Please Take "No" for an Answer

The other day I met up with an old acquaintance for coffee and conversation.  The conversation came easily; the coffee… not so much.

There was a long back and forth exchange between two baristas and me as I tried gallantly to find a tasty drink that had no added sugar.  My friend stood by my side, her simple iced tea order already place, waiting patiently through it all.  She picked up a biscotti and she picked up the tab.  Eventually our drinks were ready and we sat down to sip and chat.

And my friend, who could not possible have missed the ridiculousness of my quest for a sugar-free drink, broke off part of her biscotti and handed it to me.

“Oh, no thank you,” I quickly said.

“But I got it for both of us,” she replied as she put a small piece down on a napkin in front of me.

What?  Really?  All the times in the past we’ve met for coffee and she never pushed food on me before.  Yet today, with me making a complete fool out of myself while ordering clearly trying to avoid sugar in my coffee, she gives me a cookie.

So what did I do?

I ate it.  It was only an inch of biscotti, after all, which, if one has to be force-fed a sweet, is a pretty low-fat low-cal option.  I felt awkward.  So I partook.  And immediately after it hit my taste buds, I felt that sensation when the first bite leaves me wanting something more.  But more than that, I felt a huge array of mixed emotions in the blur of what was just a few moments.  I didn’t want the biscotti.  No craving (before I ate it).  So why didn’t I just ignore it.  Or pass it back.  Or more emphatically insist, “No thank you.”  Or say something about watching what I’m eating or avoiding sugar or sweets.  Or that I didn’t want to spoil my dinner.  Or that I had just had a snack before I came.  Now that it’s days later, I can think of all sorts of ways I might have handled it differently.

Then, to add insult to injury, my friend didn’t even finish her (albeit twice as large) piece of the darn thing!  What’s with that?

And in case you are wondering, that one bite did not pack on any pounds or lead to any overeating or binging.  But still!  I ate something I didn’t want.  Because of someone else.  And I held an internal debate about the ridiculousness of over-thinking an inch of biscotti.  Quite frankly, it seems I can over-think anything!

Anyhoo, there is a point to this.  And that point is – how do you get your point across?  How do you graciously say “no” when the first time doesn’t work?  Other than the old standby “I’m on a diet” because, for me, I keep on the down low about my eating issues.  Has something like this ever happened to you?




Filed under dieting, influence of others

79 responses to “Please Take "No" for an Answer

  1. This just sounds way too familiar to me! I don’t want people to know I’m dieting, so I always try to come up with excuses. One time, when we were served pizza at work, I invented feeling queasy in my stomach to avoid eating any. When really, what I should say is just “no”.

    I recently read a good article about this, I believe it was this:

    But the page is unavailable right now, so I can’t say for sure. Hope it comes back up soon, though, ’cause it was a good article!

    • Karen

      I’ll check it out; thanks. We went on vacation with two other couples once and the one (skinny) wife said she didn’t like sweets so kept turning down dessert. Later my husband and I wondered if that was how she said “no” easily.

  2. We’ve all been there and people will have different answers based on what does or does not work for them. Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but we both know that in the moment when faced with a dilemma like this, it’s never easy and there are no good solutions. I commend you for what you did because it appears there was no harm done. But we both know there could have been and therein lies the problem. Some will see this as a simple, “NO” and if it offends the person, that’s THEIR problem. Technically, yes, but I don’t see it as quite that cut and dried.

    • Karen

      Your comment reminds me of how it is that women have trouble saying “no” to so many things. Oprah used to talk about this. Maybe it’s so hard because we tend to be people pleasers or worry too much what others think about us.

  3. Ahhh another food pusher strikes again! I am an over thinker like you Karen. The debates that I have had in my head over the years- gives me a headache just thinking about it. I too come up with great comebacks- when I am in the shower the next day still thinking….
    I try to have 1 comeback that I use. This helps me make it a reflex reaction or a habit. I start with no thank you. If the person pushes I tell them I appreciate the offer, but no thank you. If they continue I say no thanks, but I will bring it home for my daughter or husband. Fortunately for me- I don’t encounter this often.
    On another note… BRAVO for you! No binge after! As for the friend who didn’t finish her half… go figure!!!

