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Laura Dolson

Can You Help Patricia?

By November 1, 2012

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peopleYesterday I received an email from a reader named Patricia who has a problem I think most of us can relate to. She writes:

"I've been following a low-carb diet since August 3rd. I've shed a lot of pounds and am very happy with the results: less hunger, less joint pain, a lot less pounds, improvement in skin condition and more energy. I have a quick question, though. Every week I meet for lunch at a house of one of my colleagues. The food is usually pasta: no salad, no protein. I've been, either skipping lunch or taking something for myself. However, in a work context, this attitude is starting to make the host uncomfortable. I was wondering, thus, what would the consequences be if once a week I ate a couple of servings of pasta with the usual condiments and then got back on the diet wagon. I guess that the next day my cravings would be greater, but other than that, what are the consequences?"

My answer: First of all, only you can tell how derailed you get by a weekly pasta meal. You could experiment and see what happens. Some people find that a weekly meal off-plan is fine, and others find it to be not at all worth it. They may get unpleasant symptoms or carb cravings that are difficult to manage.

As far as what to say to avoid eating pasta, I usually fall back on health issues. Most effective is "I can't eat that; it raises my blood sugar". (I have also used gluten, since I'm gluten intolerant, but that sometimes backfires, when the next time the host is thrilled to give me rice pasta.) Or just talk about the great results you've had by avoiding starch and sugar and eating more vegetables.

I'm curious what my readers do in situations such as this. Please leave your ideas for Patricia in the comments section!

P.S. Do you have a question? I highly recommend asking in our great Low Carb Discussion Forum. I get a lot of email, and I often am not able to answer individual questions.

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November 2, 2012 at 7:43 am
(1) Elyse Glaser says:

A gracious hostess should try to accommodate her guests. She probably relies on pasta because it is economical. If she cannot provide salad as well continuing to bring your own food is perfectly reasonable. On the other hand, a pasta meal once a week isn’t so terrible. Usually it is the red sauce that really spikes the sugar/insulin levels. If it is a salad with a vinaigrette or mayonnaise that wouldn’t be so bad.

November 2, 2012 at 8:16 am
(2) Judy says:

Well, if you have let the host know that you have to follow a special eating plan for your good health, and there is no change to the menu, perhaps you could offer to bring something extra that everyone can share like a salad or a vegetable dish? Or you can eat at home before you go and just twiddle with a little on your plate….Or host one of these business lunches yourself, and serve food you prefer.

I personally have no problem with an occasional grain-based meal, but usually I eat something before, so my portion is very small.

November 2, 2012 at 10:07 am
(3) fredt says:

I have diagnosed as prediabetic. Wheat and sugar messes with my blood sugar. As long as I do not eat much carbohydrate in any form, I can delay away from becoming diabetic. No food pusher bothers after that. I can bring my own lunch after that.

November 2, 2012 at 12:07 pm
(4) Joanne says:

Most people understand now a days that people have allergies or intolerances to food. You can find out what they are serving and bring a similar dish to match their’s. For most pasta, I use zucchine (use a potatoe peeler to make “egg noodles”) or spagetti squash. The other reader also offered a great suggestion, bring a dish to share that you can eat.

Make a joke about it, just tell them that the food looks absolutely wonderful….but if you eat it, they will be calling 911 and you really would like to stay and enjoy their company, which is more important then the food!

November 3, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(5) Becky says:

Patricia, it sounds like you chose to eat LC rather than your health forcing you to do it. But you have had definite health benefits. So you should stress those benefits, saying that you feel SO much better not eating the pasta, and you REALLY don’t want to go back to the way you used to feel. In other words, don’t make it sound like it’s a choice you can make anew each day, depending on what food is available. Continue to eat beforehand or bring your own, or like the others have suggested, bring a dish for everyone, after consultation with the hostess of course — surprising her might not be greeted with enthusiasm.

November 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm
(6) Darlene B says:

I’m just wondering about the hostess. If you’ve been to several of these lunches, and had to bring your own food because of food restrictions, why is the hostess only offering pasta? Any good hostess would include a salad or something you could eat.

November 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm
(7) Peggy Holloway says:

I have decided after 14 years of low-carbing that I am better off not to eat. My normal carb intake is so low that I am in a perpetual ketogenic sate and I hate to throw myself out of ketosis, which can happen very quickly and it can take as much as 2 weeks to return.I ketosis, I can go hours and hours without eating and still be full of energy and never feel hungry. So I often have a breakfast of egg yolks cooked in butter with a piece of bacon and then I’m good until evening. This weekend, I attended a conference and there was a luncheon. When I saw the menu, I decided I did not want to pay $16 for a meal that looked like it might have one thing I could eat, which was in doubt because of lack of information on preparation, sauces, etc. I am so sensitive that just one slip can ruin my day with insulin/blood sugar symptoms that will swing from “the shakes” to becoming nearly comatose! So, I went to the luncheon and drink a glass of water and enjoyed the company of my colleagues. (And felt a very small twinge of self-satisfaction watching my sadly overweight friends eating the caramel spice cake topped with candy corn). In actuality, no one asked me why I wasn’t eating and I doubt most people even noticed. If anyone had, I would have simply said that I have to follow a very restrictive diet because of my insulin resistance. In Patricia’s case, where she does probably have to offer an explanation, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to explain how giving up grains and sugar has affected her health.

