BLOG “No thanks, I don’t want any more”

A woman declines a slice of cake

Ten strategies for pushing back food pushers when trying to manage your weight.

More than a billion people are living with obesity around the world. Living with obesity puts people at risk for many medical conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, sleep apnoea and mental health conditions.

Holidays are known to be a time when we find it more difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Holiday periods are a time to relax and enjoy being with friends and family, but many of us tend to overindulge and are less physically active. During the holidays, family and friends often want us to eat and drink more with them. High calorie food such as chocolate, cakes, treats, and alcohol are all around us. Consequently, people often gain extra weight during holidays periods that they then find difficult to lose.

Many people will have family, friends and colleagues who say things like “come on, it’s just one more piece,” “have one more for the road,” “I’ll have another slice if you do,” or “but I made this especially for you." This is what is known as a food pusher, and it can be harder to stick to your weight loss goals if you have a food pusher in your midst. Dealing with food pushers can also be uncomfortable because they can make you feel guilty, and it can be easier to give in than to resist them.

If you find it difficult to say 'no' to food pushers, here are ten strategies to help you.

  1. Hold your ground: you and your health goals are more important than the feelings of someone who isn’t putting your health first.  The more you stick to your food boundaries the more they will accept that “no means no.”
  2. Learn your lines: think of some simple phrases and keep saying them frequently - keep saying lines such as “no, thank you I’m full now,” or “I don’t want anymore, but thanks for asking.“ Food pushers will eventually realise there is no point in pushing you.
  3. Practice makes perfect: saying ‘no, thank you’ to food pushers is a skill that needs to be developed and with frequent practice it will get easier and more comfortable over time.
  4. Love me, not my food: food is a way in which people express love, or that they care about you. Because food is a love language for many people it can make it particularly difficult to say 'no.' If the food pusher is close to you, then you might express that if they love you, they will understand your decisions. 
  5. Don’t justify or explain: you don’t owe it to food pushers to explain why you don’t want to eat. In fact, if you try to justify your decisions, it opens the door for them to persuade you to give in.
  6. Honesty is the best policy: you might decide to explain your health or weight loss goals, and that you need support, not sabotage. It is entirely acceptable to put your health needs first over the feelings of others. If you are eating out and you know there is a food pusher in the group, you might decide to share your goals before you go so your position is clear.
  7. Stand tall: don't be afraid to stand up for your health. It’s up to you to look after your health and relationship with food. Sometimes you have to say 'no' to food pushers so that you have room for the things you have decided for yourself that you would like to eat.
  8. Take a (guilt) trip: it might be that you need to consider guilt tripping the food pusher into backing off with something like “I want to be careful with what eat, and I need you on my side.”
  9. Turn it around: sometimes food pushers want you to eat so that they can feel less guilty about their own unhealthy choices. Try to avoid conversations where you get into lengthy debate about your food decisions. Manoeuvre attention away from your decisions about what you are (not) eating, and encourage the food pusher to focus on their decisions.
  10. Boxing it: politely decline food that is being pushed on you and suggest that a portion is boxed up for you to take home to eat when you feel less full, or to share with others at another time. We can often feel guilty about wasting food so you could freeze it for another day.

Professor Amanda Daley

Professor of Behavioural Medicine and Centre Director

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