A Holiday Guide to Saying "No"

Posted by Luisa de Luca on


Admittedly, one of the best aspects of the holiday season is all the delicious food. But when you’re on a diet, every family gathering and social party becomes a minefield. Saying no to food during the holidays is hard, so you arrive with a strategy of how to be smart. You ate a healthy snack ahead of time. You’re staying away from the dessert table. You’re using a small plate to keep portion sizes down. But then… Here comes Great Aunt Edith and her plate of homemade cookies. She’s 88 years old, it’s her secret recipe, and she won’t take no for an answer. What are you going to do?

Who’s to blame?

It isn’t just Great Aunts who are guilty of pushing food on us. Family is usually the hardest to say no to, but friends and coworkers can be to blame as well. Eating and drinking is a key part of our social structure, and breaking the norm seems unexpected. People unthinkingly try to pressure you into eating, and ask uncomfortable questions when you attempt politely declining. Learning how to say no may be harder for some personalities than others, but there are strategies you can use to put your foot down and take a stand for your health without offending sweet old Great Aunt Edith.

7 easy ways to just say no to food this holiday season

Remember what you’re working for. Repeat this to yourself: the payoff will be worth it! Whatever your reason is for wanting to lose weight and embrace a healthy lifestyle, keep that at the forefront of your mind and use that mental image to fuel your resolve.

What to Say: “I know this will be worth it in the end!”

Fake it. There’s nothing wrong with faking it. In some social situations, the best approach will be to simply accept the offered food, put it on your plate, and throw it away later. If you feel you have the self-control, taking a bite or two for show and then tossing the plate is also an alternative strategy you can use if people are watching to see what you think of the dish. Another response is to accept the food while saying explaining you’ll eat it later.

What to Say: “Thank you! I’m full for now, but I’ll enjoy this later!”

Pose with healthy alternatives. Especially in situations when the temptation will be to drink, stay ahead of the game by ordering a soda water with lime. It looks enough like a cocktail to keep questions at bay while still being a healthier alternative.

What to Say: “Thanks for the offer, but I already have a drink.”

Keep it simple. If none of the more evasive attempts are working, offer a simple, “No, thank you.” Be firm about it, and stand your ground. Follow-up statements like, “I already had some!” or “I’m full but I’ll get some in a bit” appease the asker while getting you out of hot water.

What to Say: “I just finished my first plate and I’m full, but I’ll get up for seconds here in a bit.” Or “I already enjoyed some and it was absolutely delicious!”

Offer an explanation. While keeping your response simple is the best route to go, some people may appreciate a more thorough explanation. You friend will appreciate the honesty, and probably won’t want to be responsible for tempting you off-track! Be careful not to go into too much detail, though; some people might try and “out logic” your reasoning to talk you into eating!

What to Say: “You know, a few months ago I started embracing a healthier lifestyle and there are certain foods I just am not eating anymore.”

Take a direct approach. If someone is really unwilling to let it go, try a direct approach. It might feel uncomfortable, but especially if this person is a friend or relative you’ll find yourself in this situation with again, setting up a boundary is a healthy relational move. After all, this is all over food and hopefully everyone will be understanding about it!

What to Say: “Aunt Tilly, you’re my favorite Aunt and you make the best food, but I am really not going to eat this because of this new lifestyle. I would really appreciate it if you would drop it because it isn’t going to work.”

Avoid the food pushers. When all else fails, you can always try evasion tactics. For the sake of relationship (especially with relatives!) you should definitely try having a conversation first, but you always have the option to just stay on the other side of the room from Great Aunt Edith if she really won’t leave you alone.

What to Say: Make good conversation with someone else to keep yourself occupied!

Saying no to food during the holidays is hard, especially when it’s tradition and part of what makes the holiday season feel special. Learning how to say no will help you enjoy the smart indulgences you do allow while keeping the weight off and not blowing your diet.

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