November 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(8) Pat says:

I’d bring enough salad for the whole group. Ingredients for a salad for 20 could probably be done for about the same price as a restaurant lunch for one. Not expensive, depending on what you choose to put in it. May be a blessing to others as well!

November 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm
(9) Pat says:

I’d take a salad large enough for the whole group to share. A salad for 20 could be done for the price of a restaurant lunch for one person! It could be not expensive and it might be a blessing for others as well!

November 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm
(10) Leslie says:

I work on a remote duty site where meals are provided. In my case, there is always a salad bar where I can eat, so I’m fine but often people notice that I am not eating what everyone else eats – often deliciously prepared heavy carb items and deserts. I have an old employee ID badge with my picture (before I went low-carb and lost 80lbs). When they comment, I pull out the badge and show them exactly why my diet is what it is. In this case, the offer to bring a supliment to the meal is a gracious one, and may be readily accepted by your hostess.
If it isn’t accepted, and you still feel “guilty” about refusing the meal you have a decision to make. Is the guilt internal or exernal? If you are putting it on yourself – then STOP IT. You are doing what is good for you, that is all that matters. If your hostess was regularly serving wine and you were an alcoholic- would you feel guilty about politely declining? If the guilt is external, applied by your hostess or other guests, look at it the same way. This is your health and the rest of your life, not a fad or an attempt to get attention or be difficult. If the pressure really is too much, then stop attending, and send your regrets instead. True friends should no more push you to damage your health than they should encourage an alcoholic to have “just one sip”.

November 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm
(11) Joni says:

How about suggesting that you host one event and prepare a fabulous salad for the group?

November 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm
(12) cindy says:

offer to bring salad or an antipasta

November 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm
(13) Pamela says:

If you have some good protien you can eat on the way in the car, and bring a raw veggie tray to share, it might work. If the hostess is so obtuse as to see that you never eat the pasta, yet she continues serving it, then it’s a matter of just ignoring HER opinion. As for the others, If you educate them one on one, they can at least support you emotionally. I heard a good line once… “I can’t have that XYZ, it makes me break out” (Unsaid: “in fat”)

November 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm
(14) Gena says:

You must do what is GOOD for you! To compromise your health just because it makes the host uncomfortable isn’t a good enough reason. This low-carb way of living will put you in many situations that will bring on this kind of attitude from others. Be strong. This will be a learning experience. Have you read “Wheat Belly” by Dr. Davis? Good read and a real eye opener. Check out his website :) I hope that your colleagues can accept you and enjoy your company and not be offended by your dietary needs. My kids get a lot of comments at school because they eat differently……ewww….why aren’t you eating a sandwich and chips? Darn peer pressure, you would think that it would go away after school.

November 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm
(15) Vicki says:

Since it is a working lunch where the food is catered:
Have the salad and just take a scoop of the sauce for the pasta, it should be ok. Also have an Atkins bar before the meal.

November 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm
(16) Carolyn says:

Since I often don’t know know what to expect when invited for a potluck or a meal, I ALWAYS eat something before I go: Cheese, cottage cheese, vegetable, or salad. At the invited meal, I take about one teaspoonfull of everything there (even at Thanksgiving). Since I’ve already eaten, I don’t crave the food presented, and since I have a bit of everything on my plate, I don’t believe that anybody even notices. Keep an Atkins bar in your purse in case the dessert looks too tempting. If questioned (rarely), I reply that “I’m doing Atkins.”

November 6, 2012 at 2:29 am
(17) Gianraffaele says:

Hello Patricia, I ‘m writing you from Italy. Here is very difficult to have a low carb diet, but if you eat pasta or rice, once a week it isn’t a big problem, we said that is a recharge of carb that could give a benefit to the body, it move your metabolism.It’s important to start soon again with your low carb diet. You could ask to your friend to eat whole pasta or brown rice,in small share with a protein sauce. Best wishes Gianraffaele

November 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(18) Florian says:

As a practicing Type 1 diabetic for 45 years and now using an insulin pump here is what I would do.
This is where portion control, carb counting, and exercise all come in handy. I would take a half serving of the pasta (portion control), guestimate the carbs (carb counting) and take my bolus. Then I would enjoy the lunch and the company and have a good time. When its over test my blood sugar and take a correction bolus and a brisk walk (exercise) to help bring it down if necessary.

