Monday, December 7, 2009

Resisting Food Pushers

In late summer, the management of the building where I work held an ice cream social. I had just returned from a work conference during which I had eaten way too much and was trying to get my eating back under control. I planned to skip the event.

Not one, not two, not three, but four people came by my office at different times to make sure I knew about the event and invite me to go downstairs with them. I was able to put off the first two by saying I was doing some work then but would try to go down later. The next two offered to wait for me and pushed hard to get me to commit to a time that I would go to the event with them.

Now, of course, I wanted to go eat the ice cream. I pretty much want to eat fun food whenever I have the opportunity, but I know I can’t do that and reach or maintain a healthy weight. I was really struggling with my weight loss in August 2009 and wanted to show I had what it takes to make this a success. I wish I could say this is a triumphant anecdote and I figured out a way to avoid going to the social. I went with the fourth person and had a big sundae. It was pretty tasty, and I gained more than three pounds that week.

It’s hard to resist food pushers - particularly when you combine their influence with your own desire to eat whatever they are currently shoving at you. This only increases during the holidays. Food pushers run amuck from Halloween through New Year’s Day. Thinking of strategies to resist their efforts can be very necessary.

First, you should plan how much you are willing to eat going into any given situation. You are ultimately in control of what you eat. You may want to figure out what treats you’ll allow and which ones you’ll avoid to try to balance out your calorie intake. This will make it easy to refuse the initial offers. You may get lucky and there is only one offer.

If the food pusher offers again or insists, you may want to expand on your simple no, thank you. You may say you had a big lunch and aren’t hungry. You could say you aren’t feeling well. You could offer many reasons why you can’t eat that big piece of cake.

Another helpful suggestion I heard was to say no and then change the subject. No, thank you. By the way, how is your kid, your favorite pet, or some other topic the pusher can’t resist talking about endlessly.

Another element that can make it harder to resist food pushers is if you are in a family situation where food is more than just food. I made this for my beloved daughter, niece, granddaughter, daughter-in-law because I know you love it. The implication of how can you refuse my culinary effort and my love for you can be a powerful force that convinces you to eat something you’d rather not. Or, you have a father like mine who just loves to order people to eat more for some reason. Understanding how the appeal to other emotions besides the desire for food can encourage you to overeat is helpful. You have to resist two powerful appeals at one time. Realizing this by being conscious of all that is working against you is very clarifying. Knowing that can help you find ways to resist eating more especially when you really are full, don’t want the food in question, or are motivated to keep up with your healthy journey.

I am getting much better at avoiding and resisting food pushers. Being aware of all the forces working against me and having strategies to resist them is extremely helpful.

Do you have any tips for resisting Food Pushers? What has worked for you?


Elise Hayes on December 7, 2009 at 8:10 AM said...

I don't have any good tips--so I really appreciated yours. It's the family scenarios that always get me. I always, always, always gain weight when I visit my family in Canada. I'm only there for a week or two, so I'm trying to see as many people as possible--and the socializing almost always takes place over food. Which, with my family, means at least a four-course meal. Preferably five. And that's just the dinners. I also meet people over lunch (usually at a restaurant, thankfully, where it's a lot easier to say "no" to desserts and appetizers and such).

I have yet to find a way to say, "no thanks, I'm going to skip the salad/cheese/dessert" tonight in a way that wouldn't cause massive consternation--especially since what I really want to do is skip all three courses.

I do up my exercise--by a *lot.* This summer, I shifted from 20-30 minute runs four times a week, to 45-50 minute runs six times a week. That helps, but it's never enough.

So thanks for the tips, Michelle! And if you know of a way to try to dodge the five-course meal, let me know...

Michelle Butler on December 7, 2009 at 10:13 AM said...

Can you meet your relatives at different times? Suggest other ways to get together that will not require sharing a meal?

At the family, multi-coarse meals, do you serve yourself? You can try to practice portion control and give yourself smaller servings. You can also allow yourself to not finish everything on your plate.

This may not be appropriate, but you could bring one or two of the courses and control how fattening/caloric it is. For example, bring something tasty yet healthier for dessert. I offered to make the dessert this Thanksgiving and was able to have something delicious that was just 3 points/around 150 calories per serving. It always gets raves and compliments, so folks don't feel like they are sacrificing by having it for dessert.

You may want to verbally acknowledge the efforts (and their emotional implications) before you refuse something. Thank you so much, Aunt --, for going to such fuss over me. I appreciate your care. Basically make her feel good and appreciated and acknowledged and loved in return before you mention: I ate a big dinner/lunch and just can't do it justice. At this point, she should not see it as a rejection of herself and her time/love.

Also, is your daughter there? Can you fuss over her and use that as a distraction from how little you are eating?

Elise Hayes on December 7, 2009 at 10:47 AM said...

I love the idea of using my daughter as a distraction (to others) of my own eating :)

Actually, you've made me think about something I could possibly control: since my mother is the hostess for most of these meals (we're in a lakeside cottage, so most of the relatives/friends come to us), I might be able to talk to her before the trip to say that while I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone, I'm trying to watch what I eat--and could we cut down the courses for at least some of the meals.

We could keep a few elaborate meals, of course, and I don't think I could get her to give up on the salad course (although what's so healthy about iceburg lettuce with dressing, I don't know), but I could probably talk her out of cheese and I could let her know ahead of time that I'm planning to skip dessert.

Hmm...things to think about...

Michelle Butler on December 7, 2009 at 11:42 AM said...

In my junior high and high school days, I went to Quebec at least twice a year. One summer, we drove about a hour or so north of Quebec City to visit the Isle de Orleans (I think that's where we went). There was a farm stand selling fresh raspberries and cream, and they are honestly the best raspberries I've ever had in my life. Perhaps you can convince your mom to make dessert mixed berries and a minimum level of cream or sauce.

Best of luck, Elise! I'm sure you can make it work somehow.

Diane Gaston on December 7, 2009 at 12:35 PM said...

Hi, Michelle! Guess who is back on her diet.

I think one thing that can help with food pushers is to accept as small a portion as possible, then eat only a bite or two.

I was very proud of my husband at TG. He's on the GW Weight Loss Center fasting (protein drink) diet and at TG with his family, he only ate turkey.

I know the holidays will be a challenge for me, but I'm hoping that I can at least be in control of my eating, even if I decide to indulge at times.

Michelle Butler on December 7, 2009 at 12:51 PM said...

Hi, Diane! That is impressive about your husband. I like that bite or two suggestion. One lady once suggested on this blog the 1/10 rule. Take 1 bite. If it's a 10 (out of ten), continue to eat. If it's not, stop. That can be helpful.

Welcome back to a healthy journey. :) You can do it. There are a lot of benefits to sticking to it - you just have to get through that horrible, tough beginning. I'm impressed that you are starting now and not waiting for 1/1/10. Best wishes! And, take time to enjoy the holidays. :)

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