Beware of Food Pushers
by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
When you make up your mind that you are going to lose weight, get healthier and exercise more, it’s interesting that sometimes the person you least expected becomes a stumbling block. Some people in your life may become uncomfortable with your new healthier goals; they may start to feel guilty themselves for continuing their current unhealthy habits and/or they are not quite sure how to express their love to you except through food. Think of those people that overly “encourage” second helpings, guilt trip you in to eating their food (even when you aren’t hungry), and have food bounties for you anytime you come around. These people can be referred to as “food pushers.”
Food pushers associate their own self-worth by the acceptance of their food. They are wanting to comfort, love and support you, though they may not realize their pressure is actually thwarting your intentional weight loss efforts to eat less! Just realizing that the food pusher’s actions has more to do with them than with you can help you learn to say no… for yourself… for your own body… for your own health. And don’t feel pressured to give an explanation with your “no.” That may open the door to the food pusher to continue to try to negotiate with you to eat more, eat this or eat that. But if you suspect a loved one is simply trying to show love, be honest and open about your weight goals and give them ideas of how they can support you in better ways… making you salads, bringing home flowers instead of your favorite treat or offering to cook a recipe rather than grabbing take-out. This can help them fill their need to express love.
By now, you probably already know who in your life is a food pusher. And you probably know what foods they tend to cook, bake, prepare and push. So plan ahead when you know you will be around them. Eat before you see them and have your “no” line ready. If you prefer a more gracious refusal for someone you don’t know as well, admit you aren’t hungry but are happy to take it for leftovers. Then give it away it as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Alcohol tends to lower inhibitions about food intake, so be careful at gatherings that include alcohol…in these situations it’s more difficult to say no.
Food pushers tend to be overly concerned, maybe even obsessed, about food intake so try to steer the conversation clear of the topic of food in general. This creates less of an opportunity for the food pusher to challenge your new eating choices or lifestyle changes.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to just say no to the food pusher. It’s your body, not theirs. And often they just need some ideas on how to love you in ways that support your new health goals, rather than sabotaging them.