With today being the Thanksgiving Eve (you’ll probably read this on Thanksgiving morning), I wanted to give you some strategies for handling the food-pushers you’ll likely encounter sometime between now and New Years.

My Food-Pushing Nemesis

I have packed my own meals to bring to work for my entire working career. My dad packed my lunches when I was a kid and it was just a natural progression for me to continue packing them when I got out on my own. It saves money, time, and ensures that I’ll be eating foods that I know are good for me, cooked the way I like, and taste good. To me, it’s completely normal. I’ve spent a lot of time working in gyms where much of the staff is also very health-conscious and the fridge is full of lunchboxes.

But to others, especially outside the fitness industry, the thought of brown-bagging it is totally foreign and weird. A woman I used to work with took every opportunity to call attention to my healthy lunch choices. The worst was when we would have staff pot-lucks and she would try to push me face first into the nearest multi-layer dip or dessert in a crockpot and ultimately would make everyone aware that I would not be partaking because I was “too healthy” (aka “too good” for their food, is how it came across).

Given that I’d been packing my own meals for years at that point, her comments made me dislike her and dread our interactions, but did nothing to dissuade me. However, it did give me some perspective on food-pushers and what it’s like to have an outsider be critical of a decision that is none of her business. If I were newer to the lunch-packing game, her criticism might have led me to change my actions just to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

Holidays: Food-Pusher Primetime

Since we are in the midst of the holiday season, when social gatherings are likely at an all-time high, you may be concerned about what friends, family, and coworkers have to say about your food choices. It’s a valid concern. Making habit changes can be challenging enough when you don’t have people peering over your shoulder every time you open the fridge and there isn’t a dessert buffet on every flat surface between your desk and car.

(As a side bar, I do want to note that not everyone calling attention to your choices is doing so with bad intentions. Often genuine curiosity or admiration can come across the same as malice, envy, or jealousy. It’s not unlikely that someone commenting on your food choices just wants to learn more, is considering making improvements to her own diet, or is feeling guilty about not being as “disciplined.”)

Let’s get something out of the way:

You are an adult. You get to decide what you do and do not want to do. While it may be uncomfortable sometimes, you are responsible for your actions. If you decide that you are going to do something, you have the power to not let anyone else derail you from that. And in the event that you do find yourself doing something you said you wouldn’t (or not doing something you said you would), you have to own that, too. Social pressure can range from mildly awkward to downright unpleasant but unless your cubicle mate has a gun to your head, no one is making you do anything. You are choosing to let another person’s opinion trump your own.

This is important so I’m going to say it again: you are in control of your life. No amount of social discomfort should make you change the things you are doing to better your health. I’ve never used this phrase before but block out the haters and keep on keepin’ on!

Now that that’s out of the way, here are a few strategies I’ve used to navigate situations where people were inquisitive about, unsupportive of, or otherwise judgmental about my choices:

The Dodge & Redirect

This is one of my preferred approaches because it avoids getting into a back-and-forth about what I’m doing. While I’m more than happy to discuss nutrition and exercise with anyone interested, there’s a time and a place to get into that and I generally don’t feel that parties are that time or place. With this approach, I might just laugh off a comment or question or give a polite-but-dismissive answer and then change the subject. My intention with the Dodge is not to be rude but to make it clear that my decisions are not up for debate. The Redirect is to offer a way for us to continue talking without an awkward silence.

The White Lie

Another way to avoid having to explain yourself to any inquiring coworker or family member is to arm yourself with a couple of harmless white lies. (I’ve mentioned this before but if you have some moral opposition to lies of any size, skip this one. But don’t judge those of us who don’t. Sometimes it’s just easier).

Some examples here are:

“I ate before I came so I’m not super hungry,”

“I’m not feeling great so I don’t know if I can stomach anything heavy right now,”

“I’d love to try that but _____ doesn’t agree with me,”

“I have to save room for another even later.”

The Jokester

This could arguably fall under either of the categories above but I think it warrants its own. If you’re so inclined, brushing off comments with humor can be a great way to dodge/redirect or white lie and still have everyone come out laughing. Just as a disclaimer here, let me stress that you need to know your audience. As a normally pretty sarcastic person, I prefer to go with a moderate shock factor because I know I can pull it off after I watch the person squirm for a few seconds. But do what’s comfortable for you; if you think you might get fired for telling your boss about the time you accidentally pooped your pants after an incident with pumpkin pie, maybe that’s not the right approach. But if you know the person will understand it’s a joke when you say, “no, my husband won’t let me eat that,” then go for it. Just tread carefully. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Full Plate

A simple way to combat food pushers is to always have your hands full. Grab a glass of water and fill up a small plate with veggies and lean protein. If you’re sipping and munching just like everyone else, people are less likely to take notice of what it is that you’re sipping and munching.

The Firm “No Thank You”

Arguably the most adult way to handle a food-pusher is to channel your inner drug-free child and “just say no.” Going back to that whole being-an-adult thing from earlier, you do not owe an explanation to anyone. You can just say firmly decline whatever is being offered and add a “thank you” to be polite. You don’t have to offer an explanation or excuse if you don’t want. Just stop talking. Smile and let here be a couple seconds of silence as the person comes to terms with your polite refusal and moves on.

So there you have it. 5 simple ways to push back against the food-pushers in your life and come out the other side with your relationship still intact.

Got another approach you like? Share it below!

P.S. – Just a reminder that it’s not too late to get my free Holiday Resource Bundle with lots more ideas for helping you navigate the holiday season! bundle-includes-leadbox-pic