A lot of people tell me that their most challenging holiday dilemma is spending time with friends and family members who peer pressure them into eating when they're not hungry, or eating too much. I've been there, and I know that sometimes just saying, "No thank you" doesn't work. In my experience, there are only two effective tactics for dealing with "food pushers": being honest or telling an innocent white lie.
As they say, honesty is the best policy, so if you can, take your food pusher aside in a quiet place when you won't be interrupted and consider saying something like, "I love you and your cooking, and I'm so happy to be spending the holiday with you, but I feel so much better when I don't overeat, so please don't be offended, but eating "my" way is the best way for me to really enjoy the holidays." I recently had a client who did this and to her surprise it worked! Her once pushy relative who would typically say things like, "You don't eat enough," "just try some" and "I made this just for you" respected her wishes and she enjoyed a tension-free meal.
But if you think the honesty route won't work, you've tried it before to no avail, or you just don't have those kinds of conversations with your family members, consider stretching the truth just a little. You might try saying that you have to watch what you eat throughout the holidays because you're following your doctor or dietitian's advice, or explain that you get bad heartburn or have trouble sleeping if your diet gets off track. Sometimes bringing in an authoritative third party (a health professional), or mentioning a health issue instead of saying you're watching your weight will help others take you more seriously or better respect your choices.
I'm a much bigger fan of open, honest communication, especially since this issue is likely to resurface every holiday, but I also understand that it's easier said than done. Many families bond around food or use it as a display of love and caretaking, and that can be difficult if not impossible to undo. In any case, if you're feeling loved this Thanksgiving but unsupported in your healthy goals please remember that your Shape community is here for you— log on and vent if you need to!
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa . Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.