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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Weight Control


“But Mother, I’m Full” - Dealing with Pressures to Eat

Lynda Johnson, R.D., Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri

According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of the book Intuitive Eating, one major principle of healthy eating is to eat when hungry, and stop eating when we are satisfied. This helps us avoid overeating, and reinforces our natural abilities to monitor our food intake and calories. Unfortunately, our best efforts to eat more healthfully and eat less to maintain a healthy weight can be sabotaged. Well-meaning family and friends, and some not so well-meaning, can pressure us to eat.

In his book, The LEARN Program for Weight Management 2000, Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., an internationally known expert in this field, suggests there are a number of reasons friends, relatives, and co-workers encourage you to eat when you don’t want to eat.

  • They feel uncomfortable eating in front of you when you are not eating. Tell them you don’t feel uncomfortable, and for them to go ahead and eat if they wish.
  • They offer you food knowing that you will not accept it.
  • Some people become jealous of your success in maintaining a healthier weight.
    Individuals with weight problems can be jealous of your success, and even thin people can feel threatened, thus, they try to persuade you to eat. As Brownell states, “This is their problem, so don’t let it become yours by agreeing to eat.”
  • They would rather that you did not succeed.
    Brownell indicates that you can detect these saboteurs when a person suddenly craves your favorite food, or says discouraging things like, “You’ve never succeeded before at keeping the weight off, this time won’t be any different.” Don’t become confrontational, instead politely refuse to eat. This is their problem, not yours. Continue to refuse food when you don’t want it, and they will finally get the message. This is another reason to be sure and surround yourself with supportive friends and family.
  • They believe you must be starving for food.
    Since most people correlate losing weight with starvation, they assume you must be famished. People generally associate food with love, thus, people want to show their concern for you by offering food. Reassure them that you are fine and eating sufficiently to satisfy your hunger and your body’s needs.
  • Some want to test your determination, while others are simply thoughtless.
    Don’t let teasing distract you from your goal to eat healthier. Stand firm, and let them know you are serious about making these lifestyle changes. When co-workers bring rich treats to work and place them by the coffeepot, ask them to move the food elsewhere. One office worker says she lightheartedly tells colleagues not to bring the food near her saying, “I’m allergic to fat; I break out!” When your social group plans lunch out, communicate your need to select restaurants that offer more healthful choices.

If you sense that a loved one is threatened by your weight loss, talk with him or her about these feelings. Offer reassurance that your healthier habits will not hinder your relationship. When someone pressures you to eat, stand up for yourself, and speak your mind in a polite way. It’s important that your body language and your tone of voice also say no. Be direct and firm about your decision not to eat. If necessary, ask the person to stop asking you to eat, and then change the subject. Brownell recommends planning your responses for a variety of circumstances, and then practicing so you are well prepared to state your mind in a polite, yet firm manner.







Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009



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