  4. a simple little coffee date turns in to a lot of perception is what I think. I tend to think a treat goes along with coffee at a place like…which may explain why it’s been many months since my last Starbucks visit.

    But isn’t it interesting to witness another person’s perceptions of foods when they are not a foodie..who leaves part of a biscotti? unless there’s green mold on it!

    • Karen

      Yes, reminds me that there are so many “normal” people out there who treat food like it should be treated. Sigh. Not me.

  5. I think it takes practice. I think it also takes time for people to get used to our healthy habits. I know people who I “know” don’t eat sweets. Maybe they used to be on a diet. Maybe they have diabetes. Maybe they are health freaks. 🙂 But, I expect them to turn down or skip dessert at work functions.
    I’m not quite that person yet–I will take a brownie at a lunch meeting if the stars are aligned correctly–but people know that I skip “donut day” (1st Wed.) and the “ice cream parties” (summer Fridays) at work.
    I think we should NOT have to say more than “No, thanks.” We should not have to repeat ourselves or explain ourselves. The more we back up that “no” with our actions and stick by our choices the easier it will become for us and the more people will take us at our word.
    (I’m giving myself a pep talk here as I head into a work “retreat” this weekend ….)

    • Karen

      I hope your retreat goes well:) Funny thing… last night I was at dinner with some women and one gal, who has always been quite thin (but not in an unhealthy way) for the decades I’ve known her, had a very unhealthy appetizer. Fried. And the same meal as me. (We all did, actually.) But when the rest of us shared a dessert, this woman was the only one who declined. Not even one bite. Made me wonder.

  6. Hi Karen! I think the worst part about the force-feeding is the mental part. It’s just when I’ve worked up to having this ideal for myself of making my own decisions for food–only to see it crunched by a person with no real goal at all in trying to shove food at me. And it is really difficult to “just say no” because people view it as anti-fun. Well, I was ready to have fun with my low-cal food, why can’t they just let me do that?

    🙂 Marion

    • Karen

      “anti-fun” – I get that! Someone was just talking on her blog about this yesterday and I shared that I know at times in my dieting life I have actually indeed been less fun because I was not partaking. Be it in the alcohol or the decadent dessert or…

  7. MB

    Some people love to push food to make themselves feel better about what they are eating or just want you to join in the deliciousness. When “no thank you” doesn’t work I would try “I think I have an allergy to sugar.” Who can argue with that? Good luck!

    • Karen

      I can only imagine the questions that might come from that little bombshell! But you raise a very good point. Seems in this day and age so many people have an issue with some kind or other of food. Why not let that be a possible excuse:)

  8. I hate when that happens. Both the barista and the friend. It is likely that, after having declined, I would have just left the cookie lay there and not have eaten it…unless I really wanted it, then not wanting to offend my friend would have been a perfect out for me. :} (Not saying that was your situation, at all.)

    What I hate most about this whole food decision thing is when I have a decision to make–like when what I had planned on ordering isn’t available or an abrupt change in plans occurs–and I can’t figure out a “best” decision so I go with “good enough”. Then later realize that a perfect solution was right there and SO EASY and then the “WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT THEN” feeling happens.

    Ack. I hate that feeling. My brain is food challenged.

    As far as your situation goes–eh, it was an inch of biscotti, shrug. No damage.

    Next time, tho, remember it is okay to say “No, thanks” and mean it. You do not have to justify, explain, excuse or defend. Really. You don’t.


    • Karen

      Thanks, Deb. You are, of course, correct. Wish I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. It would make this and life so much easier:)

  9. This has happened to me and what I do it explain that I have a set eating times and will save it for my snack later. At that time you can save it for later or get rid of it without hurting the other parties feelings.

