Food serves many purposes. Its primary function is biological-to provide nourishment and the basic nutrients to sustain our body and its many functions. Food by its very definition and use is nutrition-it is what we consume to sustain our bodies so we can live. Without food or adequate nutrition we cannot survive. But food has many other purposes that are not biologically-based.
From an anthropological perspective, food also has a variety of social purposes. Food brings us together, it can serve as the centerpiece for social gatherings and the sharing of food often marks rituals, holidays and milestones in our lives. It can serve as comfort or solace when we are sad, angry, stressed or scared. Demonstrating love via food is common. Purchasing, preparing and then presenting food to others is a very nurturing act. So it makes sense that when we are stressed or sad we eat because it is a way of nurturing ourselves. When this becomes problematic, we should focus on identifying other ways to nurture ourselves when we are stressed or sad that do not involve food.
But what do you do when someone else makes your food their business?
What is a food pusher?
Do you have a “food-pusher” in your life? A food pusher is someone who causes unplanned eating by literally pushing food, whether it’s healthy or not, at any time of the day. Even if you are uncomfortably full, a food pusher will actively encourage you to go back for more. Food pushers can be quite persuasive and usually won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. They often push food that is high in calories and unhealthy.
For example, you may have a mother who welcomes you home with a tempting spread of home-cooked food and encourages you to eat, eat eat! Maybe your partner brings a huge bowl of cheese puffs to the couch for your Netflix marathon despite your New Year resolution to eat healthier. Perhaps you have a friend who brings you a tray of homemade lasagna when you’re trying to cut down on carbs.
How do I handle a food pusher?
So how do you make healthy choices while also acknowledging your loved one’s “love language”? By acknowledging the efforts they make preparing the food and the food itself-without accepting the food. Accept their efforts, but don’t accept the food. If you don’t want to eat you can say:
- “Thank you for making this for me. I can tell you spent a lot of time on it, the [food] looks amazing. I think I’m going to save it for later”.
- “That looks delicious! Can I have the recipe so I can try it later?”
- “Wow, you are a great chef/baker! You always make such good [food]. It’s too bad I ate such a big lunch/dinner”
- “Thank you for making [food]. It really makes me feel welcome. Can I save some for later?”
Come up with a few preplanned responses that acknowledge and validate their efforts then practice them so they come naturally.