Nutrition Articles

11 Nice Ways to Say 'No' to Food Pushers

Politely Turn Down Food at Parties and Gatherings

During family gatherings, food temptations are everywhere. From stuffing and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving to eggnog and sugar cookies in December, to barbecues in the summer, the seasonal temptations are endless. It can be tough enough to navigate the buffet without having your great aunt force an extra helping of potatoes on your plate or resisting Grandma Dolly's pleas that you take a second piece of her famous apple pie. There's always some kind of event going on: birthday parties, family get-togethers, company meetings, bridal and baby showers--and all of these events have one thing in common (besides all the tempting food): food pushers.
Food pushers range from well-intentioned loved ones to total diet saboteurs. Regardless of their motivation, it's important to stick to your guns. You can always be honest and say that you're simply trying to eat healthier, but if that response gets ignored (or doesn't come easily), the following retorts to their food-forcing ways will keep you in control of what goes on your plate and in your mouth!
The Push: "It's my specialty, you have to try it!"

Your Response: "I will in a bit!"

Why It Works: Stalling is a great tactic with food pushers. Odds are the offender won't follow you around making sure you actually try the dish. If they catch up with you by the end of the party to ask what you thought, tell them that it slipped your mind but you'll be sure to try it next time.
The Push: "This [insert name of high-calorie dish] is my favorite. You'll love it!"

Your Response: "I had some already—so delicious!"

Why It Works: A white lie in this situation isn't going to hurt anybody. You'll get out of eating food you don't want or need, and the food pusher will have gotten a compliment on what probably is a delicious dish.
The Push: "It's just once a year!"

Your Response: "But I'll probably live to celebrate more holidays if I stick with my diet plan!"

Why It Works: People can sometimes see healthy eating as vain—a means to the end result of losing weight and looking better. It's harder for a food pusher to argue with you if you bring attention to the fact that you eat right and exercise for better health and a longer life. Looking good just happens to be a side effect!
The Push: "Looks like someone is obsessed with dieting…"

Your Response: "I wouldn't say obsessed, but I am conscious of what I eat."

Why It Works: Words like "food snob" or "obsessed" are pretty harsh when they're thrown around by food pushers. But don't let passive-aggressive comments like this bring you down—or make you veer away from your good eating intentions. Acknowledging your willpower and healthy food choices might influence others to be more conscious of what they eat. Sometimes you just have to combat food pushers with a little straightforward kindness.
The Push: "If you don't try my dish, I'm just going to have to force you to eat it!"

Your Response: "Sorry, but I don't like (or can't eat) [insert ingredient here]."

Why It Works: It's hard to argue with someone's personal food preferences. If someone doesn't like an ingredient whether its sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or butter, odds are that he or she hasn't liked it for a very long time. If you'd like to get creative with this one, go into detail about how you got sick on the ingredient as a kid or how your mom says you always threw it across the room as a baby. Who can argue with that?
The Push: "You need some meat on your bones."

Your Response: "Trust me, I'm in no danger of wasting away!"

Why It Works: This food push is definitely on the passive-aggressive side. Using humor to fight back will defuse any tension while making it clear where you stand.
The Push: "One bite isn't going to kill you."

Your Response: "I know, but once you pop you can't stop! And I'm sure it's so delicious I wouldn't be able to stop!"

Why It Works: This is another situation where humor will serve to distract the food pusher from his or her mission. It's a way to say "thanks, but no thanks" while making it clear that you're not interested in overindulging.
The Push: "But it's your favorite!"

Your Response: "I think I've overdosed on it; I just can't eat it anymore!"

Why It Works: If you have a favorite holiday dish that everyone knows you love, it can be especially tough to escape this push. If a loved one made the dish specifically for you, the guilt can be enough to push you over the edge. But people understand that food preferences change, and most have been in that situation of enjoying a dish so much that they can't touch it for awhile.
The Push: [Someone puts an extra helping on your plate without you asking.]

Your Response: Push it around with your fork like you did as a kid to make it look like you tried it.

Why It Works: While putting food on someone else's plate can be viewed as passive-aggressive, it was probably done with love. (Let's hope!) Making it look like you ate a bite or two can be an easy way out of the situation, but you can also just leave it alone and claim that you've already had your fill. (After all, you didn't add that extra helping!)
The Push: "Have another drink!"

Your Response: "I have to drive."

Why It Works: No one will argue with the fact that you want to drive home sober. If they do, you should have no qualms walking away from the conversation, period. If they offer a place for you to stay, you can always get out of the situation by blaming an early morning commitment or the fact that you need to get home to let the dog out. Kids will also get you out of everything.
The Push: "We have so many leftovers. Take some!"