    • Karen

      Oh – good one! I’ll have to remember this and then hope I have the willpower to toss it after staring it down while I’m sitting there:)

  10. I see this as less of a ‘food-pusher’ dilemma and more of a host/guest thing, since your friend picked up the tab. She thought she was being generous, I’m guessing? I’d have done the same thing you did, probably, but another option would have been to say, “That’s so sweet! I wish I’d known so I could have let you know I wouldn’t be having any. Oh well, this way you get to have it ALLLLL to yourself.” And then let it go.

    • Karen

      Oh – interesting perspective. And such a great come back. I’d never be that clever in the spur of the moment:( Okay, I might never be that clever even with days to think about it!

  11. Jan

    Cammy’s answer is so much more diplomatic and kind than I could ever think of… One could always lie, “My doctor is worried I might be pre-diabetic.” Then you would have to worry every time you took a bite of sweets in public. (I really am not a fan of lying.)

    Perhaps it’s easier for me having lost so much weight, and people inquire how I have done it so they know that I don’t eat sugar (except when I do) 😉

    • Karen

      And I think if I said anything like that she’d then want to ask all about it! I do think for me it is harder in some ways that I have never been obese. (Okay, that sounds wrong but hopefully you know what I mean.) Not that people don’t push food on someone who clearly needs to lose weight… but I think there is a different reaction when someone who is not outwardly needing to diet says “no” because of any mention of “dieting.”

  12. It is slightly strange that after witnessing you order a sugar free beverage (not easily I might add)that your friend would offer you a piece of biscotti. It’s as if all of that back and forth with the barista was completely lost on her. I have had friends and family that have downright tried to sabotage my diet in the past – but your friend doesn’t sound like she was trying to lead you down some dark fat-laden path – but maybe she just isn’t in tune with what’s going on with you – in terms of trying to lose weight. She may have never expected you to say no.
    I think when people don’t take no for an answer, it tests our resolve more than we realize, and that stinks. Dieting is hard enough. You shouldn’t beat yourself up over an inch of biscotti though – no harm done. But it does give you a leg up on knowing what to do the next time unexpected temptation emerges. If you say no, and it goes “unheard” and someone pushes something in front of you, just smile politely, push and back, and say (sweetly), “Really, no thanks. I’m not a big fan of ( – insert offending food here – )” Guaranteed they won’t try giving it to you again.

    • Karen

      That is a great suggestion! I think you are right in that she probably didn’t put two and two together. People with no food issues are often just not in tune to clues in others of us with those issues.

  13. MO

    Peer pressure can be the worst. Had this exact thing happen to me the other night in regards to the last bite of a shared treat. And when I could not resist my friend then proceeds to say “I won, you lose – I didn’t have to have the last bite”. To be honest, that comment hurt more then you can imagine. (She is much smaller then me). We just have to resist. Taking the two bite rule has been good for me. Don’t deprive yourself, but you can have two bites and leave it at that. However, I am just doing the totally avoid the temptation plan. Saying NO has got to be my friend!! I am also one that was told to make sure your plate is clean at the end. Good food should not go to waste – yada, yada….tough positions to all be in when it comes to making sure we take care of ourselves !!! Proud of you for not taking more then one bite and not going overboard later on in the day!!!

    Staying MOtivated MO

    • Karen

      That was so “not nice” of her! And reminds me of a time when winning was EATING the last bite. Oh how things change. Last night I was out with friends and there was no game playing when we shared two desserts at the table, but I was offered the last bite of one. I didn’t want it. The other gal ate it.

  14. Aw man! I HATE food pushers! I had to deal with them a lot when I was trying to lose weight and I was teetering on such a fine line with my food it was frustrating. So I stopped hanging out with people who pushed food on me.

    After losing the weight people’s attitudes changed. They started pushing food on me, making comments about how I “don’t need to lose any more weight” or “it’s just one piece”. Like because I am fit and thinner now I can eat anything? It’s really bizarre. I have no problem being firm and saying “NO!”

    • Karen

      I think people really don’t understand that someone can look “thin” and still have to really (and with me, really really) watch every potential bite.

  15. KLA

    Previously, I would not have worked too hard to say no to a piece of biscotti.

    Now, I’d be more firm: “Really no thank you. It is hard for me to say no so please respect my decision. Save the rest for yourself for later.”

