5 Responses When Relatives Ask Why You’re Not Eating Stuffing This Thanksgiving

Granny Holding Lattice Top Cherry PieHere we are—another day of turkey, gathering, gratitude and (maybe) questions. For some of us, our relatives stopped asking long ago. Or maybe we celebrate alone or with a smaller, more sympathetic crowd these days. Many of us, however, will find ourselves mixing with non-Primal eaters. We’ll likely even be the typical lone figure strategizing our choices among the high-carb spread. Bring on the turkey legs, the Brussels sprouts, the salad. The stuffing and sweets on the other hand—maybe not so much… And so the inquiry often begins. As I wish you all, kind readers, a Happy Thanksgiving from the U.S., I thought I’d offer some of my favorite responses (some serious, some not) to the common questions we field at the holiday dinner table. To all of our MDA community, I’m grateful for your valued following and your incredible contributions over the years. I hope you’ll add your own favorite personal retorts, strategic redirects and discussion starters for the dinner table today!

“You know, I’ve found I just feel better if I avoid certain foods. Bready-type foods are among them.”

It’s the perfect choice when you’re looking for a simple, no-nonsense response. And it’s all “I-statements” to boot! (Don’t you feel psychologically sensitive knowing that?) It’s harder to argue with people’s physical experiences. Feel free to get as detailed as the situation calls for.

“I’m just doing my bit this holiday to keep the national health care expenditure down. Have you read the latest diabetes figures? And I’m on a higher deductible insurance plan these days anyway.”

The fact is, most people will miss the real connection and latch onto what they know and want to complain about. For those who don’t mind opening the political can of worms or delving into personal finance, it’s a great way to divert the conversation toward something everyone can weigh in on. Sure, some perceptive (or just curious) member of your party might well bring the stuffing topic back around again, but then you can up the ante (or excuse yourself for an important faux phone call).

“I’m committing the day to indulging my inner carnivore and not every side dish makes the cut as a result. Pass the turkey, please!”

Oh, you’ll get a strange look, but most people will be stumped—or a little nervous to talk to you any further.

“You know, maybe I’ll try just a bit. We don’t have a dinner this big every day, now do we?”

For those of you who are bringing your 80/20 to the table, sampling all the annual fare may not be such a bad idea. If you can do this and not get sucked into a craving spiral the day after, I consider this a completely valid choice (and one I’ve made in the past).

“Oh, cripes, the stuffing…. Seriously, doesn’t that give you gas? I know I always pay for it afterward. Good luck with that!”

Let’s face it: you’ll either start a raucous bout of laughter and jokes among the guests, or you’ll stop that inquest straight up while the questioner slinks back in his chair and your mother begs you with her famous death stare to change the subject. Who knows? You might get to sit at the kids’ table after that, and we all know the conversation is better there anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’ll look forward to reading your best T-Day (or any big dinner) replies. With gratitude and best wishes to you all this holiday…thanks for reading.

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TAGS:  humor

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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35 thoughts on “5 Responses When Relatives Ask Why You’re Not Eating Stuffing This Thanksgiving”

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  1. Lol! Love this! I am fortunate that my family is pretty open to healthful eating. I personally don’t care for stuffing anyway, but I’ll enjoy my pastured turkey and organic sweet potatoes. And it’s one day I’ll save a little room for dessert! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  2. In the company of vegetarian yogis last year I replied when asked in doleful tones why I ate meat…

    ‘I honour the human animal I’m sharing this life with’

    That did the trick!

    1. That wonderful answer also works when people question your choice of mate! 😀

      Great response-Happy Thanksgiving!

    2. Yeah, I’m pretty no one could care less what I’m eating or not eating at our gathering. It’s not until Saturday.

      For the sake of temptation, I will stick with my primal life. It’s too early for me to “cheat” without worrying I’ll fall off board all together. Better safe than sorry.

      1. 30lbs down and feeling great. Finally dropped below the 200 mark this past week. Definitely don’t ever want to see that number again! I’m hanging at 199 and it’s my goal to stay below that all through the holidays!

