Gratitude is defined by attitude: dietary needs and the holidays


Art by Myah Teague

Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday to get through when you have dietary restrictions.

I sit down at the extended table surrounded by close relatives. Everyone, including me, is talking about how hungry they are and how they can’t wait to eat. The only difference is that they will be able to feast while I will go through some of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. 

November to many people means one thing: Thanksgiving. As early as the first day of the month, families are preparing to host dozens of people for a large dinner. Though this can be stressful, most are excited for the end result; a day dedicated to eating a surplus of food until you physically can’t anymore. Except for those with dietary restrictions.

Whether you just don’t like the traditional Thanksgiving food, or you refrain from certain food groups, Thanksgiving is usually the most awkward time of the year for everyone who has specialized diets.

Personally, I’m vegan and this means one thing: jokes throughout the entire dinner. From exaggerating how good the food that I can’t eat is, to purposely offering me non-vegan food to just laugh about it after, the jokes are endless. 

I get that my family finds it amusing that I’m sitting at a table covered in food and my plate is empty, but the jokes just make everything more awkward. But compared to the prolonged uncomfortable feeling that lasts the entire dinner, the jokes are bearable. 

At least for me, I think everyone’s worst nightmare would be sitting at a table covered in food you think smells terrible with ten to twenty people all consuming it while you just sit there. No food on your plate, and with nothing to do but watch everyone eat.

This is what I go through every year for a few hours straight.

Frustrated, many of my relatives usually say,“There has to be one thing you can eat at Thanksgiving.” And they are right, there is. I can have plain, dry rolls or an undressed salad, which both sound super appealing.

Though this sounds like I am being ungrateful and expecting my relatives to prepare an entire dinner specialized to only my dietary restriction, I’m not. I know that is unreasonable and would only make Thanksgiving more complicated. I just want to provide awareness about the awkward meal facing those who don’t eat Thanksgiving dinner.

So, if your relative or friend isn’t participating in the feast this Thanksgiving, don’t joke about it. It just makes them feel worse. They probably already feel like they are being rude to the family member that cooked the dinner, so by drawing even more attention to them, it doesn’t help the situation.

And if you are annoyed by a relative who has a dietary restriction, just remember that it is at least ten times worse for them. For you, it is the action of one person who is making you uncomfortable. For them, it’s the entire table. So, on the behalf of everyone attending a Thanksgiving dinner with a unique diet, be kind to us and don’t draw attention just because we have an empty plate.

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