I went to visit my family in Grosse Ile, Michigan for the holidays.

Usually, when I travel to visit friends or family, I get a little concerned about the food situation. The concern is heightened right now because I’m still on the autoimmune protocol (AIP), which means even some “healthy” foods are off limits. Even in a paleo-friendly world, the no grains, no eggs, no nuts, and no tomatoes makes for a challenging dining experience. While I can almost always find something to eat, I do get self-conscious about being that friend who can’t eat anything.

The situation with my family is different, though.

My family has seen me through the ugliest part of my autoimmune disease, and they’ve seen the way I’ve learned to use food as medicine. They’ve seen the difference it’s made in my energy, my health, and even my attitude, and they are crazy supportive. (My sister was actually the one who suggested I try my first round of the autoimmune protocol.)

So when I packed my bags to head to Michigan this past holiday season, I knew the fridge would be stocked with non-nightshade vegetables and bone broth would be simmering on the stove. I knew my mom would carefully research the trendiest new healthy restaurant where I could most definitely find something to eat, which is why I didn’t have any excuse to delay my strict, therapeutic, elimination diet until the end of pie season.

That is how I found myself sitting at the table with my family at one of Detroit’s trendiest, healthiest restaurants. The menu was full of high-quality, healthy ingredients, the ambiance was cozy yet modern and fresh. I loved everything about it, but I couldn’t find anything I could eat there. Even the seemingly harmless brussels sprouts came out with parmesan cheese and pine nuts on top.

It was frustrating, to say the least.

Even after all these years of studying the psychology of eating and acting as my own experiment, I’m always taken back by how emotional eating can be. In a matter of moments, I went from excited to frustrated. In a matter of a few more moments, I went from resentful to resolute.

The excited, frustrated, and resentful are self-explanatory feelings, given the situation, but let me tell you about the resolute.

As I reflected on the frustration of that evening and the resentment of missing out, I remembered the often-forgotten truth that we get to choose between the short-term satisfaction and the long-term goal.

My goal is to feel light, free, and energized.
I want to enjoy the thrill of adventure the respite of reading on the couch without discomfort.
I want to run around and play with my future-children whenever they want.

But sometimes—when faced with a plate of warm, crispy, cheese-and-pine-nut-sprinkled brussels sprouts, I forget this.

The short-term satisfaction is all I can see, and I forget that—at this stage in my protocol—a single serving of parmesan cheese sets me back.

True confession: I ate the brussels sprouts that night.

(For those of you wondering what the big deal is about eating brussels sprouts, check out my original post about why I am on AIP.)

I don’t have any regrets about eating the brussels sprouts.

I spent years working to repair my relationship with food. I spent years erasing the “bad” foods list from the depths of psyche and learning to enjoy delicious meals around communal tables. I spent years developing the habit of enjoying food, rather than resisting it and letting it stress me out, and this is a good habit that has served me well for the last few years.

It just doesn’t serve me right now.

Right now, my body needs to heal so I can achieve the big Goals in my life.

Right now, I need an anti-inflammatory diet.

Right now, I need to follow the plan.

When I travel, I make a few strategic moves to accommodate myself. (The brussels sprouts incident was a good reminder that this applies when I travel to see my family as well!)

I review my goals and my progress before I head out on my trip.
Having the big picture at the forefront of my thoughts makes me so much more likely to pause and think about what I’m eating and why I’m eating it.

I order AIP-approved meals and have them delivered to my destination.
Knowing I will have something delicious to eat eliminates any anxiety about what I’ll eat or if I’ll eat. If I know I have something to look forward to when I get home, I’m more likely to pass on the food that doesn’t fit into the protocol.

I know what I’m going to say if things get awkward.
There is always a well-intentioned friend who tells saying, “it’s just brussels sprouts, it’s fine,” or the cousin who tells you “you’re making me feel bad about myself with that diet of yours.” If I anticipate it and prepare for it, I’m less likely to be influenced, and I can seize the opportunity to share my big Goals with my friends and family.

I do the research before I dine out.
My friends and family are so good about researching and choosing restaurants with great options, but AIP is very strict. Ingredients that are healthy under normal circumstances, like eggplant, are a no-go on the protocol. If I do the research, I can make sure I get to enjoy the meal with everyone.

How do you handle it when you’re making different food choices than your people? Leave a comment!