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Saying "NO": Managing Food Pushers

By Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | November 18, 2015

Food Pusher: “Oh honey, do you need some more potatoes?”
You: “No, thank you.”
Food Pusher: “What? You didn’t like them?”
You: “Oh no, they were delicious! I’m just full, thank you.”
Food Pusher: “Well, it wouldn’t hurt you to have a little more.”
You: “Haha, yes I know. But I am truly full right now. Everything was so delicious. I can’t wait until our next meal together!”

Why do food pushers push? We use food for many reasons in our society. Presenting food to someone says, “I love you, and I want to make you happy.” Food can also be a means of control, comfort, sabotage, celebration, and many other emotional or environmental-based reasons. Keeping this in mind can help you stand your ground when you encounter these situations.

So, how do you deal with grandma at Thanksgiving (I love you grandma!)? Here’s what you do:

1. Praise the dish “Wow, that looks amazing! It’s absolutely beautiful”

“It smells fantastic! What’s your secret? How did you get it to brown so evenly?”

“I’ve tried making (insert food) so many times, but it NEVER looks like that!”

2. Thank and state your reason for decline “Thank you so much for the offer, but I am just so full right now!”

“Oh thank you! It looks delicious, but actually, I just found out I’m allergic to sugar. . . “

“Thanks! Unfortunately, high fat, high calorie foods make my thighs swell, so I have to keep those to a minimum this year.”

3. Praise again and ask for the recipe “All of the food was so delicious! Could I have the recipe for (insert dish) to take home?”

“You are the BEST cook! Would you mind sharing the recipe for (insert dish) with me?”

“Have you ever thought about opening your own restaurant? I’d love to have the recipe for (insert dish).”

4. Take it “home”

If they still won’t let up, ask if you could take a piece home with you so you can enjoy it when you’re hungry later. Still maintain the same reason for decline (above). Then, once you leave the house with said item, you have a choice. You can definitely take it home; enjoy it when you are hungry. If it’s not your favorite anyway, you have many options: give it to a family member or friend (But only one who wants it! Don’t become the food pusher in this situation.), take it to work, or discard of it once you’ve left.

5. Know your rights

You have the right to remain silent. You don’t have to give any more information other than “no” or “no thank you”.

You have the right to go all in. Don’t decline a food if you don’t want to. Enjoy food and the social atmosphere that revolve around it.

You have the right to be assertive. Say what you need and what you don’t need. They can’t read your mind, so just say it.

You have the right to practice being assertive. Try using these arguments in the mirror, saying them out loud. Practice with a good friend or family member. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be.

You have the right to be vulnerable. If you feel comfortable telling people why you’ve chosen to stop eating, go ahead and tell them. But be aware that the outcome of being vulnerable is unknown.

You have the right to remove yourself. If the food pusher is too much to handle, excuse yourself for a bathroom break. Maybe you forgot something in the car that you just remembered. Leaving can help them forgot their food pushing motive.

You have the right to honor yourself. Make the decisions you want to make, and own that decision. Don’t blame others for what you do or don’t eat. Don’t worry what others think or if they judge you. You are an individual and have the right to act as one.

If you’ve recently made a change, your friends and family will still expect the same person to make the same decisions as before. It can be difficult to change that perception. Stay consistent in your responses, hold true to yourself, and after enough time, they will accept the “new you”.
With or without the cake :)