“Have some! Just a little bit. C’mon. Loosen up! A few bites won’t hurt!”
I am sure that these are words you have heard many a time from a selection of people from your work colleagues to your partner. I often call these people “Feeders.” They might be great people who sincerely care about you and have nothing but the best intentions, their persistence can stir up an uncomfortable situation.
It is important to remember that even if you’re aiming for a goal and want to live a healthy lifestyle and are often very thoughtful about your food choices, it’s fine to indulge when it’s worth it. Always own that decision and make sure you enjoy it.
Often, in social situations the available eats include foods that you don’t want—or foods that don’t align with your current goals. However, you should be able to feel confident in making healthy choices. Maybe you recently indulged in something, and you don’t want to stray too far away from your goals. Or maybe it’s something that upsets your stomach, or due to allergies or a health condition you are best not eating it.
Whatever your reason, you can navigate the situation, without stressing yourself out, hurting anyone’s feelings, or making anyone feel uncomfortable about their own food choices.
It’s my body, after all, and peer pressure will not determine what I feed it.
By having certain health or fitness goals and eating healthily, I’ve turned down plenty of food offers. I have figured out a few tips and tricks that work in these situations, and I want to share with you my tried-and-tested strategies to help you handle a Feeder with complete confidence.
Before we dive in, we need to talk about one very important thing, and that is ….
The “D” Word
If there’s one word you’d be wise avoid when turning down food, it’s the dirty, four-letter word: D-I-E-T.
Even though technically your “diet” is simply the food that you eat each day (i.e. eating Dominos four times a day is still a person’s “diet”) if you mention that word, you’ll be endlessly hassled, as well-meaning friends and family, and even strangers, will try to convince you that you don’t worry about your diet, that one treat won’t hurt, or that you need to “live a little.” Whether or not any of that is true, it’s going to intensify the interaction and shine the spotlight even brighter on you and the thing you aren’t eating.
Some people can become a bit defensive at the mention of the word. As a social consideration, it’s probably best to avoid talk about your current eating when other people are indulging in foods that you’ve declined.
Below are the most successful ways to exit situations where you have declined whatever food is being offered. I will never encourage you to lie, so consider which one best applies to you and the specific circumstances and modify as you see fit.
Keep your response polite but firm, and then—this is important—immediately change the subject by asking the person a specific question about them that requires a fairly in-depth response.
People love to share their opinions and talk about what they’ve been up to. Now is your time to either find out what’s going on in your friend’s life, or get to know an acquaintance better. Winning all around!
“I’m Not Hungry”
Assuming that you aren’t at something like a dinner party where the entire point of getting together was to eat, this is a great strategy. Maybe you stopped by a friend’s house where they’re offering you dessert, or you’re hanging out at a bar and somebody ordered some crisps.
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry. I already ate.”
Smile, say it nicely, and don’t skip a beat before you employ the next step we just discussed above, changing the subject to ask a question about them.
“So, you just got back from Italy! I’ve always wanted to go! Tell me about your favourite part of the trip!”
It’s nearly impossible for anyone to argue with this, because you can’t badger somebody into being hungry.
“It Doesn’t Agree With Me”
“Thank you, but [dairy, pizza, lots of sugar, etc.] doesn’t really agree with my stomach, so I’m going to pass.”
And then? You got it—change the subject by asking them a question about something that you know they’ll be excited to talk about.
“I always see the pictures you post of your baby! How is she doing?”
For me, this is probably the second most common response, and it’s always true. Gobs of cheese, or piles of icing, or deep-fried-whatever does upset my stomach. This strategy is bulletproof, because people who care about you will not want you to do something that will make you feel sick or uncomfortable.
Bring Your Own Food… to Share
When it’s appropriate, bring food to share. Take one or two things that you love to eat and that make you feel really good. Make sure it’s something everybody else will enjoy, too. This ensures you have a couple of options.
Good options are home-made meatballs, home-made turkey burgers or even a large salad.
Don’t Talk Food Over a Meal
Food is often a hot topic when I’m around. Most of my friends, and friends of friends, know that I’m in the health and fitness industry. Discussing diet and different nutritional approaches inevitably comes up.
Considering that this is a passion of mine, I am always open to talking about it, but I have one cold, hard rule: I will not discuss food over a meal.
If somebody really wants to further discuss nutrition with you, and you feel like elaborating, do so, but do it after eating time.
“I’m more than happy to talk about this. Let’s pick it up again after dinner!”
People pressure others into eating certain things for different reasons. It could be because the food is so delicious that they want you to enjoy it too. Or it may help them feel better about their choices to see other people indulging as well.
Ultimately, it’s your body, and you decide what you feed it. Smile, be friendly but firm with your response, and quickly change the subject. Works like a charm every time!