Healthy Tidbits

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The gift of food: How to politely decline food during the holidays without offending

Dec 23, 2014

Holiday traditions in America vary widely from one family to the next, but there is one thing that seems to be a constant theme in every American home: food.

On Valentine’s Day, it’s cookies and chocolate. On Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, it’s hot dogs, burgers, steaks and anything else we can throw on the grill. On Thanksgiving, it’s turkey and a feast fit for a king. On Christmas it’s never ending baked goods, fudge and other sweets. On New Year’s Day, it’s black eyed peas to bring prosperity.

Food is closely linked to every holiday we celebrate. We cook, bake, eat out of tradition. We share food with others because it has been ingrained in us that food is how we show we care.

When a family member is in the hospital, when a new baby is born, when a friend loses a loved one — we offer food. Why is this?

“Our society feeds one another to show love. After all, food is essential to life, so what could be more caring than feeding someone? …the act of sharing food with someone is as basic and fundamental a show of affection as there is.” (excerpt from Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny by Nick Nicholson, MD)

Politely declining the gift of food

It’s easy to see how turning down a meal or declining a gift of food can be seen as a form of rejection. When a woman spends her whole day preparing a meal for her family only to have the children (or even her husband!) turn their noses up at the meal she’s provided, feelings get hurt and family tensions can rise.

If you have undergone weight loss surgery, you are no longer to eat they kinds of foods or eat as much food as you once did. But turning down food given as a gift of care from a loved one, or declining a meal on a holiday isn’t so simple.

“When you turn down food from your family and friends, they may interpret your action as a slap at them. For most of your life, they’ve cooked special dinners for your birthday, taken you out to your favorite restaurant to celebrate your promotion, and brought cookies over when you’re feeling down. These are all generous, loving gestures, and if you now eat sparingly or turn down the food altogether, they may interpret that as a sign that you don’t love them, you don’t appreciate their care, or you’re being downright rude.” (excerpt from Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny by Nick Nicholson, MD)

So what should you do?

Patients who have had weight loss surgery will typically choose one of two possible courses of action in this scenario.

  1. Explain to family members and friends why you’re not eating so much. Tell them the truth: you have had weight loss surgery, and because of the surgery, you aren’t able to eat the food you’ve been offered.
  2. Develop an alternative excuse as to why you are not eating. If you feel your loved ones will not be supportive of your decision to undergo weight loss surgery, telling them about the procedure may not be the best course of action. Some patients choose to blame their lack of eating on a different procedure, such as hernia surgery.

Whether you tell the real reason you aren’t eating or choose the second option, it’s important to reassure your loved ones that their care for you is appreciated. You may even find the need to offer suggestions of other ways they can demonstrate their love for you, other than giving food.

In the time of transition following weight loss surgery, you must do what’s best for you. Don’t let guilt from loved once force you to eat something you know you shouldn’t. Instead, focus on the dietary instructions given you following your surgery and stick to that plan. And remember: there is much more to the holiday season than food! Celebrate the time you have to spend with loved ones.

Weight Loss Surgery: The Real Skinny, by Dr. Nick Nicholson is available for purchase now on Amazon.