With the holidays this weekend, a common topic that’s come up recently with my 1:1 coaching gals is how to handle food pushers in social situations. It can be challenging to deal with friends or family members who try to push foods that we simply prefer not to eat or foods that don’t align with our current fitness goals.
Many of my clients are working on treating holidays just like any other day of the year and not as an excuse to go overboard/all out with eating. However, dealing with food pushers in the midst of these efforts can definitely feel frustrating! Some food pushers can be handled with a simple no thank you, but others can be a bit more insistent and take a little more strategizing to get them off your case. I’m sure you might even have someone in your family who comes to mind who acts like this, haha!
My #1 strategy for dealing with food pushers is with something I call “no thanks, now change the subject.”
“No thanks, now change the subject” involves responding confidently to food pushers with a firm “no thank you,” and then immediately asking an open-ended question that has nothing to do with food.
This changes the original topic and gets the attention off of you and the food being pushed, which is key. People love talking about themselves, so this strategy almost always works, and using it helps me feel more comfortable and confident while simultaneously honoring my food choices.
In case there are any food pushers at your holiday gatherings this weekend, I’ve provided a few different scenarios below so you can see how the “no thanks, now change the subject” approach might pan out, as well as some other responses you can keep in your back pocket just in case.
Hopefully these help you handle any uncomfortable situations gracefully and with #stressfreefitness in mind!
Four Common Food Pusher Plays + Your Response Under Pressure
Pusher Play #1:
“It’s a holiday! Just eat what you want. Can’t you just let loose for one day?”
In this scenario, you have a couple of options.
First, you can laugh it off and simply say “oh, I’ve definitely let loose!” or “I do eat what I want, but I’m okay for now, thank you.” That will usually do the trick.
Another approach to the “just let loose” comment is to talk about something you’ve done recently to celebrate the holidays that has nothing to do with food.
“Yeah, I’ve been trying to let loose this year by not getting so stressed out about everything! My husband and I actually just spent a day in the city last weekend walking around the holiday shops and grabbing some drinks. I left everything undone that day – that’s definitely letting loose for me! Tell me about any festive activities you guys have done this year.”
Finally, ONLY if the food pusher keeps giving you a hard time, you may want to consider explaining that you actually eat what you want every day and have been really working on approaching your health with a non-deprivation philosophy. Nothing is off-limits to you every day of the year, and it’s because of this way of eating that you don’t feel the need to let loose and go all out just because it’s a holiday. It might be uncomfortable to say at first, but again, simply say it with confidence and conviction, and then immediately change the subject with your open-ended question.
Pusher Play #2:
“Oh, just eat the pie. You’re making ME feel guilty for eating it!”
This is a perfect example of how people tend to project their own feelings about food on to others. It might seem like this type of comment is about you or that the food pusher is criticizing your decisions, but in reality, the food pusher likely has some sort of unresolved issue or underlying insecurity that’s coming into play.
In this scenario, if a firm no thank you doesn’t work, I’ll try to show empathy and use it as a teaching opportunity, followed immediately with that open-ended question of course.
“I understand. I struggled with food guilt for years, but now when I do choose to have a treat, I make sure it’s a mindful decision so it’s really worth it to me and I don’t have to beat myself up afterwards. I have some go to resources that really helped me with this if you are interested! What kind of health bloggers do you follow, any?”
This is a tough one, but at the end of the day, how someone else feels about his or her own eating is not your responsibility. You can always tell the food pusher you are more than happy to chat about this on another day, but would prefer not to in the middle of the holiday party.
Pusher Play #3:
“But you LOVE cupcakes. I made these especially for you!”
This one can be TOUGH, especially if you are navigating your in laws or people you don’t want to offend. In this situation, I will again default to the no thank you. If that doesn’t work, I’ll simply say that I’m feeling a little full right now, but I’m looking forward to having said later. Then? Open ended question for the subject change.
“I do love these cupcakes! They look delicious. I’m feeling full at the moment, but I can’t wait to try one later when I have a little more room to really enjoy it. By the way, these cupcake liners are super cute. Where did you get them!?”
Done. If you do feel like whatever you are turning down is about to cause a conflict, I suggest asking if you can take some home with you for later and then do as you please with the food once you get home.
Pusher Play #4:
“But you are so skinny / work out all the time / could afford to eat a little more / are a health nut!”
Honestly, guys, I hate these types of comments most of all! Mostly because I really do not appreciate any unwarranted comments about my body and/or habits. However, this is another example of how someone might be projecting their own body image or health behavior issues onto you.
In this scenario if the no thank you doesn’t work, don’t get defensive about the word “skinny” or the like. Instead, saying something about your usual routine can work.
“I feel really great now that I’m exercising more frequently. It’s such a stress reliever for me. I’ve actually taken up hot yoga. I never thought I would try it! Are any of your other health nut friends into hot yoga? It would be cool to try a class together sometime.”
“Oh, I’ll eat more if I’m hungry again! I don’t really workout to reward myself with food. I did that for too long, and it really messed with me. Oh, by the way, I never asked you about your trip to California. What was the best part?!”
“Sometimes I’m such a health nut that people don’t even realize there are healthy ingredients in the food I eat! I love sharing recipes that make it hard to believe something is even healthy in the first place. What’s your email address? I’ll send some to you!”
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that 1) you simply don’t have to eat any food that you don’t want to eat, and 2) you don’t ever have to justify your decision for not eating something.
I hope these scenarios help you guys with uncomfortable scenarios you might find yourself in this weekend… or in social settings that can come up anytime throughout the year. Again, you have every right to be picky about what, when, and how you eat and/or choose to indulge (mindfully!). And whatever your reason is, you absolutely can navigate the situation politely, without insulting anyone else, and without feeling awkward about your own food choices. The holiday parties are meant to be enjoyed, not stressed over!
Just remember: “No thanks, now change the subject.”
Would love to hear more from you guys on this! Leave a comment telling me about any food pushing situations you’ve been in before and how you’ve handled them.
If this post resonated with you, please consider joining my Achieve It email crew. Each week I send an email to this group with my best insights, new workouts and recipes, and exclusive, more personal content that’s not on the blog. Being a part of this group will also get you advanced notice about new program launches and events, as well as special giveaways and discounts! Just add your name and email here.