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Even as digital nomads, it’s human nature to want to “fit in.” We can claim not to care what others think until we’re blue in the face, but the truth is we all crave acceptance, connection, and approval from others.
Which is why making changes to your lifestyle habits and choices can be intimidating and challenging. Especially as a full-time traveler. They may not line up with the habits and choices of the people you surround yourself.
I experienced it when I went gluten-free a couple years ago, then again when I became a vegetarian, and I experience it any time I go out with a group and turn down a shot of vodka.
I know the dreaded question is coming, “WHY?“
Everyone wants to know why I ordered the gluten-free crust, why I don’t eat meat, why I won’t take a shot with them. They want to know why I’m making a different choice from them, because they don’t understand it. Sometimes, they ask “Why?” because they want to validate their own decision by proving mine wrong.
Until fairly recently, I dreaded the “why” question. I got all flustered, went on way too long of a rant, and more than likely left the “why” asker feeling way more confused than they were before asking the question. Which left me feeling more embarrassed and rejected than ever.
It also raised “why” questions of my own. Like, why the hell do you care what I’m eating?
Then one night, while I was out with some friends, I had an epiphany.
Someone from the group bought a round of shots, and I turned it down. So what did they ask? You guessed it, “Why?”
I told them – very matter of factly – the same thing I tell every person who offers me liquor, “I don’t like the way it makes me feel – shots make me sick.”
The shot buyer and “why” asker doesn’t want me to throw up on them, or waste the shot, so they let it go and give the shot to someone else. That’s all it took.
I’ve been aware of this for a long time when it comes to taking shots, but had never thought about applying the same method as a response to “why” I became a vegetarian. So I decided to give it a try.
The next time I went out to eat with a group happened to be at a Korean BBQ restaurant for a friend’s birthday. The entire menu was different variations of meat that you can grill yourself, and a table salad which consisted of shredded lettuce and…that’s it. I stuck to eating the lettuce while everyone else gorged themselves on beef, pork, chicken, lamb, prawns, and god knows what else.
I knew this was going to be the case because I looked up the menu in advance like I always do, so I ate a small meal beforehand. But of course all everyone else saw, was that I was the only person not eating.
As obvious meat lovers who were currently stuffing their face with 10 different kinds of animal carcass, they wanted to know why I was a vegetarian. Rather than going into ALL of my personal reasons for choosing to live a vegetarian lifestyle, I simply said, “My body has a hard time digesting meat, and I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”
And that answer seemed to satisfy them.The only thing people need to hear to accept and understand your dietary preferences/choices are: My body doesn’t like it, and it makes me feel bad.
No one can argue with your body rejecting something or not liking the way something makes you feel because they aren’t the ones who have to experience it or live in your body. That is the one thing they can understand. They may not understand your deeper reasoning, but if something makes you feel bad, they aren’t going to force it on you. Whether that’s alcohol, meat, gluten, dairy, eggs, etc.
If you have an intolerance, your body rejects it, that’s all other people need to know. Once in a while it may develop into a deeper conversation, and that’s fine. But you shouldn’t have to explain your reasoning and try to make other people understand your dietary choices every single time you eat around other people.
Honestly, if you try to explain your reasoning as vaguely as “to be healthier” or as a part of a specific diet, it will spark controversy, people will challenge it, and try to prove you wrong or justify not following that diet (more for their own sake than yours).
Nutrition and diets are highly controversial, so to avoid conflict or heated debates every time you go out, just stick to “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”
Don’t let fear of what other people think or the “inconvenience” deter you from choosing a healthier lifestyle. Because at the end of the day, the only person it actually affects, is you.