Facing Family Pressure During the Holidays

Visiting family can be the best part of the holidays – and also the worst. Use these clever comebacks for whatever weight-loss roadblocks get thrown at you.
Published November 6, 2015

No one said dieting was easy – especially during the holidays. Extra giblet gravy. Sweet-potato-marshmallow casserole. Pecan pie. It’s hard to resist. Add to the calorie-fest a well-meaning friend or family member who likes to push food on you and you’ve got a total diet derailment.

“Even though your family has good intentions and wants you to be happy, they may let their own insecurities – about their weight, their cooking, the way they raised you, whatever – get in the way of your weight-loss success," says Deborah Beck Busis, LSW, the diet program coordinator for the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Lurking next to the bread pudding and that tray of cookies is a person ready to inadvertently destroy your diet with one "harmless" statement. Fend off family pressure with a witty retort that keeps the peace and keeps you on Plan…

Diet-busting comment: "I made my coconut custard pie just for you. I know how much you love it," says Aunt Sally.
Diet-saving comeback: “Thank you so much! I do love it, but this year, I’ll have to pass.”

Turn down the sweets in the sweetest way you can. In awkward situations where your refusal can crush someone, it’s easy to whither and just eat the stupid pie (or stuffing or cheese ball). Before you cave, ask yourself who will be more upset in the end. “Your aunt will most likely get over your refusal pretty quickly,” says Busis. “But if you blow your plans for that meal, you’ll be mad at yourself for days.”

You best bet: Tell your aunt (and anyone else you’ll be celebrating with) ahead of time that you’ve joined Weight Watchers. That way, you won’t have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings on the holiday.

Diet-busting comment: "Of course you have to make all 10 types of cookies for the cookie swap,” says your mother. “It's tradition!"
Diet-saving comeback: “Let’s try a new tradition.”

“Holiday rituals are tough to break,” says Busis. “People look forward to them, even if they’re unhealthy.” Opting out of a long-standing tradition is bound to rub some people the wrong way. To lessen the blow, suggest a new tradition that isn’t food related, such as going ice-skating as a family or making homemade ornaments.

Still getting push-back? Busis suggests it might be worth it to take one for the team: Bake and swap some healthier versions that won’t send you into a temptation tailspin). Instead of eating them, give them away as gifts to your friends and neighbours. Better yet, here’s an idea for a new holiday tradition your whole family can get in on: Deliver them to a senior's home or soup kitchen.

Diet-busting comment: "Did you try this 10-cheese dip? It's amazing,” says your sister.” Go 'head, you gotta try it!"
Diet-saving comeback: “Nope. Not gonna try it. No, thank you. Thanks, but no thanks.”

You said no already. But the food pusher won't quit. Feel yourself close to surrender? Think about your weight loss goals as completely inflexible, the way a vegetarian or diabetic might, suggests Busis. Would a vegetarian eat a steak just because her aunt got pushy with her? No way.

The point is to stick to your guns and say no as many times as you need to send your food-pushing sister (and her cheese dip) packing. “Food pushers think that if they push hard enough, they’ll eventually get you to do what they want,” says Busis. But if you never give in, she will eventually give up.

Diet-busting comment: “Why do you even bother dieting at the holidays?" asks your father.
Diet-saving comeback: “Because I’ve lost 10 pounds so far – and I want to lose more.”

Don’t let your downer Dad – or anyone – derail you. “There are negative people in all of our lives who feel bad about themselves and don’t want to see us succeed,” says Busis. Cement your resolve by reminding naysayers (and yourself!) why you're watching what you eat: Because losing weight makes you feel good, both physically and mentally. Fitting into your skinny jeans is the holiday gift that keeps on giving.

Diet-busting comment: After hosting the holidays, your sister-in-law says, "I don't want to bring home any leftovers. You can have them all."
Diet-saving comeback: “If I take them, I’m just gonna toss ’em.”

Don’t just say it, do it! Yes, it’s awful to waste food. But you’ve got to weigh (ahem) your feelings. What’s going to make you feel worse: Throwing out leftovers or stepping on the scale come January 2 and discovering that you’re up 10 pounds? Yup, that’s what we thought. Now go throw out that food (or on second thought, make up a plate of holiday cookies for your hard-working trash collectors).

Diet-busting comment: Your best friend offers you spiked egg nog. ”One drink can’t hurt, right?”
Diet-saving comeback: “OK.”

Most of us want to indulge a little bit at the holidays, and that is totally reasonable and okay. “It’s not all or nothing, there is a middle ground,” says Busis. Enjoy small indulgences so that you're not coming from a place of total deprivation when you’re faced with more overwhelming situations. One cup of cocoa isn’t going to kill you. This is what your weekly allowance is for after all! The key is to plan ahead. Decide in advance when and what your indulgences will be so you don’t overdo it.