There’s no doubt about it, eating out in public can go from being a pleasure to a pain when you first go raw. Yes, I know, it’s really not fair, and we didn’t ask for our social lives to take a dive, but what you have to bear in mind is that you’re still something of a pioneer, and no-one said it was going to be easy!
That said, choosing to eat raw when out and about doesn’t have to mean that the dining experience needs to become something you come to dread – especially not now that the social scene is changing so quickly.
Follow my 10 Top Tips for Social Success and I’m positive your future meals out will be all the more enjoyable for it!
1) Remember, you are a pioneer – not a weirdo! I’m amazed at how varied other people’s perceptions are when people first tell them they eat raw. From fascinated to critical but most often confused, it pays to remember that everyone is going to have an opinion on your eating habits – but what’s really important is yours! So when the fingers start pointing and the comments and questions start coming, take a deep breath, smile and then…
2) Choose your line! Different people choose different ways of handling these situations depending on how confident they are about what they’re doing and also depending on the company they’re with. For instance, in the early days I was really embarrassed about eating raw. I was young, still learning and I didn’t know the answers to all the questions that were being asked of me. I also felt like everyone was out to criticise what I was doing. So, to make life easier, rather than announcing “I’m raw for life and this is how it’s going to be!” I chose to say that I was “experimenting” with a new way of eating that made me feel much better and gave me more energy (everyone wants more energy!) – and this worked a treat. Other good lines to use if you’re not ready or keen to be open about your lifestyle choice is to say something like “I’m on a detox” or something similarly vague – when people think that what you are doing is only temporary, or you speak in language that they can relate to, they feel much more relaxed and are far less likely to harangue you for the rest of the meal!
3) Watch yourself! Pay attention to what preconceptions you may have about what people think, because these may colour your attitude and the response you get far more than you realise. By this I mean, if you are insecure in any way about what you’re doing and don’t choose a “get out line” like one of those above, then people will pick up on your insecurity and proceed to pick away at what you’re doing in all manner of ways. They’re not always out to bring you down, but you may end up feeling as if they are, and that’s obviously not a nice feeling! So, work on educating yourself, feeling confident in what you’re doing, ideally have some tangible positive results to show them (e.g. weight loss, stronger nails, shinier hair, clearer skin, more energy etc.), some great recipes to share – maybe even have a book stashed in your bag to show them – and then you’ll be able to direct the conversation away from you and onto the benefits – if there’s potentially something in it for them you’ll find that suddenly there’s a lot more genuine interest!
4) Keep things light. Once the conversation is flowing (it will usually be hard, if not impossible to stop it!) do your best to remain upbeat and positive about what you’re doing. I have found that the key word here is “light” – keep things light, fun and airy – laugh about it, talk about your triumphs and disasters in equal measure – be human. And steer away from proselytising, trying to convert or telling everyone how much damage they’re doing with their knife and fork! I have found that the best way to handle any of these situations is to remain as neutral yet positive as possible. No blaming, nothing negative, just answering any questions that you may be asked as best you can, with a smile, no judgement and sharing your successes without sounding evangelical or anywhere near patronising.
5) Stay consistent. It sounds obvious, but you really do need to walk your talk if you don’t want to attract yet more attention. For instance, if you start the evening raw and end it with the largest chocolate ice-cream sundae on the menu, then you really can’t expect people to take you seriously! They’re going to put that weight loss, shiny hair, strong nails and clear skin down to your ice-cream habit, not your fruits, salads and smoothies! Why? Because they want to! Hence the importance of not overplaying your hand with what you choose to announce at the start of the meal – i.e. don’t say you’re eating raw if you just know that the dessert trolley has your name written all over it!
6) Enjoy your meal! Naturally it’s important that what you eat out is something you are really going to enjoy. No good salivating at the sight of your favourite cooked dish being devoured by the person sitting next to you while you’re left trying to make a side salad last all night and searching for something filling (or palatable) in amongst the limp pale lettuce! This is where preparation comes in, so either call up the restaurant in advance and spell it out to them what you’d really, really love (be polite, friendly, grateful and painstakingly precise and you should be fine) or select very carefully from the menu so that you have the finest plate of food in the restaurant. People cannot fail to be inspired by colour and variety on your plate – I’ve seen heads turn time and time again at the rainbow salads I’ve created from an apparently limited menu. For how to do this, read on.
7) Made to order. If you don’t have time to ring ahead or check out the menu in advance, then you are taking a chance, but it doesn’t have to end in tears. The best way I have found to get something I’m happy with (sometimes even delighted with!) is to master the art of menu scanning. This means looking at everything on the menu, memorising what bits sound raw, and then asking the waiter ever so politely if they would mind making you a HUGE salad (you have to overplay this bit just to get a decent size!), and then adding (fill in the blanks from what you see). For instance, I usually start with melon – easy, straightforward, delicious. Then for main, I will request the HUGE salad, and then, assuming I’ve seen avocado, nuts, olives, sundried tomatoes and fruit somewhere (anywhere!) on the menu, I’ll ask for as many of those things to be added on to my plate as possible. I’ve never been refused yet, and rarely disappointed. And yes, heads turn and people drool!
8) The final analysis. When it comes to dessert, as above, this can make or break the evening. This isn’t about being “perfect” or holier than thou, but if you’ve taken good care to order fresh, raw food for your starter and main course then it would be a real shame to drown it in cream and pastry afterwards wouldn’t it? If you’re new to this or not ready (or willing) to forgo rich desserts, that’s definitely your prerogative, but if you do want to stay on course then a fresh fruit salad should always be available, even if it’s a simple bowl of berries or a second helping of melon. (Yes, I know, not ideal food combining, but hey!)
9) After dinner quiz anyone?! Post dessert, more questions may follow. You’ll be feeling ready to rock and roll, while your companions might be feeling ready to fall asleep! This is the time when they’ll be reminded why they don’t always enjoy the meal as much as they thought they might (and you’ll be reminded of why you do), and this will also be the time when they may very well start to take more of an interest in what you’ve eaten that night. This is the time to stay relaxed and at ease with it all, keep answering those questions and if it feels appropriate why not offer to email them a recipe or two, or invite them over for a raw night? People love novelty and if you can let them know to expect more than a restaurant-style salad then you’ll stand a much better chance of them accepting!
10) What it’s really all about. And finally, remember, eating out may be a lot about the food but primarily it’s about the company. So don’t short change your friends and family by retreating into your shell when you’re eating out with them. Share who you are, raw vibes and all, and talk about things other than food as much as humanly possible!
Have fun – and enjoy your meal 🙂
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