November 6, 2012 at 4:04 pm
(19) Joanne says:

I responded before, but I have been thinking this one over and would like to add a comment from a different view.

If your hostest was serving a food that you did not like, I mean really did not like, would you think twice about not eating it? Let’s get extreme, if the hostess served fried worms and everyone else thought they were wonderful….would you eat them? Personally, I would not, even if I got some really strange looks from my co-workers.

I think you may be “wanting” permission to eat just a little of what you should not have. This lifestyle is not easy, but that little wanting can turn into a BIG craving in an instant.

November 7, 2012 at 3:32 am
(20) Gems says:

Hi, I had a similar problem on a self catering hen weekend. The organiser did all the shopping and catered to the masses and breakfast was toast, croissants and cereals. I ate a handful of nuts and drunk a lot if tea. Dinners were a little easier because you can dish up like everyone else and just eat the protein and veg. On spag bol night there was salad so I had salad and a little meat sauce. My friends were intrigued and I told them that I have a bad reaction when I eat high levels of carbs, they were fine with that and the host went to the shops for some eggs for the next breakfast. I wasn’t the only person eating eggs! If you are honest and help to find the solution most people want to feed you food you like.

November 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm
(21) heather says:

I am going to agree with the person who suggested bringing a salad for everyone. It sounds like the meal is limited anyway, maybe everyone (including the hostess) would welcome the donation of a salad!

November 8, 2012 at 10:28 am
(22) DebbieC. says:

I’m with Darlene. I don’t understand a hostess who would serve the same thing week after week despite seeing that you never eat it. I would not cave in – but of course that could be because I don’t like pasta much and never have. If I’m going to break my diet why would I do it for something I don’t even like? Of course if you adore pasta I guess it could be harder.

But I like the idea of bringing something like a bit salad which you could eat and everyone else could eat as well.

November 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm
(23) Gloria says:

I do think that it is a good idea to explain the reasons for the way we eat. I cannot tolerate any grains, so do tend to bring something when going out to eat. My daughter says that I should just say that I am gluten intolerant since most people seem to understand that — at least in most restaurants they do.
I had to chuckle at my sisters when they came to visit — I had picked up some peanut butter and 12 grain bread for toast for them, but I ate my usual breakfast of 2 eggs and a small serving of fried mashed potatoes. They commented on MY strange breakfast and I just replied that if they went to a “breakfast” type restaurant, they would find several versions of eggs and potatoes on the menu.

November 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(24) Jane Baker says:

I was exposed to a celiac for the first time in my life about 4 years ago when she became a new neighbour and friend. I’m known as the neighbourhood cook and love inviting everyone for dinner so it was a real learning experience for me, especially since I had no previous knowledge of the condition and how serious it could be for her health when I screwed up the meal. At first I made sure that there were several items on the table that she could eat but still mostly catered to others in the crowd but it upset me when she passed on so many things. So I treated it as a challenge and now, when a meal for company goes on my table nearly everything on it can be eaten by my friend (including things like fried chicken, a wicked corn bread and chewy brownies) so that it’s never noticeable to anyone else that she can’t eat certain things. I have no wish to make company at my table anything but comfortable and cannot imagine ANY host that would be uncomfortable if someone had different dietary needs and tried to meet those needs themselves if the host did not. I was faced with the same dilemma one month after starting my diet here this past Tuesday when we were invited to a spaghetti dinner. When the host asked if there was anything we couldn’t eat, I actually spoke up and said I was on a diet and wasn’t actually eating carbs. She said no problem! She would just make spaghetti squash for the pasta as if she did it every day without me even making that suggestion.
So I think that there can be different levels of ‘food sophistication’ for everyone and most of us don’t mind being educated if we don’t know. If anyone asks questions just explain things but I would definitely ask the Host/Hostess if you can bring a salad as suggested above, and share with everyone. Maybe bring your own ‘noodles’ (squash, pickled, etc.) and some extra in case anyone else would like to try it. I’m sure everyone is already noticing the new ‘you’ and can’t be anything but happy for you.

November 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm
(25) Barbara says:

In this day and age with so many people having dietary issues there should be a variety. I would eat before I go and if something is said just inform the hostess that you don’t (not can’t) eat pasta of any sort. I’d tell her to read Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis and get with the program. What kind of a hostess would just serve pasta. When I have lunches there is a large salad, chicken breasts, something made from almond flour – everything totally low carb and everyone loves it and asks for the recipes. I tell them to go on this site for the best low carb ideas. I am a diabetic and have no problem not eating stuff that will make me sick. She should know better.

Or, you could take turns preparing the lunch.

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