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. Continued ›
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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

Member Comments

  • I get a lot of food shoved at me by my clients, many of whom are elderly and very well meaning. If they won't take a 'no thank you' or a 'I'd love to have it but I had breakfast/lunch/b
    runch late so I'm really stuffed' answer, I tell them that I'll take it for later and then give it to my husband or next door's kids. I don't want to alienate my clients. Sometimes I get boxes of biscuits etc from them and my Husband takes them to dialysis with them and the nurses share them out between themselves. Saves a lot of awkwardness.

    When it comes to 'family pushers', I just say 'no thankyou' and stick to my guns. I had one cousin try to stuff vile vile vile Black Forest Gateaux into my mouth with her hand, while grabbing my by the pony tail with the other(disgusting) and I spat it all out. Every speck of it. My hatred of BFG is well known in the family, I've never liked it. I actually went home after that. Anyway, my dress was covered in vile chocolate and cherry cream.

    I don't white lie to get out of a situation. With my customers I might sidestep the issue a bit but as some of them actually save a little money back to 'give me a treat' I try to be really gratious about it. It's a bit of a tightrope act sometimes.

    I get the same thing with virtually everyone I know trying to pour alcohol down my neck too. I don't drink, I don't like it so I don't drink it. I've never found an alcoholic drink that I like the taste of so gave it up a long time ago. - 8/17/2015 7:00:40 AM
  • Lying, even a "little white lie" is NEVER acceptable. Just say, "No, thank you" and stick to your guns. You will be admired for your fortitude. I never back to Weight-Watcher's after a leader encouraged "little white lies". Liars are worse than food-pushers. - 5/4/2015 4:25:48 PM
  • Why give excuses? Just say 'No thank you' and walk away. - 5/4/2015 2:38:23 PM
  • Personally a simple No Thank You seems like a better bet then all that hedging and lying, what if you say you are allergic to something and they remember you ate it last time. These seem to be children's techniques not something a confident adult should try. - 3/11/2015 2:14:00 AM
  • A few commentors have noted that it's passive aggressive to lie and what not to "get out of" the situation. While "no thank you" and being assertive is healther, I can identify with many of these "ways" to get the food pusher to go away so I don't hurt their feelings.

    I found that saying "no" made me feel guilty and less worthwhile. I felt "good" when I said "ok". That's not "real" either.

    I swallowed a lot of resentment when folks would try to run me over and I let them do it. It started many a year ago when I was a wee child. I learned to be compliant then. It meant that I became a compliant adult.

    It's taken me some work with a professional to manage through some of those "when I say 'no', I feel guilty" feelings. Sometimes, I do feel guilty, inappropriately. Yet, I feel better saying "no thanks" now knowing that I'm not "wasting" by wearing it home on my thighs. Or to say "no" when I really don't want to do something.

    For those of us who were/are compliant (aka "door mats"), saying "no" can be emotionally painful.

    I think this article really is meant for those of us who grew up being compliant children and became compliant adults. I'm much less compliant now. It is a handy skill to have when it's not overused.

    If you find that you identify with guilt and this article brings up feelings, perhaps finding a professional to dig down into the desire to make everyone else happy before your own self might be worth some time and effort.

    Change is exciting (aka "scary" but I like "exciting" better). Feeling resolute about taking care of yourself is important.

    - 1/27/2015 3:18:51 PM
  • Most of these ideas are good, but I don't agree with the"White Lie" theory of one of them. Sooner or later it comes back to haunt you. - 1/9/2015 9:06:30 AM
  • #12. "No, thank you!" 'Nuff said! - 12/24/2014 12:26:47 AM
  • I say "Dr's orders" Not a lie... my doctor want(ed) me to lose. And people won't "argue" with your DR!
    Also, on arriving, I take a plate, eat a few low calorie items (pickles?), and shmear a bit of something on the plate. Then I can truthfully say I've eaten - 12/8/2014 1:31:43 PM
  • I can't believe how many of these suggestions are also passive-aggressiv
    e or just downright lies. I would much rather be assertive and stand up for myself than make up some ridiculous story about a childhood distaste for butter. It's far more respectful of myself to simply say, "I'm sorry, but I'm watching what I eat right now." Or, "I've been really successful in my plan to eat healthy right now, and I really don't want to start back down that slippery slope."

    Part of making the lifestyle choice to be healthy also means learning to stand up for yourself in a healthy way. I'm very disappointed in this article. - 12/8/2014 9:56:44 AM
  • I have reviewed this article before and it always helps to take another look, especially between Turkey Day and the New Year.
    The passive aggressive comments come in all sizes!
    "How much are you planning to lose?!" "You know those height/weight charts can be off by 10 lbs. or more." "Be careful, if you lose to much weight, you will start looking gaunt and unhealthy, especially in the face."
    Thank you for reinforcing my arsenal of diplomatic refusals. - 12/8/2014 7:03:01 AM
  • JOYCE149
    Oh gosh, I've had enough food for today! of I'm done for the day! - 11/13/2014 10:28:37 AM
    Since I've joined the Sparkpeople website in July of this year, I have been saying.."It's not on my food list to eat today, but thank you!" I've been given some ohh's & eye brow lifting but they left me alone. : )) - 11/10/2014 7:40:22 PM
    Maybe just say you have to eat small amounts of food at once or else you have problems. Which is actually true for me, my wonky innards don't like too much coming down the line together. But even if your problems just involve general weight management or general health considerations, it's still true. No need to give them details. If they ask what happens, "Oh, you really don't want to know!" works pretty well. "Doctor's orders" works also if any doctor anytime has suggested you lose weight or eat differently. Even a tv doctor... :) If they offer to pack some up for you and it's something you really can eat later and it will keep long enough in the fridge or freezer - let them do it. Just divide it into portions when you get home and plan for it. Or throw it out if they were persistent even though you didn't want it. I do get out of a lot by just saying I have allergies, but that's really true for me- I have to know ingredients. I wouldn't really advise using the allergy card if you don't have them, but it's fine to say allergy if it's more in the intolerance category (confirmed or suspected). I have to do that about artificial fragrances, people understand the word allergy fine but if I tell them I have an intolerance to their perfume etc. then they will think I mean they smell bad. No. They smell fine, but if I stay around them too long I'll get headaches and inflamed lungs and congestion ...

    The main thing is to be clear about what you can do and what you can't, without having to give a speech about the reasons. It's just food. They're trying to be nice. Many people get very defensive about their own food choices, and interpret rejection of the food they've bought or prepared as a rejection of themselves. Keep it light and appreciative of their efforts. - 11/8/2014 5:29:01 PM
  • I just say "no, thanks, I'm trying to quit" and they will laugh and move on. - 11/8/2014 11:51:14 AM
    These days, most people leave you alone about what you eat, but years ago it was more of a thing about food pushing. People didn't like it, but if I didn't want to eat it, I didn't, but this happened years ago, on every diet I was on, lost the weight, and then gained it back over and over again, so it really was silly to not eat something in the first place, might have not become a yo yo dieter if I would have had some holiday foods! Sometimes, it's better to stay home and not go to the event, really........... - 11/7/2014 8:52:50 PM

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