Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Struggles of Eating WFPB With Friends Who Don't

This post originally appeared on Have Your Health, a past blog of mine active from 2013-14.


I'm now over halfway through Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, and having it on my mind has changed what I've been eating these last two weeks. I also had a glimpse two weekends ago of what it's like to have a diet different from your friends.

I met up with three friends in the city to walk through Seoul Forest that Saturday. One of our first stops inside the park was a convenience store to get a snack. One friend got hot chicken-flavored chips and offered some to all of us. I had to politely decline, as I couldn't even imagine letting those chemicals become a part of my body. My other two friends got hot ham and cheese sandwiches, which looked good, but I wanted to avoid the bread, processed cheese, and ham. So I got some odaeng (Korean "fish cake" with broth), a tasty warm eat for the cloudy day (although now that I think about it, I have no idea what odaeng is made of, and if I should be eating it at all).

That evening when it came time to look for somewhere to eat dinner, someone saw a Pizza Hut in the distance and excitedly suggested it. Now when you're an expat, it can be comforting and a real treat to eat something familiar from home after so much time without it. I had bitten my tongue and grudgingly eaten at a Pizza Hut once earlier last fall with a group of friends. But after what I'd been reading lately, and my attempts to cut out breads: no way. So I spoke up right away and turned it down, to the group's disappointment.

We ended up having a delicious Korean dinner - I had kimchi stew, and did not eat the ramen noodles that they mixed in. Lots of vegetable side dishes to munch on, too. No alcohol.

After dinner on our way back to the subway, we passed another convenience store and the group decided to go in for a sweet treat. Had it been even two months ago, I probably would have bought a chocolate bar or something, but that night I bought a small glass bottle of soy milk. It was difficult to have to face what I used to purchase and not eat it, while friends were diving in right next to me. When I'm on my own during the week in my small town, I simply don't go into the convenience stores anymore. Don't see it, don't buy it. But that night I had to see the chocolate shelf up close and personal.

So although I felt good about what I'd put in my body that day, I knew the hesitation and difficulties I'd experienced eating out with friends was only a small taste of what's to come.

Although I've gone without dairy and have given up some foods during my years-long IBS journey, the diet changes I see myself making now (eating WFPB) will be much harder to live with socially when I'm around family and friends back in the states this fall. John has been living without eating gluten for some time now, so he has a much better idea of the types of struggles I'll face. But I know that together, we'll come up with strategies to keep eating right without giving up our social lives.
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