One of the greatest challenges Real Food Foodies face is socializing. Nothing kills a friendship buzz like a friend who can’t eat anywhere because everything served is “too toxic.” I mean, pesticides, GMOs, and processed foods are certainly unhealthy. But having lived for nine months with a natural-foods-only family as a teenager, I know how it feels to be treated like a leper (Dr. Pepper was forbidden at the dinner table). Those strong food quality convictions can make for some really undesirable conversations.
If you’re not Mommypotamus or Wellness Mama and the entire known universe isn’t trying to beat down your door to ask you questions about health, food, and parenting, you probably have (gasp) OTHER conversations with people who DON’T share the same exact values as you. Still, the easiest and most common place to meet up and build community is at a restaurant to chat over a meal. So what do you do?
Sending the Wrong Signals
When your principles won’t allow you to eat at Chili’s, On the Border, Cheesecake Factory or a hundred other nearby restaurants, how do you manage to mingle with other adults and families in your area? After all, there are only so many times you can turn down invitations to dinner before the invites dry up. People get the wrong message. Without a decent explanation, all they hear is “Thanks, but I’m just not that into you.”
Let’s face it: even WITH a decent explanation, they’ll probably think you’re a total freakshow. The joys of being different. My well of creativity is near dry, so let’s get on with the obvious alternatives.
Hang Out Alternatives
- Cook food your family can eat and invite your friends over.
- Find local restaurants with grass fed / pastured / organic ingredients and invite friends to join you.
- Meet at a coffee shop instead. It’s not as easy to do entire family gatherings, perhaps, but you skip the whole restaurant scenario.
- Find other things to do as families – Fort Worth Science Museum, a park, picnic, zoo, etc.
- Hang out with people of similar principles – this is not encouraged ALL the time. Expand!
- Family camping trips. Hey, you don’t have to go primitive. Just get out there!
As we work with an architect to plan the layout of our new home, we’ve made dining room space a priority. We narrowly missed this opportunity by an unpredicted act of fate. The house we were going to immediately move into as we said goodbye to had a very small dining and living space. If we’d gotten our way, we’d own a home too small to entertain and build community.
It didn’t work out that way, though. After signing the closing papers and believing we were done, we got a call from the title company explaining that the builder (whose lien on the house expired that day) filed a lawsuit against the seller, and the property would now be frozen until the legal case was settled. We were heartbroken at the time, but 14 months have provided clarity and we now feel fortunate to have narrowly missed a commitment to a home that was ill suited for our life goals.
You Need Non-Real-Food Minded Friends!
If you’ve missed out on building friendships with people at work or church due to lifestyle differences, it’s time to make a change. Find a way to meet with ONE person, couple, or family a month who aren’t organic real food minded. WHY? Because people who are obsessed with food quality don’t always possess all the other talents, expertise, and knowledge you need to live a good life.
NEWS FLASH: You can learn so many important things from people who don’t eat healthy food!
Most adult professionals, ministers, and artists don’t eat organically, but you’ll still benefit from befriending them and gaining their perspectives. Don’t be so quick to pare down your friendships to like-minded people only. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience out there, and who knows? Maybe we’ll impact the world for the better as we step outside our comfort zones.
*Disclaimer: I still have friends who don’t eat like me. Truth is, I don’t spend as much time with them because of it. Lifestyle differences do affect relationships. That’s unavoidable. But I wrote this to address those of you who struggle with such intense idealism that you find it difficult to mix well with people of different eating habits. I understand the passion and the mission. I also know I’ve been a person on both sides of the coin, and I have gained valuable insights into professionalism, parenting, work, excellence, and purpose from people who eat consistent diets that aren’t ideal.
*Shout out to April 2010! I originally wrote this post on Mommypotamus in 2010.