When food preferences complicate social food

attenua asked:

…How do you deal with stating inconsistent preferences? I do not like some foods (e.g. cheeseburgers and pizza) because their high grease/fat content makes me feel bad after eating them. I frequently have to explain that a restaurant that has those foods or other high grease/fat alternatives will not serve me anything I will eat. This can look like I am criticizing other people’s eating of those foods, which is not helped by sometimes eating those foods anyway.

I think the most helpful thing is usually to suggest something specific that would mean everyone could get to eat something that they want.

For instance, if everyone wants to go to McDonalds, and you don’t feel up to eating greasy food that day, it could work to say “How about we go to Whole Foods instead?”

Or, “How about you grab a pizza, and I’ll grab something from the supermarket and we’ll meet up in the park?”

You don’t necessarily need to say why you don’t want to eat that kind of food. It’s hard to go into detail about that without sounding judgmental, and it’s also no one’s business, and not super-relevant to the practical problem at hand.

One thing you could say if you want to give a reason is something along the lines of: “I’m kind of not feeling up to eating greasy food today. How about we go to Place That Has Greasy And Non-Greasy Food?” That wouldn’t sound like a categorical statement that you will never eat greasy food ever, and it might not sound like an objection to others wanting to do so either.

(Saying explicitly that you’re not judging anyone would probably make matters worse. “I’m not judging anyone but…” is usually the kind of thing people say to get away with saying judgmental things, similarly to “no offense but…”)

Generally speaking, people are a lot more willing to do something that will solve a problem if they don’t have to come up with the actual solution themselves.