How To Say NO To A Food Pusher!

CoachMel Healthy Eating 22 Comments

You know how it goes, your favorite aunt Bessy means well, she really does, but her food pushing does little for your healthy diet plan…

Just a little piece,” she’ll say, wafting her delicious, freshly baked brownies under your nose. “You can’t live on lettuce forever” — you’re feeling tempted — “How about a little of my apple pie?” she says looking a little downhearted. “Come on, it’s your favorite!”

You’ve been there, right? But, what should you do?

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You don’t want to offend, but you’ve been so good, and that innocent looking piece of pie could send you right off your diet… again!

Ugh, it’s a tough one.

Food pushers are everywhere, whether it’s your weekly Sunday dinner at the in-laws, or those special birthday celebrations. They’re difficult to avoid, and almost impossible to say no to.

You’ll know that recently I asked you to share your biggest challenges with me. Thank you so much for your responses so far. You’ve really given me some great ideas.

So today, I wanted to address one of those great questions. It’s from Sharon, here’s what she said:

Simply keeping motivation to say no to that one extra not-so-healthy-thing too many, especially when not in my own home. It’s all very well choosing a healthy option over pizza at home, but when you visit some well-meaning friends and family, who set it in front of you and then say “You’ll have a bit of cake – we bought it especially for you.” what do you do?

I feel your pain, Sharon. But, this situation doesn’t have to lead to overeating.

Being diplomatic — not hurtful — about how you “no,” is the key!

Here are 3 ways to say no to a food pusher:

1. Honesty is the best policy!

Not always easy, but talking to your family and friends about what you’re trying to achieve is important.

This will help them to understand that you haven’t suddenly developed an aversion to their fab blueberry muffins, it’s just that you’re committed to your weight-loss efforts, and you really want to give it a go this time.

2. Stall a little

Dessert can be difficult to say no to. And, it usually makes it’s way around the table soon after dinner, before your stomach has had the chance to register just how full you really are.

So, by holding back for a while, you’ll be in a better position to assess just how much, if any, you can eat, and you’ll probably find if you do have some dessert after, you’ll be happy to eat a lot less.

Just say something like, “Maybe I’ll have some in a little while, I’m too full right now.

Then, divert the conversation to something else, if they’re still not getting the point.

After a break, you may find your craving for something sweet has passed, and it’ll be much easier to give a firm no to the offer later on.

3. Portion control

If there’s something on offer that you’d really like to try, have it… just eat a smaller amount than you normally would.

Enjoy each mouthful, complement the chef on their delicious cooking, just remember to say no to any offer of seconds.

When a food pusher is around, you need to be assertive, not aggressive, when you are saying no to them.

Mostly, they don’t actually mean to sabotage your diet with their food pushing, but you need to stand your ground regardless.

Remember, it’s your health. Make it your top priority. Take control of the situation, before it controls you.

What are your tips for avoiding a food pusher?

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Comments 22

  1. Sue

    Politely declining fattening food…..
    I have been known to ask the host if I could take a portion home, as I’m too full at present. and can appreciate it more on a less full stomach. No-one has yet been negative about this and it also means that if I chose to have something sweet it’s there if I want to have a little bit at a time.

    1. Melanie

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for your comment, it’s good to know people have been positive about your request… it can work, if done in a nice way 😉

  2. Anita

    Melanie – I love this post. Such good advice. So many people feel they will be ostrecised for refusing something that’s offered to them.

    I come from Bulgaria (I haven’t lived there for over 15 years now) and our customs are such that people are always exceeding expectations and stomach capacities when it comes to being good hosts.

    So it was a big struggle for me to get people to understand why I say no to the extra bits. I think the tip that most resonates with me from your advice is “Remember, it’s your health. Make it your top priority. Take control of the situation, before it controls you.”

    1. Melanie

      Hi Anita,
      I know what you mean. We have people like that in our own family too… I love them dearly, but it’s very difficult to refuse their delicious food without offending — otherwise you end up like a stuffed turkey!!! 🙂


    Great suggestions, Melanie. I like the advice to ask for a piece to take home. It gives you complete control while not offending the host. I think it is hard to argue with “No, thanks, I am just too full.” It seems to work every time I use it. If you honestly want some, I love your suggestion to have a small portion and savor it. I have found that by doing this I am usually satisfied with 2-3 bites.
    .-=´s last blog ..Sally Fallon Explains The Traditional Healthy Diet =-.

    1. Melanie

      It’s all in your mind-set — if you’re determined to make something work, no amount of “pushing” from someone else will affect you.

  4. Rick

    One strategy that I use is to eat a little of everything. Any avid cook wants you to try every dish he or she makes. They care little about the amount you eat but want to hear your praises about everything they do.

