Have you ever felt pressured by someone to consume food? Well then, do you know what is food pushing? Because that might just be what you are going through. Read on to understand this better.
You might have indulged in overeating behaviour when you stuffed food in your stomach out of anxiety when you get criticized about your body weight, or for any other reason. NHS says this behavior can turn into a binge eating disorder resulting in overfeeding yourself for potential ailments.
In this case, you push food onto yourself, which can be for various reasons, even for weight loss (eating due to anxiety of being slim). But there are moments when you don’t want to overeat/eat.
Reasons for not eating include not feeling hungry, medical issues, or diet plans. Still, you get forced by the people around you to eat something or take a few bites.
This article is all about those ‘few bites’ or ‘food pushing’, but let’s first start with the relative term force-feeding.
1. Is Force Feeding the Same as Food Pushing?
Forcing people for food is usually seen at parties, festival celebrations, or get-togethers. It can also be a part of office culture in some cases.
Pushers think a cake is just a piece of cake for their guests, and they can have different reasons to target people to eat what ‘they’ offer.
Is this behaviour common? Or you might wonder what’s wrong with someone offering food to you. They might be doing this out of love or genuine care, especially when the ones offering food tend to be family members.
Moms often do this. They feed or sometimes overfeed their children because they think ‘more food means more nourishment’ which might backfire in the long run.
However, force-feeding someone doesn’t only mean overfeeding but influencing their diet decisions, questioning their food choices, and making them uncomfortable by offering certain foods they don’t wish to eat.
A proper term for this is ‘food pushing’. Let’s know more about ‘what is food pushing’.
2. What Is Food Pushing?
Food pushing is when someone tries to or takes it upon themselves to control your eating decisions. It can be a relatively new term for many, but the act of pushing isn’t.
The reason can be many food pushers aren’t aware of its toxic influence on others’ diets or health, or they may be.
3. Food Shaming – A Part of Food Pushing
Food pushing forces you to grab an extra bite, but food shaming criticizes your tastes. It often accompanies food pushing when you’re judged for your food preferences and forced to eat something unacceptable or when you’re trying to lose weight or focus on nutrition.
Cleveland Clinic points out that reasons for food shaming depend on various factors, including social media. You know how it makes you feel if you prefer to eat healthy food when people feel comfortable with junk food.
The post also shares that people’s criticism comes from their own bad experiences with food which make them categorize food as good or bad. But a shift in thinking, like seeing food as satisfying and nutritious, can establish the balance by removing the guilt for eating certain foods.
4. What is Food Pushing on Kids?
You, as a parent, worry about your child’s nutrition and want them to eat healthy meals. You think you have a good sense of how much your kid should eat. Thus, you force-feed them.
Force-feeding, in this case, seems like a natural and harmless thing. But it, in reality, can make your child obese by disrupting their natural hunger cues.
Kids usually inherit the knowledge of hunger and satiety. They start to build negative memories of the food being forced on them for later life and are more likely to hate it. It’ll also make them prone to obesity because they’re often pushed to eat more which upsets their natural hunger signals.
Give them the liberty to eat when they want to but keep checking in and use the ‘palm rule’ while feeding them. Check it out here.
Suggested Reading: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and its Treatments
5. Why do Food Pushers Push Food?
There can be a variety of reasons why someone pushes food on you. Your food pusher can have one of the following intentions –
5.1. Their Affection Compels Them
When food pushers come from someone close or a family member, it becomes tougher to deny their request. They try to push food because they love you since food serving is considered a form of love language.
The simplest example would be your mom, and you know why she tries to make you eat, though forcefully.
5.2. People Choose Food as a Way to Celebrate
No party or festive occasion is complete without food in multiple varieties. So people come together, enjoy, and eat together. There you can find a food pusher asking you to celebrate the occasion with something special or dessert.
Sabotaging your weight loss plan with just ‘one treat’ can give you a hard time.
5.3. Food Connects Different People
Some people from different regions believe in the cultural practice of feeding their guests, which they think is fundamental to their hospitality. So. they serve, from the tea to the sweet dishes, over and again until you get full.
In some places, people insist their guests complete the meal no matter how large it is before they can leave the table. This is to ensure that their hospitality is impeccable.
5.4. Many People Revere Food
You’ll also notice that food is linked with people’s faith. That’s why people honour food and would say something like, “You shouldn’t deny the food being offered to you”.
People often urge you to have oblation (or the Prasad), which is considered holy food. You can’t refuse it because it’s connected with another person’s faith.
5.5. People Need Approval of Their Food Choices
Why do food pushers encourage you to eat something? That may be because they’re looking for acceptance of the dish they prepared.
So, they’ll push you to eat foods and say something like, “Have a bite and tell me how it tastes”. Their approval-seeking action can drive you to feel pressured to stuff the food.
