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How to Say 'No' to Food Pushers

Tips for turning would-be diet sabotage into diet support.
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

When you're trying to lose weight, it can feel like temptation is everywhere. Sometimes, it comes in the form of friends and family members: Aunt Sally won't stop until you accept a piece of pie; your work friends insist you share their Buffalo wings during happy hour; your spouse complains about the lack of junk food in the house. Instead of providing diet support, it seems like your well-meaning loved ones are trying to commit diet sabotage.

What is it about dieting that can prompt this kind of reaction?

Experts say some may not want you to change because they're uncertain how losing weight will affect you. Or your efforts may make them feel guilty about their own weight or eating habits.

Not only that, says Tara Gidus, RD, but food often helps to define relationships.

"Sunday night dinners at Grandma's, happy hour with your colleagues, coffee with your friends -- these are rituals that are associated with foods and drinks and can impact the relationship," she says.

Turn Diet Sabotage Into Diet Support

So how do you keep "food pushers" from ruining your diet?

When you're offered a food that's not on your diet, the best response is a firm "no, thank you" without any explanation, because excuses open the door for arguments, says John Foreyt, PhD, director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine.

If that doesn't work, he says, try, "Thank you, but I'm on a special diet," or simply, "Thank you, but I'm trying to lose a few pounds."

However, some people just won't take no for an answer. And saying no to loved ones can be especially hard. That's when it's important to seek support from the would-be saboteurs, experts say. Be honest about what you're going through, and ask them for their understanding and help.

"Food pushers are not bad people. They simply think they know more than you do about how much you should eat," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Jeannie Moloo, PhD, RD.

Here are some more tips from the experts for keeping your diet intact when you're faced with food pushers in several common situations.

Avoiding Diet Sabotage at Work

When treats are served at the office, ask that they be kept in a place that is not central to the working environment (or put them there yourself).

"If you keep those doughnuts in the break room, you have to take a special trip to go in there to get one, whereas if they are sitting on a counter that you pass often, you are much more likely to indulge," says Moloo.

If there's a party at work, you don't have to miss out on the camaraderie. Instead, bring a healthy dish to share. Or eat before the party so you can say: "No, thank you; I just ate and I'm full."

You could also follow the "take and toss" rule: Take a small piece of cake, enjoy a few bites, and then toss it. (If necessary, do the tossing in the privacy of your office or in some other discreet location.)

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