Retrofit Blog


November 7, 2014
Say yes to saying no

Saying "no" anytime during the season of ho ho ho may sound downright Scrooge-like, but if you've made the decision to lose weight and have committed to a healthier lifestyle, it's essential to turn down some invitations, second helpings and (yes) delicious treats in order to get through the season without posting a gain on the scale.

With Thanksgiving around the corner and tailgate parties in full swing, those around you are gearing up to serve traditional favorites from turkey legs to chicken wings, and you're more likely than ever to encounter food pushers in one form or another. Food pushers typically fall into one of two camps: the You-Shouldnicks, well-intentioned individuals who use food to communicate love and the No-Goodnicks, those who (for whatever reason) are looking to undermine your weight-loss efforts.

Once you've figured out which team your pusher belongs to, you're in the position to make a decision as to whether you'll take them up on the offer or not. But before you do, know this: Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that simply saying "no" or "I can't have that" is not as effective as saying "I don't" when faced with a temptation.

The reason: "I don't" is perceived as a choice (i.e., "I don't have second helpings anymore because I'm determined to reach my ideal weight in 2015") as opposed to a deprivational sentence (ie., "I can't eat dessert because I'm trying to lose weight"). Of course, "I don'ts" and "no's" should not be taken lightly, since the person on the receiving end may not take it well. So, here's a primer on when and why to turn down food, invitations or anything else you need to bypass this season.


There are times you say "yes" to food when you know not so deep down that you should have politely declined. Here are four strategies to keep in mind when contemplating whether or not to indulge:

Say no when… you've had enough. It sounds simple, but if you've eaten the amount of food you've allotted yourself and you're no longer hungry, a turn-down is in order.

Say no when… you're on the fence. If you're offered a food that you consider more "meh" than marvelous, don't waste calories on it or, chances are, you'll regret it later when something more delicious comes your way.

Say yes when… you're dining out. If there's an "off-limits" food that you tend to overindulge in at home, such as potato chips or ice cream, order chips with your sandwich or a small scoop of ice cream for dessert when you're out on the town to help prevent yourself from going to town the next time you're alone at home.

Say yes when… you're feeling grateful. Depriving yourself of your favorite candied yams on Thanksgiving can be challenging and it won't help you lose weight or keep it off for the long term. In fact, researchers from the University of Tel Aviv found that dieters who ate a pastry every morning lost more weight than those who swore them off. The trick is to have a small portion, appreciate every bite and be grateful you gave yourself two gifts: the indulgence and good health.


Say No Because… You're Priority #1. Other years you may have filled and refilled your Thanksgiving plate because your top priority was pleasing the chef, but this year put yourself first. If you have to choose between disappointing your grandmother because you turn down a second helping of her pumpkin pie or disappointing yourself by straying from your food plan, choose grandma. Her disappointment will be short-lived.

Say No Because… You're Sticking to Your Guns. Do you need to have ribs at the tailgating party just because your friend offers them to you? Think of it this way: If you were a vegetarian, would you eat meat just to please someone, or abandon the special diet you're on for medical reasons just to spare someone's feelings? Then why would you eat something you hadn't planned for and worked into your day?

Say No Because… You're an Accounting Wiz. Or even if you're not, you can do a simple cost/benefit analysis: If you allow the host at the cocktail party to refill your wine glass even though you promised yourself you'd stop after just one, the benefit to your host would be very small. However, the benefit of you not having the second glass would be much greater, since if you end up drinking more than you want and feeling bad about yourself, you've relinquished control to someone else. In turn, you set a precedent by giving yourself permission to drink and eat too much in these situations, which could well prevent you from losing weight—and you might possibly gain. All this could be prevented by simply putting your hand over your glass and giving your head a little shake from side to side.

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Jennifer Plotnek Lead Behavior Coach

Jennifer is a lifelong athlete who has spent the last 15 years helping other people minimize the impact of their life stressors through exercise, nutrition, and self-care. She has a degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado and a Master's degree from the Smith College School For Social Work. Jennifer has worked in hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and private practice. She co-owns a health club in DC and always strives to set a good example for her three daughters.

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