Your Response: "That's OK! Just think, you'll have your meals for tomorrow taken care of."

Why It Works: Not every party guest wants to deal with the hassle of taking food with them, and this makes it clear that you'd rather the food stay. If the host is insistent, you can feign worry that they'll go bad in the car because you're not going straight home, or it'll go bad in your fridge because you've already been given so many leftovers at other parties recently. Or be polite and take them. You'll have more control of your food intake away from the party anyway. So whether you don't eat the leftovers at all or whether you split a piece of pie with your spouse, you're in control in this situation.

These tactics can work wonders in social situations, but honesty is sometimes the best policy. A simple "No, thank you" is hard for a food pusher to beat, especially if it's repeated emphatically. Remember, too, that it's okay to have treats in moderation, so don't deprive yourself of your favorite holiday foods. Just make sure that you're the one in control of your splurges—not a friend, family member or co-worker who doesn't know your fitness and health goals!
Do you have a favorite way to say, "No, thank you," to food pushers? Share your strategies in the comments section to the right.

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Member Comments

  • Very motivational
  • Thanks for sharing.
  • Luckily I've never had a problem with people talking me into eating something that I didn't want - other than myself! LOL.
  • If i really don't feel like a taste test, or not feeling particularly hungry, I just thanks. Some people will be pushy. I just tell them again, no thanks, and walk away
    "If you care, you will respect my decision."
  • I have food allergies (specifically mold, including cheese, mushrooms, beer, and wine), and I have people telling me what I can and can't eat. One SIL keeps telling me to have her lasagna -"l made the cheese myself of and there's no mold in it!" Since my life is at stake, it's easy to say no.
  • You are what you think. Always think positive, empowering thoughts and your life will welcome positive opportunities!
  • Honesty is the best policy. I just say, to maintain my health, I am choosing to pass.
  • I'm just honest with people about what I do or don't want. I think honesty is the best policy. Like they say, if you're honest, you won't forget what you said! One thing you didn't mention is how withering it can be to come to the event with the calorie count of different things they might have, and say what it is and that it's too high.
  • "I'm stuffed already, but maybe I can manage a taste!" (Even though you are not full already)
  • When it is your beloved 96 yr old mother doing the push, it gets tricky. I face this often. Usually I just let her say what she wants, then I eat what I want to.
  • Easiest answer I've ever found: "I'm feeling a little nauseous right now, but maybe later."
    People don't argue with nausea, and usually go out of their way to avoid putting food near your face after that. If they are concerned, you can simply say you're ok but have been feeling a little under the weather today, or that you think something you ate earlier didn't agree with you. It's a good non-specific symptom that could have any number of causes, and can go away or come back at any time - and if they try again later, you just say, "Yes, I'm doing a little better, but I don't want to risk it today."
    Invoke as soon as you've eaten all the healthy food you plan to eat, so you won't be tempted to have any more.
    It doesn't offend anyone, so they won't feel badly about putting so much effort into cooking food you never tried, and it's an easy excuse if you don't want to bring home leftovers either. It will usually take many repeat performances before people catch on that you are nauseous a lot lately, and usually by then it's easy to say "Now that I've been losing weight, rich foods don't taste as good to me anymore. It's a waste of calories, because I actually prefer fruit/vegetables/
    healthy food now." People usually only resist when they haven't gotten used to a new way to relate to you, by the time the nausea excuse has worn thin, they are probably used to you not eating their food and gotten over it. And sometimes, they will even go out of their way to try to make something healthier you can enjoy for next time, or you may have inspired them to lose weight and exercise, too, because they see how great you're looking!
  • Am I the only one who replies to rude comments about what I eat with rude comments right back? If someone tells me I have to eat something, I say no thank you I don't eat that. If someone makes a comment about not eating anything, I explain that I work hard to make food that is healthy and delicious. And if someone put something on my plate, I would purposefully not touch the food to make a point. If you aren't supporting my journey, I'm not going out of my way to make you feel good about not supporting my journey. Sorry, not sorry.
  • I had a long talk with my husband before leaving for one of those high-pressure family gatherings. We thought back to how long ago in the old country feasts were indeed "once a year" events because food was not so easily available. Of course, no better way to show love in those days than to go all out with feasts. Now it seems that is all we do; every month there is a holiday or event and the food is all too easy to obtain than the old days when you had to harvest the wheat, knead the dough, etc. It continues to be a very, very hard challenge for me not to overeat out of my house even if I understand this. Not giving up

About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at