    If the food pusher persists, I’d get a little annoyed and ask, “Why is it so important to you that I eat this piece of food with you?”

  16. Saying no to certain foods and eating healthy around people you don’t eat healthy can be such a challenge! I feel like some people get uncomfortable if they eating something “bad” and you say no, like it highlights that they’re eating bad. And I also think there are some people who don’t want their friends to lose weight or change like that, so maybe it’s a little bit of sabotage whether they realize it or not. Now that you know how it makes you feel, you can do it different next time!

  17. You figured it out and you now have some great options of ways to handle this kind of thing next time.
    Interesting that just that much triggered you a bit. I know the feeling…
    I’m lucky that in my family, (i have 5 sisters) we’ve all been through too much with weight not to support each other.

    • Karen

      Here’s the thing about being triggered, Teresa… I wonder if I am feeling an actual physical response (which might indeed be so if you are to believe the science of eating sugar and fat and salt), or if it is a psychological reaction, like me telling myself one bite of crap will set me off so then I become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Does that make sense?

  18. Most people have learned that it is impolite and maybe even ungrateful to refuse a treat. It may take a little longer before you get rid of that training. ^^

    • Karen

      Just one more way society as a whole makes it difficult for us. Like all those airbrushed images in magazines. And all the food commercials on TV.

  19. Oh see — this is so crazy — I get it, but it’s nuts. It is nuts how we can torture ourselves. And either way, it’s torture. It’s crazy to change our behavior to suit someone else — just say no. And it’s crazy to be so rigid that we can’t indulge in a tiny treat on occasion — just say no.

    When do we ever get to say yes?

    I go back and forth on how I feel about things. The conundrum in this one is saying no to others may equate saying no to ourselves when it would really be okay to say yes to both. At the same time, saying yes to others is saying no to ourselves — unless of course we’re being too rigid and controlling with ourselves and saying yes would be okay.

    Quite the roundabout topic — I’m left disturbed and want to think more on this one.

    • Karen

      I want to have the less rigidity thing! BUT, I want it on my terms. I want to be able to indulge a bit now and then but because I want to, not because I felt coerced into it. Life would be so much easier for me if I never engaged in social eating again, but we both know how crazy unrealistic that is.

  20. Unfortunately, i’m all too familiar with this scenario! A dear friend who is a pilates teacher is the worst; whenever we go out and I don’t order dessert, she will ask me four or five times if I want a bite before reluctantly accepting my answer. i choose to think it is subconscious since she is so supportive in many other ways but in your coffeehouse situation, it sounds deliberate. Hate to say it, but perhaps a little part of her is jealous of your continued success with healthy living?

    • Karen

      Honestly, I think this gal was just oblivious. While I have known her for years, she was a former boss, actually, and close but not a close friend who would be privy to my weight issues or even necessarily seen my changes over time. We did have a discussion once about it, though, when she noticed I’d lost. But I think with her it is just not on her radar.

  21. I just had this happen today at work. My team lead brought back small sundaes from DQ for us because we are short staffed today. I know she was being nice and I did eat it. My big problem is with ‘free’ food. Potlucks, work sponsored things, etc. I have this I deserve this since it is free.

    • Karen

      OMG if someone brought me ice cream! And you can’t say “I’ll save it for later” because it would melt. Sigh.

  22. I keep forgetting Thursday is your day – sorry!

    Well, I wonder if this is a friend that knows you are watching your weight.. if yes, I hate to say sabotage BUT maybe it is just her being her if she is that way. – meaning she just likes to offer up & share.

    As for the NO part, people get used to it. With me, nobody ever questions me anymore. They know I pick & chose what I do & do not want & it really has to be worth it for me to try. If they insist, I just say no thanks OR I may have to say that I don’t like it OR it does not settle with my stomach if it is a person that does not know me or is persistent.

    Karen, like what you have done for your weight loss, now take that to this part of your life. Practice just saying no & they will just have to get used to it…. if they persist, just say you really do not want it….. she bought the cookie so just tell her she can take the rest home for later or anyone else that tries this. Practice your NO’s! 🙂 You conquered your food stuff & got to your goal weight & you can do this!

