Providing nourishment was one of the very first ways that our mother’s soothed us as infants, both feeding us and soothing us emotionally by holding us close. When your grandmother or aunt offers you another helping, insists you try the dessert, or even tells you look too thin, it may simply be a desire to express love to and nurture you. This desire can be more intense during the holidays as sentimentality heightens emotions.
When people are pushing food to express their love, a hard rejection can be experienced as personal rejection. You may be able to distract them with loving attention. The most direct response may be to thank them sincerely for the offer or compliment and tell them that you have had enough to eat or that you are avoiding certain foods for health reasons. It can sometimes help to also offer an expression of appreciation to reinforce the positive relationship.
Another reason family members may insist that you try dessert or their “famous cranberries” may simply be because they want to be appreciated or praised. It may not be that they do not care about your goals or health. They may care very much, but their own emotional needs may be distracting them from being as supportive as they would like to be for you. For these family members, you may want to thank them, compliment them, gently remind them of your goals and doctor’s orders, while taking a very small taste or portion and praising it highly. You will be building your relationship and practicing moderation.
There may be family members who are trying to sabotage your progress. I do not believe this is the truth for the majority of loved ones, but it does happen. Sometimes someone’s own issues make it personally painful for someone else to be successful. This is the most difficult situation to deal with, especially during the holidays when we often want to keep the peace. It will likely not be helpful to be overly firm or to remind them of your goals. It may be helpful to have someone who can be supportive with you when dealing with family members that may want to sabotage you. Remember that no matter how much someone wants to sabotage you or pushes food on you, no one can force you to eat.