It doesn’t have to be a Food Fight with Food PushersNovember 18, 2014
Chances are there has been a situation where you have felt pressured into eating something that you didn’t want to because either a friend or loved one convinced you that you should have just one, or 20. This is what we like to refer to as a food pusher. Someone who encourages or pressures you to eat something even if you had no intention of eating in the first place.
Food pushers range from well-intentioned loved ones to total diet saboteurs. Regardless of their motivation, it’s important to stick to your guns. You can always be honest and say that you’re simply trying to eat healthier, but if that response gets ignored (or doesn’t come easily), the following retorts to their food-forcing ways will keep you in control of what goes on your plate and in your mouth!
The Push: “It’s my specialty, you have to try it!”
Your Response: “I will in a bit!”
Why It Works: Stalling is a great tactic with food pushers. Odds are the offender won’t follow you around making sure you actually try the dish. If they catch up with you by the end of the party to ask what you thought, tell them that it slipped your mind but you’ll be sure to try it next time.
The Push: “This [insert name of high-calorie dish] is my favorite. You’ll love it!”
Your Response: “I had some already–so delicious!”
Why It Works: A white lie in this situation isn’t going to hurt anybody. You’ll get out of eating food you don’t want or need, and the food pusher will have gotten a compliment on what probably is a delicious dish.
The Push: “It’s just once a year!”
Your Response: “But I’ll probably live to celebrate more holidays if I stick with my diet plan!”
Why It Works: People can sometimes see healthy eating as vain–a means to the end result of losing weight and looking better. It’s harder for a food pusher to argue with you if you bring attention to the fact that you eat right and exercise for better health and a longer life. Looking good just happens to be a side effect!
The Push: “Looks like someone is obsessed with dieting...”
Your Response: “I wouldn’t say obsessed, but I am conscious of what I eat.”
Why It Works: Words like “food snob” or obsessed” are pretty harsh when they’re thrown around by food pushers. But don’t let passive-aggressive comments like this bring you down or make you veer away from your good eating intentions. Acknowledging your willpower and healthy food choices might influence others to be more conscious of what they eat. Sometimes you just have to combat food pushers with a little straightforward kindness.
The Push: “If you don’t try my dish, I’m just going to have to force you to eat it!”
Your Response: “Sorry, but I don’t like (or can’t eat) [insert ingredient here].”
Why It Works: It’s hard to argue with someone’s personal food preferences. If someone doesn’t like an ingredient whether its sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or butter, odds are that he or she hasn’t liked it for a very long time. If you’d like to get creative with this one, go into detail about how you got sick on the ingredient as a kid or how your mom says you always threw it across the room as a baby. Who can argue with that?
The Push: “You need some meat on your bones.”
Your Response: “Trust me, I’m in no danger of wasting away!”
Why It Works: This food push is definitely on the passive-aggressive side. Using humor to fight back will defuse any tension while making it clear where you stand.
The Push: “One bite isn’t going to kill you.”
Your Response: “I know, but once you pop you can’t stop! And I’m sure it’s so delicious I wouldn’t be able to stop!”
Why It Works: This is another situation where humor will serve to distract the food pusher from his or her mission. It’s a way to say “thanks, but no thanks” while making it clear that you’re not interested in overindulging.
The Push: “But it’s your favorite!”
Your Response: “I think I’ve overdosed on it; I just can’t eat it anymore!”
Why It Works: If you have a favorite holiday dish that everyone knows you love, it can be especially tough to escape this push. If a loved one made the dish specifically for you, the guilt can be enough to push you over the edge. But people understand that food preferences change, and most have been in that situation of enjoying a dish so much that they can’t touch it for awhile.
The Push: [Someone puts an extra helping on your plate without asking.]
Your Response: Push it around with your fork like you did as a kid to make it look like you tried it.
Why It Works: While putting food on some- one else’s plate can be viewed as passive- aggressive, it was probably done with love. (Let’s hope!) Making it look like you ate a bite or two can be an easy way out of the situation, but you can also just leave it alone and claim that you’ve already had your fill. (After all, you didn’t add that extra helping!)
The Push: “Have another drink!”
Your Response: “I have to drive.”
Why It Works: No one will argue with the fact that you want to drive home sober. If they do, you should have no qualms walk- ing away from the conversation, period. If they offer a place for you to stay, you can always get out of the situation by blaming an early morning commitment or the fact that you need to get home to let the dog out. Kids will also get you out of everything.
These tactics can work wonders in social situations, but honesty is sometimes the best policy. A simple “No, thank you” is hard for a food pusher to beat, especially if it’s repeated emphatically.
But what if the pusher is someone in your home like a spouse or partner? Ask them to please enjoy the treats outside the house when you are not around.
And what if your partner loves to cook? Ask them to nurture you and show their love other than through food. Let them know that preparing healthy foods - even healthier versions of the family’s favorite comfort foods - is a great way to show their love while supporting your health goals!
ABOUT THE AUTHORNicole Marino is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) at Carolinas Weight Management, part of Carolinas HealthCare System. She counsels medical and surgical patients, performs surgical pre-operative evaluations and testing as well as facilitates medical and surgical support groups. Ms. Marino has many years of counseling experience in working with adult and adolescents. She is a Member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) as well as a member of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis.