31

My question is sort-of related to this one but has the roles reversed. I've been overweight for at least 10 years, and obese for approximately 6. Last February, I decided to better my life. I've bought a fitness tracker, started an eating-habits diary and spent a few months trying to figure out what I should change.

I came to realize that I should move more, eat smaller portions and snack less (surprise!). I also realized that I tend to overeat a lot on social occasions and when I am bored, and that I am completely unable to turn down offers of food/snacks. After figuring out what I wanted to do, I informed friends, family, and co-workers that I was going on a diet.

I specifically asked them to not offer me food anymore. For example, I have a co-worker that loves to share cookies on Fridays. I asked him to just skip me until I told him I was ready to get offered food again. Everybody reacted very nice and made a lot of promises of help.

Thing is, I've been at it for three months, and some people are letting their guard down. They have started offering me food more and more often. One of these people is my own mother (I still live at home). But also my grandma and my co-workers are forgetting my request a lot. So lately, I've been offered food that I don't need and don't want to eat about three times a day.

I'm currently able to say no, but it still takes me a lot of effort. So that when I say no, it will usually take three seconds and a screwed up face, because I have to remind myself of my intentions. Sometimes, I snap and say something like:

No, I'm on a diet and I asked you to help me, remember?

I've also explained that although my diet is going well, I am not ready yet for them to start offering me unhealthy foods at every turn. It is difficult enough as it is to stick to my new, healthy regimen.

Lately, some people have started calling me tedious. They have compared me to the vegan person that always has to talk about being vegan. I don't want to be like that, but I'm also certainly not ready yet for everybody to start treating me 'normally' again.

How can I verbally remind them of their promise to me/the fact that I'm still on a diet and don't want to be offered food that often, without sounding like a broken record?

  • How / where do you usually get offered food at the office? Could you do something like post a sign on your desk, or are you looking for verbal responses? – Em C Sep 21 '17 at 20:05
  • @EmC It's usually when we're gathered around the coffee-machine, so verbal responses would be better I think. – Tinkeringbell Sep 21 '17 at 20:08
  • I think you are asking about two issues: your reaction to unwanted offers of food and uncooperative co-workers. Your question at the end only asks about the second one. I think they are related; if so you might expand on this. – user3169 Sep 21 '17 at 20:24

10 Answers 10

23

For starters, congratulations on committing to be healthier - it's a great gift to yourself.

The dynamics between work and home are different so I'll answer them slightly differently. The bottom line is this is for your health so people suffering a modicum of repetitiveness on your part should count for less than your well being.

At work

Be firm and straightforward. To diffuse any complaints of being "tedious", you can say something along the lines of

Thank you for offering, but no thanks. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I'm really trying to stay away from snacks and would appreciate if you don't offer me any - for now at least.

This is mildly self-deprecating (which is usually very disarming) and should help re-establish your earlier request of them. It's reasonable for you to seek help from your peers and is actually asking them to do less so not a big ask. Over time, you will gain more confidence and self control to say no, but for now it's fair game to ask your coworkers and friends to help you. I'm sure most of them want you to be successful and are proud of you for starting to be healthy.

At home

Home is another and more complicated issue. Parent-child dynamics are often complicated. In this case you may have to be much more direct and not as polite as you would be in public situations. You may want to appeal to their love of you in getting help -

Mom/Grandma you know that I am trying to be healthier and have been doing really well. It's hard for me to say no when you offer me food that isn't healthy for me to eat. I'm sure you want me to be more healthy so I hope you will help me by remembering I don't want to be offered these foods.

If they say you are tedious, that's when you can drop some of the politeness and say,

Would you rather me be tedious or unhealthy. It's not easy for me to say 'no' to these things and all I ask is that you don't offer me foods I've already told you I am avoiding.

As for the vegan analogy it really doesn't hold. A vegan person is not annoying for refusing animal-based products - they can just say no - they likely have no interest in consuming those products. They are annoying because instead of saying no thank you, they have to say they are a vegan over and over. I'm sure it's annoying if you've told someone you are a vegan and they ask you to try their new BBQ wings recipe, but they can just say "no." You on the other hand are probably more tempted to eat those snacks, so beyond the small annoyance of having to repeat that you are trying to stay away from snacks, you are much more likely to falter a little when they ask so the stakes are higher. Afterall how many vegans will end up eating a hamburger just because you offered them one.

