The biggest problem with eating out with diabetes isn’t finding something on the menu to eat. In my experience as a type 2, it’s rare for a server, chef, or bartender to object when you ask to swap one menu item for another, particularly if you identify yourself as someone with the condition. Like many things about having type 2, it’s gotten easier during the years, given so many people with special diets: vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, gluten-free.
No, the biggest problem with eating out isn’t the food. It’s the people at your table.
They might be family, they might be friends. They might be business associates or people you’re meeting for the first time. But you can bet that someone at the table, and sometimes two of them, will have opinions about your menu selections. Not only the familiar “Are you sure you can eat that?” but a variety of comments that can turn an order into a nightmare.
Off the cuff, here are a few: “Is that enough to eat? Won’t you be hungry?”, “Don’t you want to order some truffle fries – they’re sooo good.”, “What else can’t you eat?”, “What do you mean you can’t eat pasta! Can’t you take a night off?”
There are more.
These people may be well-meaning. They may want you to be healthy. If you confront them about their endless commentary on your food, they’ll almost certainly tell you they’re simply looking out for you.
Fair enough. Yet when the comments start coming, all I want to say is: “Leave me alone.”
But I was raised to be polite, so I don’t say that. Instead, I grit my teeth and say, “I’m happy with my order. Are you with yours?”
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind talking about my diabetes and my meal choices (I wouldn’t be blogging about it if I did). But when I’m out at a restaurant, off-duty, I want to enjoy my meal like everyone else. Part of my enjoyment is the knowledge that my meal will not spike my blood sugars. And if I do decide to splurge, knowing that that I can make that decision responsibly without a choir of busy-bodies chiming in.
I know a thing or two about food busy-bodies – because I’ve been one. I have a thirty-four year old son who became a vegetarian when he was five years old. Along with his two grandmothers and aunts, we spent many of his early years as a veggie keeping close track of his diet, urging him to down more protein sources, pointing out items on menus that looked good to us, asking him more than once if he didn’t want at least a bite of our hamburgers.
These days, as a vegetarian myself, I regret all of that. He was never in danger of starving, and he got plenty of vitamins and B-12. Today, both on Team Veggie, we order entrees and apps and split them between us, which cuts down on the comments considerably. Seeing us enthusiastically pick menu items we both enjoy, and asking the waiter for any changes we might need, seems to quiet the others down.
So what to do? You can go with my polite response or develop a polite (or not so polite) reply of your own. Or, you can silently grin and bear it and then order whatever the hell you want.
However you handle the comments, just don’t let them derail you from your personal plan – whether it’s involves splurging or not. Remember that what you decide to eat is a personal decision, particularly when your health depends on it.