    • Karen

      I suspect people in your life are very aware of how you are just all around healthy:) That probably makes it easier, in some regards. Maybe I need to just start saying I am trying to eat healthy and end it there. Practice is good:) Thank you.

  23. Bwah!

    As you can probably guess, I try to make light of such circumstances. Most probably self deprecating. But as you saw from my post it makes me NUTS dealing with these situations (and more).

    I got to thinking this morning that I probably do the same thing like “Oh for Pete’s sake why are you dieting?” Or “Are you sure you don’t want some”. I bet a few people have wanted to smack the devil out of me.

    I will tell you this: Just like every other annoying or painful or frustrating lesson you have to learn, you also get to learn the compassionate and loving end of it. You get the chance to learn how to say no and stick by it, but you also learn how to be a kind and considerate friend when the time rolls around for you to be the offerer of biscotti.

    That said – you just spent time not ordering sugar. She was a bit of a zombie.

    Yeah, I think tomorrow I will post about the learning for later part of these challenges.

    Thanks for giving me a chance for the extra moment of clarity Karen. As always.

    • Karen

      Ah you are very wise to remind me that we all need to put ourselves on the other side of the table now and again. Makes me look back and wonder if I have ever pushed food. I hope not!

  24. Yes, I just came from Munchberry’s blog and saw that she is having issues with this as well. I think we all have; I wish I knew what the answer was. Obviously, the right answer would be to stand your ground, be firm and realize that this is your life and you aren’t going to let other people dictate how you live it.
    Me? I still have a tiny bit of a flaw where I don’t want to hurt another person’s feelings OR I don’t want to make a big issue of it, even though it may be important to me, OR I avoid confrontation. All of these things would have had me just eating the piece of cookie, but like you, feeling sort of defeated about it.
    Each presentation brings clarity, Karen. You’ve just been given a small dose of it, and I guarantee that next time, you’ll be ready!

    • Karen

      Yes! I have those same exact things rolling in my head, Ellen! And I wonder if YOU can identify with how hard I find it to be outwardly “normal” looking but inwardly not so that someone else would never realize offering me a cookie is a big deal to me.

  25. I’ve been Vegan for the last month as a challenged issued to myself. Yesterday I politely turned down pizza, and a whole array of delicious and tasty foods in an effort to keep my vegan challenge. It always leaves me feeling elitist and like I’m the “annoying one” of the group.

    But if you have a plan, and it causes you that much stress to deviate from it, then just be open about the reasons you are refusing food, or asking for special orders. People may scoff, or try harder, but more than likely they’ll understand and appreciate how strong you are for being able to say no.

    Associating guilt with food should never be tolerated.


    • Karen

      Ah, being vegan is so clear cut. And can be for reasons other than the whole weight thing. My niece has been vegan for years and everyone accommodates her without issue. I still remember the time she was staying with us from out-of-town for a family wedding and asked to take a jar of peanut butter from our house to the wedding reception so she’d know she had something to eat:)

  26. It was an awkward situation. I found that once I started being honest with the people I am around that I am trying to eat healthy and not eat a lot of processed foods they no longer try to push food on me.

    If you don’t want to make it about being on a “diet” or your “weight” then make it be about your health. For some reason when you make it about your health people don’t argue with you or try to tempt you or guilt you into eating it with them.

    • Karen

      Oh thanks for reminding me that I can make it about processed foods! Although I guess that might not have worked with some fake stuff added to my drink for flavoring. Hmm.

  27. read this a few times now and it really does come back to —oddly enough—-I just say no thank you and if people nudge again and again I dont say anything else.

    I sit with the silence 🙂

    • Karen

      I suspect you are a person who wears her healthy lifestyle on her sleeve:) I need to practice saying no and then saying nothing.

  28. I totally understand this. It happens. I hate it though. It’s hard to say no sometimes because it just feels so awkward! But the best thing to do is say no thank you and stick with it. If she says she bought it for you both you can gently remind her that you didn’t ask her to do that and she can take your half and save it for herself for later. 😉

  29. I have TOTALLY been there! It’s hard enough for me to say no in the first place, then to have someone insist just makes it all the more awkward! People need to respect others’ choices in what they eat/drink and not make that person feel badly about it.

