Handling Holiday Food Pushers & Proselytizers
One of my clients, who came to me to lose about thirty pounds, had a real problem. He loves to eat and he loves to please people. In fact, he said pleasing people is the main reason he overeats. This tendency becomes especially troublesome over the holidays when friends, family and colleagues invite him for meals. My kind client literally cannot say no to anything.
As a result, he says holidays are a time of joy, but also frustration, because his need to be polite is in stark conflict with his goal of trimming down. Many of us can appreciate his dilemma. Holiday delicacies can be difficult to navigate, especially if you’re trying to avoid gaining a pound per week from Thanksgiving to the New Year. And that can bring out the best and the worst in people, hosts and guests alike.
We all know hosts who aren’t satisfied until they convince us, beg us, to eat more, more, more. Their misguided entreaties are hard to resist, if only because we want to be polite.
To be fair, food pushers aren’t bad people at heart. Your mom, your spouse, your friends – they just want to please you. They’re people who think they have your best interests at heart and know more about what and how much food (and drink) you should be consuming than you do. It seems these people aren’t happy until they’ve stuffed you as if you’d just ended a hunger strike.
My clients and I have tried various tactics through the years, most of them utter failures. For instance, I’ve found the worst thing you can say to a food pusher is, “No thanks, I’m on a diet”… or “Thanks, I’m watching it.”
You might as well say, “Talk me into it!” Your excuse is giving the food pusher a double signal – that you really want it, but have to refuse. It’s also insulting, as though you’re saying the food isn’t good enough for your refined tastes. And, finally, it may bring up guilty feelings in the pusher, that they should be “watching it” too. All of which challenge the pusher to seduce you.
No excuse seemed to work as I tried to fight back the food pushers’ advances, including explaining that I wasn’t hungry. I even went through a phase of telling people I’m allergic to this or that. Sadly, that didn’t work, either.
I didn’t start sensing positive results from my refusals until I learned the most basic rule of all: never give excuses. And I’m delighted to say that one of the foremost authorities on etiquette told me that this approach is both appropriate and wise.
“The best answer is a simple but firm ‘No thank you,’” declared Judith Martin, syndicated columnist who writes as Miss Manners. “Once you give an excuse, you open yourself to argument.”