The holidays are a time when family and friends gather together, and food is usually a huge part of the celebration. For most people, there is often at least one person in their life who tries to push them to eat. These are often well-meaning relatives who use food to show they care or people who need you to eat more to justify their own food choices. Even if they have nothing but the best intentions, their persistence can stir up an uncomfortable situation.
In social situations that include foods that you don’t want to eat – or foods that don't align with your current goals – you should be able to feel secure and confident honoring your choices. Using these three steps, you can navigate the situation gracefully, without stressing yourself out, hurting anyone’s feelings, or making anyone feel uncomfortable about their own food choices.
The three steps to politely declining food are to: give a compliment, give a reason and thank them, and then change the subject. Let's go through some examples...
STEP 1 – Give them a compliment
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…
STEP 2 – Give a reason and thank them
…This doesn’t fit into my food plan for the day. Thanks, anyway (honesty)
…right now, I am stuffed! Maybe I'll have some later, thank you. (delay/stall)
…I would just like to try a little bit. Just one small piece, thank you. (smaller portions)
...I'm so full. I would like to take some home if there is any leftover? (to-go)
STEP 3 – Change the Subject
Now, tell me about that new puppy of yours.
Now, 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 an item of food saying it will make them feel guilty for eating it. If that happens, explain that it makes you feel guilty when they say that to you. Remind your friends that you're not judging them for eating whatever the treat is – you 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 food has nothing to do with them (or 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 food you are being offered, if you do want to eat it. If you don't want to eat it, be firm and stick to your guns. No one but you is in control of your own behavior, so don't let pressure from anyone else sway you from your working towards your goals.
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