  • 6
    "You on the other hand are probably more tempted to eat those snacks..." Unless I'm mistaken, a large number of vegans were previously meat eaters. I'm not one, but it is my impression that most adopt the lifestyle either because they believe it is healthier or because they believe eating meat is immoral. So it would be unsurprising if they also feel tempted to return to meat. – jpmc26 Sep 22 '17 at 2:00
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    You can add a sneaky compliment: You know I can't resist your cookies, they are the best in the world. – RedSonja Sep 22 '17 at 6:52
  • @jpmc26 Most vegetarians and vegans I know did at one point eat meat and some may at some point eat meat again, but nearly all of them now find meat disgusting. – Bryan Turriff Sep 22 '17 at 14:28
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    @jpmc26 I'm a vegetarian, and I definitely run into that issue a lot. For me the parallel is strong: it's not rare that people offer me meat (in one way or another), and its not always easy to just say no. – Jacob Maibach Sep 23 '17 at 15:10
14

I can only speak from personal experience but I find that what helps is always having something I can eat on me. That way if someone offers me something I shouldn't eat I can tell them something like 'I'm good thanks, I already have something'. I've lost a little under 80lbs in the last 8 months and the first 3 were pretty rough (adjusting to eating good food I prepared myself, eating smaller portions and feeling like I was ALWAYS hungry) but after I managed to rest my appetite thermometer I haven't been hungry at all, and I can honestly say that I feel so good now, I don't even want 'bad' food (mostly because it reminds me of how bad I used to feel).

You could also take the approach that your not 'on' a diet, but that you've 'changed' your diet... If you tell people you will no longer be eating things like cookies, they might remember that more easily then that you won't be eating cookies for a fixed period of time.

People tend to 'yo-yo diet' because people look at dieting as a temporary fix to loose weight, really it is better to look at this as more of a life style change, one that once you start feeling better and have more energy you will probably want to stick with indefinitely.

You should also try to see if either a friend or co-worker (so you have office backup) is willing to join you on your weight-loss journey. Its a lot easier to do if you use the buddy system, that way you have someone you can share your little victories with, recipes with, and who you can turn to quickly when you need someone to tell you 'say no to the cookie!'.

Quick addition: As for your mother/Grandmother perhaps you could come up with healthier alternatives to the foods they are cooking you and offer to prepare them with them. They would probably value the time they would get to spend cooking with you more than gifting you food.

4

In the end it's all going to be about how strong and determined you are, whether people help you or not.

It's interesting how sometimes people work against one's goals without realizing they are doing it. I made the decision to stop eating sugar. My friends still offer me sodas when they know I don't drink. You'd think they would give up after me saying no every time. But no. They haven't. And so I constantly have to say "No, thanks". "I don't drink Coke, thanks".

My own mother, who had insisted I quit eating sugar, has suggested we had ice cream many times. Does this even make sense?

A couple I know, the husband is overweight and was fighting with his wife about how he felt she doesn't support him enough. When I asked him how he would like her to help him, he told me "She shouldn't be buying all this junk food". He just wished that stuff was not in the kitchen. The wife yelled at him, "Why should I stop eating what I want because you want to go on a diet"? "Just don't eat what I eat".

I wish this was that simple. IF I were her, I would make a compromise to help my husband or whoever needed my help get healthier. I would work with him. She didn't. He has given up.

People don't have an obligation to remember that we want to limit certain foods or we are on a diet, in order to accommodate us. Sometimes they will and sometimes they won't. As time goes by this is going to get harder. It's like the story with Odysseus, the sailors and the Sirens. And you are going to have to "put beeswax in your ears." And you're going to have to keep it there.

This might turn into a race about who is going to give in or give up first. And you don't want that person to be you. This is especially the case with family. And it's OK to get angry sometimes with family and say what you said in your question. You will be repeating yourself over and over again until, hopefully, they drop it.

You have asked for your friends' and coworkers' help. Just remind them politely every once in a while.

This is pretty much going to be rinse and repeat with everyone. Stay strong. You're on the right path!

