How to Deal with Social Food Pressure- Without Drama
Everyone has one. That aunt who is insisting you try a bite of her noodle and cheese casserole. The well-meaning neighbor who drops off trays of cookies and bread. The colleague who orders dessert for the table and a round of spoons even though you've said you're full. The friend who urges you to order a drink so she won't have to drink alone.
We all face internal desires to indulge in food that may or may not serve us- but what about this time of year when you feel like the pressure is coming from all sides?
We are all terrified of offending family members or hosts. "Gosh, my mother in law made this beautiful dinner and I didn't want to be rude" That is a completely normal and reasonable feeling! Of course we don't want to offend people who are trying to do something nice for us. Nor do we want to feel like the high maintenance guest with a list of restrictions a mile long.
Here are some things to keep in mind to diffuse the drama when confronted with food pressure-WITHOUT offending anyone or hurting feelings.
1) Don't address the topic of weight and health unless you're in a very safe space. If you say you're on a clean eating program or watching your weight to someone who isn't supportive it opens up a conversation that you do NOT want to have. The mom who thinks you're "perfect the way you are" or the cousin who wants to talk about diet culture and how you need to "live a little". It's a hotbed of controversy and frankly your body is your business. So unless the person is a trusted and supportive friend or family member, just don't go there.
2) Most of the time they don't actually care about what you eat- they care if they are being a good host. People are more concerned with what you think of them, not what you're doing. They made a dish because they want to be seen as a thoughtful, caring host or a good cook. All they truly care about is that you look happy and satisfied. So if someone offers you something you don't care to indulge in, you can simply say "Oh wow! That looks amazing, I'll have some in a minute" or ask them how they made it and sound genuinely interested. Honestly 99% of the time they completely forget. Compliment how everything looks and what a wonderful time you're having and they truly won't notice what's in your glass or on your plate.
3) People push in order to give themselves permission. How often do you hear "oh I'll have some if you have some"? Sometimes people want to push food or alcohol on you so they feel like they're "allowed" to have some. If you say something about watching your health it will only make them feel worse about their choice and often they'll push harder. So keep it light and simply say something like "I'm actually so full, but I'm so happy to sit and have a coffee while you have some! I'm in no rush."
4) Blame a "food sensitivity". It's okay to politely say, "oh that looks great, but sadly dairy hasn't been agreeing with me lately." or "I wish, I just can't drink red wine these days!"
5) Don't make your needs their problem. Yes, you have chosen to take control of your health and that comes with some responsibility. It means if you're staying at someone's house, bring some snacks you know you'll enjoy. If you're headed to a party eat a little beforehand so you don't show up starving. Offer to bring a compliant salad or non alcoholic wine to a family gathering.
6) Inspire, don't shame. Sometimes eating cleanly at a holiday or party sparks conversation. If someone notices changes in your body or habits and asks what you've been doing it's okay to share, but do so carefully. Rather than explaining how whatever is on their plate is definitely going to give them cancer, use it as an opportunity to talk about the positive side of clean eating. Say how you've been enjoying some new fruits and veggies, or how much energy you have. Just don't make them feel bad about their choices-No one ever derived motivation from guilt.
7) If all else fails- draw a hard line. It's easiest to try the path of least resistance at first, but if you have family and friends who just won't quit, draw a hard boundary. It is your body and you need to do what's right for you and your health. It's okay to say "I know you're coming from a place of love, but I know my body and I know that certain foods don't make me feel great. I do indulge when the moment is right, but I'm choosing not to indulge today and I hope you'll respect that." Remember, "No" is a complete sentence.
At the end of the day, you are in charge of your body and health and it is your choice, and your choice only, what you decide to eat and drink. Indulge mindfully and guilt free when you choose to- not when others push.