agenda of its own. Somehow, asking for sans-just-about-everything is challenging to communicate with restaurant servers, management, and chefs. Dining out is challenging. Now parlay this challenge to a situation involving a third-party. You’re on a date … for the first time.
How do you strike the balance between adhering to your dietary restrictions and freaking-out this potential love interest you just met?
Hi, I’m Jason Syptak, your blind date for the next 10 minutes while reading this. Pull up a chair for these peaceful recommendations.
How do you like your coffee? It’s on me.
Negotiate a coffee outing, instead of dining out when initially meeting.
The guy is hot/the girl is cute and you don’t want to let this one get away. Coffee is a genius weeding-out step in getting to know each other. Fears of being perceived as high-maintenance are eliminated because food ordering isn’t required … yet. Gentle conversation with coffee in-hand provides an opportunity to subtly bring up a food-restricted lifestyle.
Personally, I’m dairy- and gluten-free because of food allergies. No, I’m not “intolerant” to dairy; I have an allergy where my body creates antibodies against foreign substance. When I consume dairy, antibodies attack the substance and my body breaks out in sweat and swells up. I also have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where my small intestine is unable to absorb nutrients from wheat, gluten, and barley and is damaged overtime if I’m exposed.
What a fun coffee conversation! Are you enjoying your coffee? I am.
When actually dining out, anticipate for your date to have contrasting views.
Similar to the saying, “Expect the worst,” anticipate that your date is a carnivore-loving lunatic who has no regard or open-mind for a food-restricted lifestyle. Sure, thinking this way might seem a little too much at face value. But really, being rejected for a diet lifestyle is a difficult experience with which to cope. This is an aspect of your personal identity they’re rejecting here.
Protect yourself by keeping your expectations low, instead of high. If low expectations are held, experiencing the described individual will leave you thinking, “I knew this. No worries.” Stay tuned, though. Your date might surprise you.
For me, I anticipate biscuit-and-gravy-eating savage. Yikes. But my goodness, I’m excited you’re vegan. No butter for us when we cook together on our next date! But can we negotiate using potato flour, instead of wheat flour?
Is your coffee still warm? Good; mine is, too.
Share directly and confidently personal dietary views and practices.
Direct communication never fails; it elicits confidence and leaves zero thought gaps. “My favorite food is tofu,” you might say. “I follow a stringent vegan diet.” Explain what you mean. More likely than not, you’re educating your date about a new subject area. Questions from your date signify a genuine interest. Pay attention to non-verbal communication, though. Mentally jot down eye-rolling or confused looks. Such actions might be red flags.
Back to our date: Imagine me looking at you directly in the eye. Yes, I’m asking a lot of questions and I’m interested. Coffee refill, please.
Hear out your date’s perspective and accept different beliefs and practices.
Understanding fully is the first step to a peaceful conversation. Instead of brainstorming a counter-argument while the person is sharing their view with you, do something different. Relax. Listen. Soak in their perspective. Did your mind wonder about something just shared? Stop.
Once again, listen. Do your best to understand. Ask questions and engage. “Why do you feel that way?” “Why do you enjoy eating that?” “What is your favorite food type?”
After hearing responses ask, “Are you open to hearing my view?” Now the accountability is on them. They should agree to listen, so gently share yours. Or they might not, so you’re more than welcome to leave if you don’t have time for people who will criticize or judge your eating lifestyle.
No, please don’t leave. I’m open-minded and about to get you another cup of coffee.
Refrain from reactionary defense.
Immediate reactions are gut feelings catapulting to your brain and your brain telling your mouth to defend your values. Essentially you’re a defender, blocking out perspectives that are different from yours by lashing out.
Take a breath. Ujjayi pranayama is best and my personal favorite.
Remember they see the universe differently because of their own collected experiences. You’re vegan or hold another dietary choice for the exact reason: your own, personal collected experiences. Each set of experiences, however, probably isn’t identical.
How about a cup of tea now? Perfect.
Align two beliefs by making compromises.
Should the two of you lovebirds be on the verge of making a nest in a tree together, compromises might need to be made. If you’re vegan, imagine kissing someone who just ate a huge, juicy steak. The thought is sickening to you. For me, I imagine kissing someone who just ate a butter-contaminated hamburger with a whole-wheat bun, plus cheese. Experiencing this would elicit a reaction of nasty sores in my mouth, which is not fun. Either situation isn’t in alignment with our eating lifestyles and values.
Even so, we must respect extracurricular food consumption choices. Hamburger eating for lunch will happen when they’re away from you. Your job is to accept this. Their job is to be respectful by eating a vegan meal with you later that night. Small concessions are made from each party and two stomachs are satisfied.
So … same time, same place next week? Awesome salsa. Yes, it’s vegan and gluten-free too. Just in case you forgot among all of our food talk, my name is Jason Syptak. I’ll write you then.
Also in Relationships: How to Attract True Love in Your Life
Photo: Mike Chaput via Flickr