3

Well, I guess you should attribute 'you're boring' accusations as retribution to you snapping at those who offer you treats, they don't necessarily believe it. I don't blame you, changing your diet causes irritation at first or you just have expectations they can't meet. Just remember that as far as it's not THEIR issue, people tend to be forgetful of other's problems or everyday habits, sometimes even if you remind them from time to time. Maybe they forget that it is you who's on a diet - they have connected dieting to someone else from their circle. Or they may still feel obliged to offer you what they are offering to everyone else in the office, because that is what they believe is polite to do and they really don't know if there is an update and you just stopped dieting in the meantime.

So, whatever you do, don't snap at them again. A polite

Thanks a lot, but no.

should do the trick, you don't even have to mention the diet. If you can't bear being offered food at all or you're not eager to have whatever they are offering even once in a great while, maybe you could make a very clear and even humorous sign and place it somewhere on your desk where it is visible. It's quite a way if you want to avoid verbal rejection and it is not at all boring. That is if you don't mind exposing that you're on a diet, but I understand that you already told your colleagues about it. Of course this depends on your work environment - it may be too serious to let you have such a sign. Where I work, many colleagues have signs with content such as Headphones on means 'Do not disturb' or even drawings of their children. You could write:

Currently on a diet

and add some relative icons in order to catch the eye of would-be offerers or even add a small text

I love the food you're offering me, just cannot accept it.

in order to gild the pill.

As far as your mother is concerned...well things are a bit tricky. Mothers and grandparents tend to see you emaciated regardless of your weight :). They pay more attention to what and how much you eat instead of how much you weight (they always believe you are perfect anyway - and you may as well be, but also maybe just a little unhealthy). Grandparents in specific are very hard to reject, because they have the so-called 'Occupation Syndrome'- maybe they had a hard time in some part of their lives and want you to be well fed and this results to them being pushy. If your mother cooks for you, she wants you to admire her cooking skills and show it. That's why she may be frustrated and defensive when you don't eat the quantity you used to. So, in order to reassure her, you can compliment her for every meal she cooks, but when you finish say

This was amazing but I'm full.

If your grandma offers you something, you can just say you already had something and you're full or you can take it and say

I will take it and eat it afterwards at home because I just ate and I'm full.

and then don't eat it at all (well this needs strong will as well).

I would personally advise you to work on your will power first and foremost. It helps not only with rejecting food offerings (well this sounded like you are a pagan deity, but I couldn't phrase it otherwise), but in dieting itself. If you can't stand not eating something you're being offered, you could probably bail in other occasions too - or maybe not, this is just what I think. Being disciplined no matter what is what makes people get to results sooner. Having this, you'll soon get used to healthy eating habits and you'll adore the new way of life. Good luck with whatever you'll do.

2

As a bit of a baker and sharer myself, I've been in the position of the people you're dealing with. If we've talked about it in the past and I absent-mindedly offer something to you, please do remind me. I'll apologise and try to remember. This is one of those times when a slightly snappy response is very forgivable, especially if it's in contrast to your normal behaviour. As you've found, most people will be on your side.

It is tricky sometimes: The instinct to not leave you out of the social aspect of offering to share can have a significant effect, especially if not everyone present knows everyone else ("How come @ChrisH didn't offer @TinkeringBell a cookie but offered one to everyone else?", people might think). You can help with this as well, by preemptively saying "not for me, thanks" before you're directly offered.

Family is much harder. It wouldn't surprise me if there was some sort of evolutionary reason for (grand)parents to feed up their (grand)children. If it's a planned visit, then a gentle reminder when making plans wouldn't go amiss.

2

The answer of Bryan is proper. I just want to add a couple of comments:

Home

Sometime behind the food offer there is a need to give love, attention, to be useful (or just to feel ourself), to be still useful, and so on (It's sounds a bit pop psychology I know)...
You can try to use these keys with something as

You know my effort to lose weight, please help me preparing me some carrots, fruits...
[or whatever your diet allows you]

Work

Behind the food offering/sharing here there can be different mechanisms.
Among the others the opportunity to band together, the attempt to release the tension, a neutral ground where to relate with co-workers...
It can be even hidden the attempt of an introvert person to create a personal link with you (of whatever kind).