  3. All year long I’m 95% faithful to a healthy diet. Today however I’m having the stuffing and pecan pie!

  4. This isn’t an issue for me. I usually take a small serving of everything that’s passed around, which precludes questions, then I either eat a bite or two of the non-Paleo items (80/20 rule), or just push it around on the plate a little if I don’t want it. I’ve found that most people are too busy with their own food to notice what I’m eating.

  5. Best thanksgiving post I’ve read so far!

    Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about this today (we’ll be eating a totally delicious, totally primal meal).

    But in other situations when someone questions my eating choices, I usually respond similar to your first suggestion–keeping it simple and keeping to “I” statements.

    Something like: “You know, I just don’t do so well with grains.”

    I find that, if they press further, it’s more about them than me, and it’s very much time to change the topic. The LAST thing I want to do while enjoying meal is explain the what’s and why’s of how I eat.

  6. After yesterday’s post, I think I’ll say, “Because I’m saving room for MORE charred MEAT!”

    But in all seriousness, if one dares imply that the stuffing gives them gas, etc, then Aunt Edna is going to have her feelings crushed. So, my vote is to just put a little on the plate and smear it around and no one will be the wiser. For many, Thanksgiving dinner is slow-food coming from different relatives–a rare and wonderfully primal experience in and of itself, despite some non-primal food groups. After all their hard work in the kitchen, I think it’s probably not the best time to couple the primal view with food rejection…ha, talking politics might be safer! But a few days BEFORE, when people are divvying up who-is-to-make-what, might be a perfect time to let loose on how this theory has changed one’s life!

    1. I was going to say something similar to this…

      If you have relatives that won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, at least try to manage your own servings. Take a bit of the stuffing (and the mashed potatoes too) and spread it on the plate so it takes up the same space as a “normal” serving, just not as “tall”. The pie might be more difficult as the structure makes it hard to get a small slice to appear more substantial. A narrow slice laid on its side will give decent plate coverage, two slices (we always had apple as well as pumpkin) should cover nearly the entire plate.

      But I also recall the stuffing/dressing being the best part because the bird was always dry.

  7. I’m reminded of the old joke, “I once considered going vegetarian, but decided I didn’t have enough time to give the speeches.”
    : )

    1. Or this one: “How do you know whether one of your guests is vegan? Don’t worry–they’ll tell you.”

      (As a former vegetarian-sometimes-vegan who was quite attached to that identity, I’m poking fun of my younger self a bit…was something I made SURE people knew 20 or so years ago.)

      1. I thought you could identify them as the one carrying a hitler youth knife…

  8. when stuffing is at the table, I eat it! 1-3x a year (depending on what holidays you celebrate) is about as often as it will be at the table.

    1-3x a year isn’t going to kill anybody who gorge on a little stuffing ;). Sausage stuffing though does sound a lot more appealing than standard stuffing.

  9. I can only once did we have stuffing in a Turkey at Christmas – I tried a little bit and didn’t like it at all – I have never eaten it again (or even seen it on our table since).

    Way back then, even as a kid I thought why did we stuff the turkey with this junk – never again.

  10. Best stuffing I ever had was made of chicken hearts and gizzards, completely mindblowing! Personally I love spreading the word so I’ll clearly express the why I avoid these foods and eat primal and if people want to hear me then I’ll go with the full speech. I’d rather educate people than trying to fit into the futile and meaningless cars, TV and what the other moron we don’t know did kind of conversations. Thanks for the good advice Mark and, as my first post, thumbs up for the wonderful site/community! Love the gas excuse but can’t use that one everybody knows me as a fart machine!

  11. There was a reason why I didn’t eat stuffing today. It was processed with a lot of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce and I suspected some highly-known artificial stuff in it as well. In other words, Stove Top stuffing. I think it is distributed by ConAgra Foods or something. Maybe Kraft. I wanted to make stuffing using freshly made ingredients but my dad insisted on buying processed stuffing instead which had so many chemical ingredients. I swear, my dad and brother have a habit of eating processed foods and they try to force it upon me.

