Does any of this sound familiar?
"Oh come on, it won't hurt to have a bite."
"You should enjoy yourself - don't be so strict!"
"Live a little! It's the Holidays for crying out loud!"
"But your Grandmother made this for you, do you really want to hurt her feelings?"
Before we enter the combat zone, there needs to be a little clarification:
When we think about 'food pushers' we assume they are trying to sabotage us (and sometimes they definitely are) but that's not always 100% true, especially with family or friends.
Sometimes your loved one just wants to please you because they care about you. The ‘pushing’ is coming from a place of affection and they are wanting to build a connection with you on a personal level -- all of which completely changes how to deal with the food pushing situation.
Here’s an example: When I was on vacation with my husband recently, I noticed a clearly marked "vegan chocolate muffin" for sale at the cafe I'd popped into for coffee.
I immediately thought of my husband who loves chocolate, and muffins, and vegan treats in general.
I started to imagine how excited and happy he would be when I surprised him with the muffin back in our hotel room. How he'd put his arm around me, kiss me on the forehead and say, "You're the best love!"
Point is, I wasn’t trying to ‘sabotage’ my husband with the muffin. I definitely don’t want him to gain weight (ask him, I’m more invested in his diet, weight, and overall health than he is) -- I love him. I wanted to make him happy. Food/gifts are my love language. I frequently show my love by cooking for people or by buying food for them. (I even buy a surprising amount of food for my assistant's parents, which is a little odd when you consider I've never even met them--but I want them to know how much I value their daughter and sending a fruit basket feels less awkward than saying “you raised a good one” I suppose).
Circling back---when food pushing happens:
#1 identify whether the food pusher is doing it out of love.
If it IS out of love, the solution is simple: Give them an alternative. Tell them what they can do to please you while reaffirming the connection you have. Let them know that you DO feel loved by them and have a personal connection.
For example, "I always feel so special and loved when you put my homemade ornament from 1st grade on display. That really makes me happy."
If they aren't pushing out of love, you'll need a polite response or rebuttal.