    So, simply eat a little from everything. Tell them how good it is and you’ll be fine.

    1. Melanie

      Hi Rick,
      That’s a good point, I certainly know myself that when I make a big meal, it’s nice for people to try it all. Thanks for sharing your advice!

  5. Vicki

    Great article. I have that with my grandmother. She is not malicious or trying to spoil my efforts in any way and I know that she truly means well. She is in her late eighties and grew up in a generation where people didn’t diet, and she lived through rationing in WW2 (I am from the UK in case anyone isn’t getting the reference). She grew up eating fried breakfasts, big heavy dinners, steamed puddings and homemade cakes, but wasn’t overweight as she walked four miles each way to the shops and work everyday and everything like laundry, baking, growing veg and housework had to be done by hand with limited labour saving devices, so she probably used up a lot of calories. She truly doesn’t understand dieting. I have to work hard to convince her that people will not starve to death if they go 30 minutes without food. I try to stay patient with her but it does become a battle ground when I visit, as she doesn’t understand why I can’t eat a big dinner and then want another light meal less than an hour later, and doesn’t understand why I try to chose fruit over cakes, biscuits, fruit pies and pastries.

    1. Melanie

      Hi Vicki,
      I am from the UK too, so I know exactly what you mean about the cakes, biscuits, etc. Here in Northern Ireland, it seems few can go without a biscuit along with a cup of tea, lol. Your grandma sounds wonderful, though, it’s so precious to have that generation of people in our lives.

  6. Margaret

    Dear Melanie,
    Thanks so much for the site. Love Sue’s idea, I’ll have to give it a go.
    If you know beforehand you are dealing with a food pusher I find it easier to immediately ask for a half serve, and then have only a small bite. If you really don’t want any, cause once you start you can’t stop, cross your fingers, and say “it gives you horrible wind”. This really works. Ta, Marg.

  7. Maddy

    this is so true, my biggest weakness is to turn down bad food because i do not want to offend the person offering it to me, the other thing is if one of my friends are eating bad food and they want me to have it too i find it very hard not to as i would make them feel awful and guilty. the thing is when i do turn it down i try and be very polite about it but all i get is their eyes rolled as if too say oh you have no fun sometimes.. but i just find when i eat bad food it sure does make me feel guilty as when i start i don’t stop : i don’t know how to say no any other way unless i sneakily throw it away : haha

    1. Melanie

      It’s definitely difficult to say no to friends and family when they react like that. And, we’ve all experienced it in the past. Sounds like you’ve got a good resolve, though, well done!

  8. Mary

    I have a friend with whom i meet for coffee every so often. I try to keep my consumption of donuts and pastries as low as possible. I do have my moments of weakness and I don’t deprive myself so when I can so “no”, it’s no. My friend will try and try to get me to eat something with her. She will ask me over and over again what I think the healthiest item is. There is NOTHING healthy in a donut shop! She will often still get an extra of what she is eating and say she already bought it for me. Today she went and got a whole box of 20 donut holes for us to have with coffee. I thanked her and declined as usual. I know she does this out of kindness and that we are brought up to always offer food. I’ve tried too tell her i try to watch my weight. Because she is heavier than me, she rolls her eyes and has told me several times she hates it when I talk like that and don’t that I have any to worry about. Not to sound selfish…I used to feel bad, but not so much anymore. I would need larger clothes if I said yes to her very time.

    1. Melanie

      Mary, you have done so well to keep saying no to your friend. It must be extremely difficult, but hopefully your good influence will rub of eventually on your friend 🙂

  9. Cara

    I truly despise food pushers. They make me feel weird, rude, insecure and alienated. I’m a size 0 5’1 marathon running vegetarian for ten years and most likely until I die kinda gal. I have severe acid reflux and stress starving issues. Obvious stress starving as in, when I am stressed it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to want food. In fact the thought makes me grossed out when my stomach is upside down. Also with my acid reflux and marathon running, fried food, desserts and alcohol….anything delicious pretty much is off limits. I feel like aside from being rude there’s literally no way to not sound gross by saying “sorry I have a small stomach and if I eat too much it is guaranteed that I will vomit…..the food you just pushed on me.” I also can’t say but so dearly want to, (and OH TRUST ME i feel this, even with my own family)”Do you not see how tiny and and in shape I am. Clearly it is because I’m not eating that shit, not regularly, not ever. Sorry. I like being hot. Also don’t lecture me about middle age because my mom is a size two and three inches taller than me so clearly I can remain skinny and hot even in my 50’s” ….I’d probably get dirty looks but to my defense, it is very hard to not let my anger out. I don’t judge larger people so when I feel I am being judged back ….and I do with food pushers….I get defensive and enraged at larger food-lovers.

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