You can even try to bring from home your healthy snacks and offer them to the co-worker (carrots have to be eaten not oxidised, but you can find something).
An alternative may be to include the Friday meetings in your diet plan, and take part in organization of the Friday meeting.

Conclusion

Congratulations on committing to be healthier you used some years to take weight you will need some time to lose too, you may benefit of the help of the others but the most important person that can help is you, and you are on the right path.

1

My opinion is smaller portions is not as important as what you eat. If your snack is carrots you are good.

You should never come off a diet. Make a choice that you can commit to. As you get to a healthy weight your body will have adjusted and you need a healthy diet to maintain. If you go on starvation diet and come off when you are done it will be an endless cycle.

My point is don't tell them until you are ready for a cookie. Tell them a cookie is off my diet period.

It is not just the calories in a cookie but what it does to your metabolism to crave other / more bad food.

I was in a heath study and they told me max fat of 20 grams a day and max alcohol of 12 oz but they did not want me to lose weight. I told them no way I was not going to lose weight. I called it the all I could chew diet.

Make massive salads in front of family that look great and say in front of them how good it tastes and you enjoy this life style. Don't complain about the diet.

Support can be within. I took it as challenge to make good low fat meals. I used to be as cook. There are not many options for low fat in restaurants and my problem was not getting enough calories as they had a standard portion size. A lot of low fat works cold so you can pack a lunch.

As for how to deal with co-workers?

I have made a life style choice and I hope you can respect that.

1

My dad has a really effective way of refusing any sweets/snacks/weird food that he is offered. He makes really surprised face and say something like "oh, thanks, but that look sugary" in the sort of way as he was saying "why on earth are you offering me this green, slimy alien's food?".

If anyone seems weird or tedious after such refusal it is the person who offered. I would also consider if it is worth mentioning diet and the fact this is temporary. Some people might not believe in diets or assume yours have finished. If you treat it instead as permanent life change the close people might be more motivated to take note.

This bit is a bit off the main question, but to back up this suggestion a bit: according to my research it takes the body about 7 years before it fully gets used to the new weight, so going back to your previous habits before that might end up in the unwanted weight coming back (source: why dieting doesn't_usuall work).

At work one of my colleagues each time after someone takes in sweets asks "where's the fruit for me?". I think everyone knows by now he would not eat any sweets. Btw. both my dad and the colleague are slim and not on a diet... so you surely don't need an excuse for treating your body well and setting good example for others :). Good luck!

1

In case of your family it's difficult to make separate food for everyone, so they may have started to offer you food and forgot your request. If that's the case get involved in kitchen, this will remind them that you are determined on eating healthy without you having to verbally remind them.

No matter your coworkers reasons for wanting to share food, you must set boundaries and feel guilt free. From theetiquettespot.com:

1.Let her know that you appreciate her offer. There is no reason to burn bridges with your colleague.
2.Take the blame. Yes, state this as your restriction. It is your choice for health or other reasons that you don’t want to eat her homemade flan.
3.State how this makes you feel. Feelings are personal, so you can state why you feel you can’t participate.
4.Set boundaries. Let your colleague know what you will have to do if you can’t find a solution. After all this is for your best interest.


The biggest problem with you is all your family members and colleagues who are not on diet. It's really hard for them to understand how difficult is to change your eating habit and stick to that change. So that's the reason that they have forgotten your request of not offering food (unhealthy).

Sources: cracked.com/blog and buzzfeed.

  • "Don't be dead set on turning down offers of food/snacks cause that will make you eat those even more" - maybe depends on the person, but for me it's definitely easier to say no to the first chocolate/cookie than to the second, third, ... – Ola M Sep 22 '17 at 10:15
1

Congratulations on your commitment!

When someone offers you a cookie...

Thanks, but that's worth twenty minutes sweating on the treadmill! Not ready for this yet...

or

Mmm, processed sugar and palm oil, trying to break the habit...

or even

I'm on baby carrots right now, want some?

or maybe

Thanks, but I've lost xxx pounds since I started this diet, and I'm not quitting!

Point finger to cookie

I know the dark side has cookies, but I'm still not joining, sorry!

Try to be cheerful about it, remind yourself of your achievements for motivation... use humor...

And, well, you can eat a cookie once in a while, it's not that bad.

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