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How to say no to food pushers

By Lori Zaanteson

When you’re working hard to make healthy lifestyle changes, sometimes the people around you are a huge source of support and motivation. Sometimes, not so much. Maybe you have an aunt who brings you her famous banana bread when she visits – or a spouse who gets annoyed when you’d rather walk than watch TV after dinner.


Food pushers probably aren’t deliberately sabotaging you, so take a minute to help them understand your needs. Here are some ideas about how to talk about trying to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Make people aware of what they’re doing

Try bringing up the subject of food-pushing in a nonconfrontational way. Many times, their behavior isn’t intentional; for example, it simply may not have occurred to your aunt that her banana bread isn’t appropriate for someone who’s watching what he or she eats. Bringing the issue out into the open may be all that’s needed.

Consider the reasons behind their actions

A person who doesn’t seem supportive of your new lifestyle may be missing an activity you’re no longer able to share with them – say, the daily doughnut break. Talking about it can help, especially if you can come up with alternatives that accommodate you both – for instance, meeting your doughnut-break buddy for a daily walk instead of pastries.

Don’t let them hold you back

Some people in your life may not truly support your efforts. Perhaps the thought of you succeeding at your goals makes them feel threatened or inadequate. If you’re unable to resolve the problem, don’t let it hold you back. Focus instead on seeking the support you need from other sources.

Be kind but firm

When people offer a food and you reject it, they may feel like you’re rejecting them, too, so you need to be sensitive to that. If you’re offered something you’d rather not eat, choose phrases that acknowledge the person’s feelings, but still make your point: “That looks amazing, and I wish I had room, but I’m really enjoying the [insert other food here].” If you’re offered a second helping you don’t need, keeping your reply in the past tense gives your words a sense of finality: “It sure was delicious, but I’ve had enough.”

Practice, practice, practice

If you struggle with sticking to your healthy habits in certain situations, take some time ahead of the event to imagine what it will be like, being as specific as possible. Who will be there? What will be served? How will you act and what will you say? Rehearse as much as you need to, until you feel you can head into the festivities with confidence.


– EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.

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