A client of mine I'll call "Sue" came to me with a lousy diet and an ambitious weight loss goal. We had been working together for some weeks, swapping in more nutritious food and crowding out the junk. She was making good progress with her adjustments and the scale was validating her work.
At a recent appointment, Sue and I were reviewing her food journal for the previous week, and I was surprised to see doughnuts, several appearances of cookies, plus a lot of wine and chocolate candy.
"I haven't seen a lot of these kinds of foods lately in your tracking. What was going? What was your mindset when you picked these up?," I asked her.
"Oh, all these were gifts. The doughnuts were from my boss after I kicked ass on a project. My mom brought me a dozen of those pretty frosted cookies, so I've been working on those all week. And then my husband brought me the candy and wine for our anniversary. I'm almost through it all, though!"
When I pushed back a bit on the quantity of treats she was eating in lieu of her goals, she was pretty incredulous in her response: "They were gifts!"
Her response implied that because food is gifted to her, she had no choice; she was obligated to eat it.
I completely understood what Sue was saying. When someone gives you a gift of food, it's a gesture of love. By consuming the gift, the receiver accepts that love, and it feels good on so many levels, including the warm fuzzy feelings we get (temporarily, at least) from sugar/salt/fat (I've yet to see a raw vegetable platter as a food gift).
If Sue refused the cookies her mom brought her, her mom might have felt hurt. Sue's refusal on some level would have felt like a refusal of that love.
If Sue refused the doughnuts from her boss, her boss may have felt that Sue was rude or ungrateful. It may have even embarrassed her boss.
And don't get me started on the implication of Sue refusing chocolates from her husband.
So what do we do about food gifts when you're also pursuing a health and fitness goal?
The number one defense is a good offense. Shout it from the rooftops that you are adapting a healthier diet. That doesn't mean that food gifts will disappear, but those closest to you who love and respect you will also respect your choice to eat more healthfully.
The second strategy is to manage quality and quantity (aka treat treats as treats). If your mom always brings you cookies and it's a special gift that you really love, ask her to bring them over less frequently and fewer of them. One cookie once a month is a much better option than a dozen cookies every couple weeks. A couple beautifully hand-made chocolates is a better option than a giant box of a several dozen chocolates.
Strategy number three: Pitch it. You are a grown up. You can smile, say "Thank you," and throw out a gift discretely. As my clients hear me say oh-so-frequently, you have choices.
Need support in managing the minefield of food gifts, restaurant meals and meal planning? Let's talk.