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July 01, 2019 2 min read

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

When you’re trying to stick to a certain way of eating, it can be tough when friends and family try to pressure you into eating things that don’t align with your plan. How do you balance sticking to your guns while maintaining a good relationship with the “food pushers”? Try these strategies to help you deal. 

Be Open About Your Diet Changes

Sometimes food pushers may not understand your specific dietary restrictions, habits or the work that you’re doing to manage your health. If a family member, friend or coworker asks why you’re not eating a particular food, try to guide the conversation to focus on the positive effects you’ve had in your life from making dietary changes. Opening up about your experience may broaden your support system and inspire others to make changes of their own.

Express Your Appreciation For Their Food

Food may be how loved ones and acquaintances show how they care about you, and a rejection of food may appear to be a rejection of their relationship with you. Express that you appreciate the food that they prepare for you and that you understand it might be hurtful when you decline certain foods. Follow this conversation with other foods options you can eat or other gestures you appreciate from them that don’t involve food.

Creatively Decline

There are many ways to say no to foods without saying no directly. Phrases you can use to satisfy food pushers include: “I’m sorry, but I ate before I got here”; “I’m so full from eating [other food] that I don’t have room for more”; or “I’ll have some later, or take something home with me.” However, a polite yet firm “no, thank you,” usually works in a pinch.

Change the Subject

An effective way to take someone’s mind off your plate is to bring their attention to something else. After declining a food offer, immediately bring up a subject that is interesting to the food pusher. This may be about a recent trip, current events, accomplishments or other life events. Chances are they will forget about offering you more food and you can enjoy a pleasant conversation. 

Collaborate on Foods You Can Eat

Depending on the gathering you’re going to, you may be able to put in some food requests ahead of time so that you can eat comfortably. Or offer to make a healthy dish or healthier version of a beloved dish for everyone to try. If you’re unable to give input in advance, bring up recipes or considerations for diet restrictions that can make future outings more inclusive and comfortable for all guests.

There may still be people who are dismissive of your dietary habits and try to push food on you, and that’s okay. This can be a starting point for a larger conversation about relationships with food, resistance to change, autonomy and being supportive.

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