For many people, social environment can make or break a diet.
Food is a very social concept.
The choices we make are often impacted by those around us: what they’re eating, how much they’re eating, and how they respond to our choices can positively or negatively impact our weight and health.
Food-Pushers are people who, for whatever reason, offer or “force” foods or portions that are not aligned with your needs and preferences.
Food-Pushers are usually well-intentioned, but are often aware how awkward their advances may be for you.
To deflect a food pusher, it’s important to understand how a “people-pleasing” personality may leave you feeling especially vulnerable to food-pushers, and how to say no when the occasion calls for it.
Stop People Pleasing
People pleasers are especially likely to give into food-pushers. people pleasers are those who consistently engage in activities or perform favors for others to elicit a positive reactions, despite not inherently wanting to perform said task.
People-pleasers often overestimate the effect that their actions have on others: they assume that declining a slice of cake or a second round of drinks will irreparably damage that person’s self esteem or perception of their relationship.
Susan Newman, Ph.D, who has written a book on the topic of people-pleasing, notes that people pleasers “want everyone around them to be happy and they will do whatever is asked of them to keep it that way. They put everyone else before themselves. They don’t want to be seen as lazy, uncaring, selfish, or egocentric.”
It’s important to remember that turning down food is not an offense punishable by social banishment- you’re very unlikely to offend someone in a way that would compromise a relationship or their overall perception of you.
Unfortunately, some people do need to be told more than once.
In response, use the same verbiage each time- your statements needn’t be identical, but repeating the same message eventually shuts down the food pusher.
“Thanks for offering, but I’m watching my weight.”
“A little slice, then?”
“Thanks for offering, but no.”
“Just a teeny tiny one?”
“Thank for offering, but, again, no.”
Using words like ‘again’ or phrases like ‘as I said before’ help remind the asker that you’ve already responded once, and that the polite thing to do is respect your answer.
Don’t Keep it a Secret
Dietary preferences and goals are nothing to be ashamed of, and communicating your goals gives the other person a chance to support you.
If Aunt Mildred wants to serve you a heap of potato salad at the family picnic, or a coworker offers a plate of brownies, decline politely and state your intentions:
“Thank you for offering, but I’m not eating that sort of thing right now.”
“I appreciate your offer, but that doesn’t quite fit into my diet.”
“Thanks, but none for me, please! I’m trying to manage my weight.”
The majority of people are happy to comply by not pushing the subject any further.
If they do push further, (“A little won’t hurt you!”), simplify your response but repeat the same message.
“Thanks again, but none for me, please.”
For the people that you live with, it is especially important to make your intentions known, understood, and respected.
Partners and children play a crucial role in supporting a dietary habit.
If you’re currently buying treats and snacks for children that don’t align with your diet- stop- they don’t need the extra sugar any more than you do.
One treat per week is plenty. When you grocery shop for the week, make it known that only one sweet treat or snack item will be purchased beyond fruit, vegetables, or other items that fit into a health balanced diet.
One bag/box is plenty for a family of 4-6: any more is excessively unhealthy and tempting.
As for your partner, he or she should be allowed to eat however they wish: they are an adult, and should be awarded the same graces you wish for yourself- in this case, dietary choice.
However, as your partner, they should also support your goals, and it’s your responsibility to let them know how to do that.
You alone are capable of communicating your needs- it’s impossible for another person to occupy your heads or read your thoughts.
Tell your partner your intentions, plan, and goals. Let them know what you need from them in order to succeed, and areas you would like to be supported.
“I’m trying to lose the weight I’ve put on since we’ve gotten married. It’s important for me to be healthy and feel good about myself. I’d really appreciate it if you would either eat what I eat or prepare your own food so that I don’t have to prepare two meals. I would really like it if we could find some things we could prepare together so that we aren’t eating two separate meals for the rest of our lives.”
“I appreciate that you think I am beautiful, but my weight is affecting my health and confidence. I’m going to start counting Calories, and it would help me if we didn’t eat out so much. What do you think about cooking at home more?”
Ultimately, remember this: food pushers are often the people we love the most. They want you to be happy.
Letting your loved ones know how they can love and support you is a pivotal step in your journey, even if it means leaving telling them (once, twice, three- really?) more than once.
If you find that you and your loved ones are struggling to find a healthy dynamic between food and family, a therapist may help you resolve underlying tensions and create a plan to support your long-term goals and wellbeing.