  12. I made my homemade cornbread dressing (stuffing) today. (Made from my own milled corn flour, organic eggs, celery and onions, and organic turkey broth of course). It was scrumptious and I will have it again tonight for leftovers. It was real food, no scary chemicals. Then tomorrow, back to Primal. Thanks for all the great posts, love the blog.

  13. My family is too self centered to even notice what I eat..it works out great!

  14. I would just say… because I don’t want any… geez, what’s the big deal? You guys must have some crazy relatives if they get so offended that you’re not eating one of the dishes that you have to come up with an excuse!

  15. Thanks for the support, I’m getting a lot of hassle from family at the moment and finding it difficult, have to learn to keep thoughts to myself, stay relaxed and believe in what I’m doing. Never realised what I eat is so offensive to other people.

  16. Of course, the only reason you really need is that soggy ass-bread is disgusting, no matter how much bacon and sausage is added.

  17. “No thank you” worked great again and then I added “I am saving room for more smoked ribeye” and no one questioned that!

    I loved seeing the mashed cauliflower go before the potatoes and my niece explain to her mom why grandma’s leftover plate shouldn’t be loaded with simple carbs.

    Looking forward to leftovers, three family activities today and no shopping.

  18. After over 5 years Primal, family and friends know how I eat. And I never had a problem refusing this or that – just smile, laugh and try to be humorous and charming to Uncle Fred or anyone potentially giving you a hard time. Explanation is not necessary – change the conversation! Anyway, these days you’re likely to find others at the table passing on the bread basket.

  19. Luckily my immediate family are all Primal, something I am very thankful for! For extended family and coworkers, I’ve fallen into the “eccentric” category and they mostly leave my alone. I took a lesson from Bartleby early on and used “I’d rather not.” It’s proven pretty effective at quashing cajoling and prodding, at worst, I repeat it a few times and they move on.

  20. In the South we call it dressing for some reason. And I have always disliked it. I like the sausage and oysters that go in it, and sometimes I like cornbread by itself, but that mixture of biscuits, cornbread, rice, and an occasional piece of meat is just gross to me. Primal lifestyle or not.

  21. Why would anyone care whether you eat the stuffing or cornbread for your
    Thanksgiving lunch or dinner? When I’m eating out or at a friends I take a bit of everything and then leave what I don’t want on the plate. You can always ask for seconds on the meat, vegetables or salad if there is plenty there and your hosts will love that you appreciate their cooking instead of moaning about all those carbs from the paleo people or calories from the weight watchers crowd. It’s easier to refuse the desert pleading a full tummy if you have scarfed down a decent meal. If pressed, ask if you can take home a piece of that pie for later.
    I’m just plain tired of explaining why I eat paleo, if anyone sneers at my lifestyle choice I tell them that I’m not on any medication, go to the gym regularly and am reasonably fit and I’m not overweight … Unlike YOU, so what’s so good about your lifestyle choices huh? I’ve offended a few people, too bad so sad!

  22. LOL. I have been enjoying the Primal diet since 2010 and my family can not still go over it. Last year my mother-in-law baked me a cake for my birthday as a present. “If you won’t eat it your husband for sure will”. This summer she said in a casual conversation at my birthday (again, coincidentally) that when she was young she kept a diet with no bread and how she came to realization “how idiotic that was”. Very funny though that her digestion improved since she had ditched grains watching my results a few years ago. …And eating a dish at friend’s that happened to have flour in it of which I was not aware… “But this is just 2 table spoons!” Charming. 🙂

    1. Let me get this straight, when she was young she ditched the grains, and now she is old, she took them up again – therefore eating bread must make you old…

  23. I was faced with this very question myself. I simply gleemed, “Your turkey is so delicious I don’t plan to have room for anything else”. I maintained a smattering of sweet potato and creamed spinach on my plate to maintain credibility. I stealthfully noticed that all the other guests preferred white meat and treated myself to extra helpings of thigh meat.