Have you ever had a friend, family member, or co-worker that always seems to interfere every time you try to focus on a healthy eating plan??? It may go something like this: “Come on, loosen up,” “It’s just one night. What’s the big deal?”, “Seriously, one bite won’t kill you,” “You didn’t finish your meal. You didn’t like it?” It may also be a best friend or even spouse who always buys the unhealthy items and leaves them in the house, knowing it is hard for you to resist or breaks out the cookies when you’re eating your veggies. We all have willpower at times, but sometimes it is hard not to grab a few, especially when surrounding you all the time. We may refer to these individuals as “Food Pushers.” They may have your best interests at heart, but for some reason, they interfere with your success.
While they may not intentionally try to derail your weight loss or healthy eating plan, they can make it more difficult to accomplish your goals.
- They use food to show love. Perhaps they show their affection by preparing food, but some people want you to try their favorite dishes as a form of love.
- They are jealous and motivated to sabotage others. They might be seeing your weight loss and fitness successes and are attempting to derail your progress, sometimes without even knowing it.
- They love food and want to share it with others. Some people love food, cooking, and dining out and want to share it with those around them.
- They want approval and praise for their cooking skills. They may have prepared a proud dish and want you to taste test and approve of their cooking.
Negative peer pressure can take a toll on your mental health. When you start behaving in ways that undermine your core values, your self-esteem suffers, and you may start feeling like you are losing control over yourself and your life.
Tips on How to Say No
Be honest and talk to family and friends about your weight-loss efforts. For example, if get-togethers are always centered around food or meals, be honest about your goals and explain your boundaries. Also, if you are finished eating and are comfortably full, be open with your host, so they do not push more food on you.
Example: “I’m full now and just cannot fit another thing into my stomach. It’s all been so delicious, thank you!
- Stall Tactics:
If dessert starts making its way around the table, say something along the lines of, “I would, but right now I am stuffed, and I just wouldn’t enjoy it.” or “Maybe in a little while I will have some.” Then sit with everyone and sip on some tea or coffee.
- Eat Small Portions:
Try to anticipate what will be served or if dessert will be the main event (such as a birthday party). Refusing the birthday cake might be extra tricky, so try to eat a smaller portion of the higher-calorie items during your meal. Then take a small portion of the desert and take a few bites. Be sure to compliment the chef so they do not assume you don’t like the desert.
- Be Prepared:
Being prepared is one of the underlying tips throughout our course, and it holds even in this situation. Sometimes food pushers may be hoping you will fail at weight loss for whatever reason. They may feel like they want to sabotage your efforts because they are uncomfortable with your weight loss and how it makes them feel bad about their insecurities. This individual may feel even worse if they eat unhealthy food without you, so they push further. Being prepared for this type of behavior ahead of time is helpful for you to know how to respond in the moment.
- Say NO:
Whatever the cause is, you must be assertive (but not aggressive) and learn just to say No Thank You!
Try to thank and redirect in the moment. First, you want to thank the person for their offering. Then you turn them to what you want to eat. Never eat what you don’t want. Saying things like “Thanks, but I’m not hungry. I already ate” can also be extremely helpful.
- Stay Consistent:
Staying consistent with your response is crucial. For example, if someone asks 1,2, and on the 3rd time you cave, they know they can just keep asking you will eventually say yes.
- “It Doesn’t Agree with Me.”
So many people have a lot of food intolerances these days. You can always mention that food may not be sitting well with you lately, so you do not want to risk it. For example: “Thank you, but (dairy), pizza, lots of sugar, etc., doesn’t agree with my stomach, so I’m going to pass.” Then try to change the subject quickly to something that will engage your audience.
- “I’m Not Hungry”
This tactic works best if you stop at a friend’s house or say out socially, not necessarily if you are out for dinner. However, if a friend asks if you want something to eat, you can always smile and reply nicely by saying, “I just ate. I am not hungry right now but thank you,” and again quickly change the topic to something else. It’s hard to keep pushing food onto someone who isn’t hungry at all.
Other Ways to prepare yourself to deal with a food pusher by using these tactics:
- Find ways to spend time together that don’t revolve around food (walking, hiking, shopping, get tea/coffee, etc.)
- Bring your healthy snacks to social events.
- Pair up with like-minded people who also have healthy goals. (spend time discussing the importance of having a healthy community to support you with your goals)
- Don’t arrive at a food event hungry.