    • Karen

      I think people like company in what they are eating. In this case, I suspect my friend was just oblivious. But I am sure that sometimes it is more than that.

  30. Roz

    Hi Karen, it can be so hard to say “no”. You were put in an awkward position! You ARE a strong woman Karen, don’t ever lose sight of that ok!? Have a great Friday.

  31. Kimberly

    Am I wrong to tell someone I’m allergic to it? And if they press, I tell them it makes my throat swell up and I can’t breathe. So far, it has worked. :/

    • Karen

      Hey, whatever works for you, IMO:) As for me, I avoid that one because I actually know several people with food allergies and don’t want to get into questions or whatever else might come with that one.

  32. Slender

    Okay my answer is going to be different. Because like alot of people I have lost and gained the same weight for a long time. THIS time I declared it will be last run for goal. This one is for which I believe is why I’m seeing progress. Slow progress but progress. If someone bought me something with the intent to split/share with me, I would say oh thanks but you should have asked me first because I really don’t want anything right now and quickly change the subject. At this point I don’t want to worry about hurt feelings but it was their choice to buy something and they can’t feel bad if I didn’t want to eat it.

  33. I had that happen at a coffee shop where it was free flavor shot day. The barista could not comprehend that I wanted an unsweetened latte. He kept saying “But it’s free!”

    I think you have to become unafraid of offending people when you say no. Because some will be offended, but that is really their issue and not yours.

    • Karen

      I know you are right, Lori. I have always worried way too much about offending someone or what they think of me. Sigh.

  34. It really bothers me when people keep offering food after I’ve already politely declined. Many times I am not at my strongest and a slight wind could push over my willpower. I also know too well the disappointment I feel after succumbing to their insistence. This is just another skill I will need to work on along my journey.

    • Karen

      You and me both. Sometimes it’s easier than others. Maybe next time you can think of me and I can think of you and we can draw strength from that:)

  35. Wow, incredible a friend would do such a thing. I understand co-workers, but friends? Is it possible she didn’t know about your addictions?

    This has happened before but usually from people who are not my true friends that really listen to me.

    • Karen

      She actually IS a former co-worker. My old boss, actually. But now just a friend. But I am sure she has no idea of my eating issues. Back when we worked together, I don’t think it was ever a major problem although I am sure I dieted off and on some then. But there are very few people in my real life who have any idea that food is something I struggle with the way I do.

  36. It is hard when it feels like people are pushing food on you. I say – -no, I am not hungry, thank you. And if they keep going I just say thank you and then don’t eat it.

    I always say we would never say to a kleptomaniac — “Go ahead and just steal one thing — it will be ok” but people feel with dieting it is ok to say “go ahead — one piece won’t kill you….”

    • Karen

      It strikes me how very simple it should be to just say I’m not hungry. Funny though, that hunger seems to be taken out of the equation so often and it becomes about anything but hunger.

  37. i have a hard time telling people no because i don’t want to hurt their feelings.

  38. One weekend i kept track of all the food that was pushed on me…or someone said one doesnt hurt. It was amazing the number of calories I avoided. I just wish people would respect my answer of “no” instead of keep pushing!

  39. That’s how it worked out with my hubby- two days in a row he got baskin robbins and 2 days in a row I ate it. I should have said no but I didn’t, on the 3rd day I said please no more because I can’t just eat wheatever I want like you can! Thankfully he listened because I probably would have gone NUTS on him if he got more ice cream lol.

    • Karen

      I would find it easier to say no to my husband if I really wanted to say no. But I’d so prefer he just not add to temptation!

  40. Wow – what a great and interesting and powerful story! My stuff is different, but I totally relate.
    That’s why I love my evil twin.
    My haggish sister.
    the one who proudly says No as a sentence.
    No explanation. No justification. No white lie.
    I’m better than I used to be, but I can soooo relate.

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