There is a running joke in my family that you have failed as a host if you don’t offer your guests cheese and crackers. Going back as far as I can remember, my mother has always kept a block of cheese and box of crackers on hand, just in case an unexpected guest came knocking at the door. To this day, you cannot spend more than 10 minutes in her home without her offering (repeatedly) to cut up some cheese for you to snack on. In high school my friends’ favorite pastime was to goad my mom, waiting until she came within earshot to say loudly “Geez Steph, we’re so hungry. Why haven’t you offered us anything to eat yet?” Like clockwork, my mom would enter crisis mode – “Are you hungry? Let me get you something to eat. Steph, why didn’t you give them some cheese and crackers?!”
As tough as it is to navigate my mother’s food-pushing ways, I now understand that her tendencies come from a place of love. She wants to show that she can take care of her guests and that their comfort is important to her. I keep this thought in mind as I enter the holiday season, when it seems that every food pusher in my life comes out of the woodwork, determined to derail my mindful eating at every turn.
It can be particularly challenging to maintain your healthy eating momentum through the holidays, but not impossible. Remember that you are ultimately in control of what you eat and no food pusher has the right to change that. As you gear up for your holiday parties, and plan routes around the office to avoid the dessert-laden break room, keep these tips at the ready for your next food pusher encounter:
- Be confident and definitive when you say “no thank you” to a treat. Hesitate just a little and your friends and colleagues will take this as a cue to continue pushing. Avoid any hesitation by deciding ahead of time whether you are going to accept a treat or not.
- Be polite, but don’t feel guilty. You should feel no shame about wanting to stick to your goals.
People usually insist you try their food because they want to be complemented. You can indulge them without actually taking a bite by complementing their hard work, and having your reason ready.
First, the complement:
- “This must be the [fill in the blank] that everyone always raves about, but…”
- “It looks like you worked very hard on this, but…”
- “I’ve heard this dish is absolutely delicious, but…”
Then, the reason:
- “…I just don’t have room for any right now.”
- “…I cannot eat another drop of food.”
- “…I don’t eat [fill in an ingredient].”
- “…Everything else you made was delicious too.”
- “…This doesn’t fit in to my food plan for the day.”
Or say thank you and change the subject: “Thank you for offering…”
- “…now tell me about that new puppy of yours.”
- “…how’s the new job?”
- “…now who’s up for a walk outside!”
Most food pushers will give up here, and respect your decision to stop eating. Others can get a little passive aggressive when you turn down their food. I’ve had friends argue that it makes them feel guilty for eating a piece of pie/cake/cookie when I’ve just turned it down. My response? That’s on them. I tell them that it makes me feel guilty when they say that to me. I remind my friends that I’m not judging them for eating whatever the treat is – I just don’t want to eat it, and they shouldn’t make me feel guilty about it.
At the end of the day, remind the food pusher that your choice to turn down their food has nothing to do with them and the food they made; it has everything to do with you and your goals. If they are a truly supportive friend or family member, they should understand that and stop pushing. Of course it is also completely okay to accept the treat you are being offered! Just be sure to eat it mindfully, and don’t overdo it.
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