11 Nice Ways to Say 'No' to Food Pushers

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

If its dessert I sometimes say I am full now but I will take a bit home for later...then I feed it to my skinny husband or I just "forget" to take the food home with me Report
I always tell them I am full. It's seems to make food pushers feel like they have done their job and stuffed you full. Report
Boy I'm grateful for my family, friends and acquaintances. I cant think of a single person who has ever tried to guilt/force me to eat anything! To begin with I think they all know Im adult enough to go pick out food I want to eat without them saying "here, try this" and if they do mention they made something Ive never had them say "I made this, you have to try it" (much less watch me to see if I did eat it). Maybe I just have family/friends that dont take things personally or get their feelings hurt easy, esp over someone not eating their food. Just sayin. Report
These are some great tips. It's sad though that we live in a society that places so much value on eating food (beyond the need for nutrition and life) that we bully each other when someone chooses to abstain from a single bite. I wish we could just say no and other people would respect us enough to leave it at that. Report
Great advice Report
FYI to the person who feels that saying you are allergic encourages idiots not to believe anyone is allergic---So many people have food allergies or foods that impact their bodies. Certain spices have caused my throat to swell shut, which is why I have liquid benedryl in the house and the car. Black and red pepper can aggravate my gut to the point where it will take up to 10-14 days to get it back to normal and could cause a very embarrassing event! Anyone who doesn't accept this, or continues to force foods on you is not worth being polite to. AND I would suggest not ever eating anything in a home where you can't depend on the hostess! Good luck to all of us to only have kind and understanding friends! Report
My Mom is one the worst offenders. If you don't eat it it means her cooking has slipped. At 94 she is not going to change. So when I was home, before we sat down to eat, I told her I had lost 5 lbs which was very hard work and didn't want to gain it back, which meant I needed half the portion size that she used to give me. She was very understanding. As far as friends or acquaintences, I accept the portion they feel I must have and usually have a very small tsp sized amount right away in front of them, tell them it is indeed wonderful, and leave the rest on the plate. If any one asks, I just say I wish I could eat more, everything is so good, but I am uncomfortably full already. Not a lie and close enough to anyone's truth. Report
When all else fails I just say "So sorry. I am allergic to that". Works all the time. Report
Saw that folks who have weight-loss surgery have the hardest time with this--stating from their experiences how common this issue is even with waiters in restaurants (total strangers). Good skill to learn for everyone. Report
Love this article! Report
Great tips! Report
Oh but one other thing... really and truly unless you are the type of personality that CANNOT stop once you start. (i.e. it won't just be the day of the holiday, it's going to be weeks and weeks of binging), then if it is the ACTUAL DAY of the holiday with your family, a lot of times it's just easier to have a splurge day. It IS a feast day after all. Yes, there are too many parties and too much available food now (as somebody pointed out), but you don't have to go to every single one. Or if you are going to a lot of them you can say: "I'm sorry, we were just at another party and I ate a ton there. I just don't have room for more." And then just save your actual splurge for the actual holiday itself.

Not everyone, but a lot of people find one cheat day a week and holidays (like straight up legit holidays that are food oriented: christmas, halloween, new year's, thanksgiving. That's it. Not Flag day or columbus day or etc.) to be a good balance to maintain a long term lifestyle. After all is it realistic to think you are NEVER eating pie again? If not, why not just eat it on holidays and your birthday. Because eventually you will fall off the wagon, and if you do, and these people find out about it, you'll never hear the end of how they saw you eating pie that other time so what's different now?

We can choose our friends but we can't choose our families and sometimes you just have to do whatever you have to do to keep the peace. Report
okay holy crap guys... what is with all this goodie goodie, "OMG I would NEVER tell a lie!! Why would SparkPeople ever suggest such a thing!?!?!?!"

The bottom line is this: In SOME families, SOME people are REALLY pushy and they are looking for a fight/argument. "No, Thanks" or "I SAID no" is not going to be received by these people. They are going to say "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" and usually if you've noticeably lost weight they KNOW why. So they will start to psychoanalyze you and pressure you more. (And the reason is really very simple. It's not love and well meaning and whatever... it's that they are JEALOUS or feel GUILTY about their own lifestyle choices. YOU make them look bad by making better choices. YOU show them it can be done. And all their comfortable crutches are gone. Something this deeply ingrained in their psyche is not necessarily going to be shut down with honesty.

More likely it's just going to create a fight and a bunch of unnecessary drama. Unlike a lot of people, I don't actually think my business is everybody else's business. So yes, there are times when I lie to people when they are crossing boundaries and what I'm doing or not doing is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS and any other response is going to start a fight and stress.

People who don't WANT to have their entire holiday ruined with fights and contention often DO have to tell "white lies" or use diversion tactics because there is always that person or persons in a family who is spoiling for a fight. And it's not always about food. Sometimes it's about religion or politics. Sometimes you really CAN just be honest about things and it works depending on the situation, but sometimes it's just going to escalate things and make the time you have to spend talking about it take longer, by which point another relative can wander up and get involved in this "fake drama". (Some people LOVE drama and can't seem to live without it. "No" to these people is an invitation to start a bigger drama.) Report
I haven't encountered this yet since I started in March on my current journey. I have been eating small portions of what someone gives me or compensating the next day or later that same day. will keep these in mind. Report
I agree with Kitt, I just deflect. It is rare that someone presses beyond that point, unless I secretly want them to. Report


About The Author

Erin Whitehead
Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website FitBottomedGirls.com 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 FitBottomedMamas.com.
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