You’re aware of your health and fitness, have changed your lifestyle, and are taking every possible care to be in good condition, but knock! There you have someone who tries to spoil your health regime by what? FOOD, of course!
Some people (mainly the ones who act like your friends) can’t just stand the change you want to embrace because somehow they’ll also have to adjust to the same. Or because they’re insecure deep within, they’re not working on themselves like you.
6. Role of Social Media and Commercials in Food Pushing
Your worst food pusher can’t just be a close friend or relative but the ones you have no control over. These people are called influencers or, more specifically, ‘food influencers’.
According to a BBC article, food posts on social media can be a factor that may drive you to indulge in unhealthy food consumption, but it’s not the only factor.
The role of peer pressure is evident in the case of food choices made through social media. You may want to try the same foods your friends have tried and later boasted about through social media. It’s not because you choose to eat them, but because their influence forces you into unhealthy eating habits.
What is trending seems normal; thus, people often try to follow the trends, which can leave them feeling pressured to eat. On the contrary, the post suggests that we’re hardwired to feel delighted to see tasty food. That feeling can alone satisfy our hunger cravings without actually consuming the food.
Besides, commercials specifically target their audience, especially kids, by portraying unhealthy food as healthy and something you’re missing out on.
7. How to Stop the Control of the Food Pushers? – 6 Tips to Respond to Unwanted Treats
7.1. Accept Their Affection, Not the Food
Some people don’t overfeed you out of mean intentions. It can be their style of showing concern, and they do so because they care. So, to respect their good intentions, it’s best to return their affection with a kind response and make them aware of your reasons for not eating.
How to say that?
“This is the best feeling when I see you care for me, but I’m sure you’d understand my concerns about refusing the food.”
7.2. Take a Small Bite
If you don’t want to hurt a person by an outright refusal because they’ve given their time to make your favourite dish, do taste it, but you don’t need to eat the whole dish. Tell them your take and be free of the guilt.
How to say that?
“I’m grateful that you prepared this for me. But sadly, I wouldn’t be able to devour it. Only one bite today.”
7.3. Change the Topic from Food to Other Things
You see someone bringing sugary doughnuts to you. Those look perfectly delicious, but sadly you can’t eat them. However, you’ll have to deal with the pusher. You can remind them of something else so that their focus can shift from you.
How to say that?
You can compliment them not on the food because remember, you’ve to redirect their attention. Say something like, “Hey, you look sassy in this haircut. I wonder if I could also try this. Do you think it’d suit me?”
They’d definitely tell you their haircut story and the information you asked for, and you’re sorted.
7.4. Be Confident When a Pusher Approaches You
If you have set clear fitness goals for yourself or are dealing with a health condition, you are the only person who should make your own food choices, not pushers. Food pushers can’t go extreme if you’re decisive about not eating something.
It’s your right not to eat something that upsets your health. It shouldn’t change your resolve, no matter how much your pusher tries to influence you. So you can confidently draw attention to the fact that you don’t want to eat and shouldn’t be forced for this simple reason.
How to say that?
A classic way would be to politely refuse by saying, “No, Thank You!” until they understand that you don’t want that. It would take more energy from you but be worth the effort.
Or you can give them a reason for an easy let go. For example, if someone offers you dessert, you can say, “No, thanks, I’d rather have a light meal because I’m trying to lose weight.”
7.5. Give Your Pushers Option to Feed You
A nutritionist shares in this post that instead of making unnecessary excuses, a great strategy would be to let your food pusher feed you on your terms. Tell them you loved the healthy meal they once prepared for you the most through your compliments. Ultimately, your pushers (having no ill will) want you to eat happily and thus would serve the type of food you ate last time.
How to say that?
“The mushroom soup I had in our last gathering was yummy and easy on my stomach. I’d be happy to have that again.”
7.6. Make Your Food Pusher Feel Secured
If a person or family member reaches you with something, you shouldn’t be eating for any reason; telling them the actual reason may not work. They might think you’re not eating because of hesitation and will try to force-feed you or they can feel put out by rejection. In that case, you can assure them of the following –
- You’ve eaten your meals and not feeling hungry.
- You’ll be eating afterward if you feel the need to.
- Compliment their cooking skills and efforts in making the food.
- Say you’ll try something next time.
- Ask them about their experiences and carry on with the conversation.
8. What is Food Pushing? – Final Words
Food pushers are all around. Even you would’ve pushed food at some point when you insisted your friend eat the dish ‘you’ thought was tasty. People unknowingly push food on someone, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to do so.
How would ‘you’ feel if you’ve been stuffed with something you don’t like, can’t tolerate, or go against your values? You can feel this. We need an increased awareness of this issue that it’s a real deal.
Choosing your food (what, how, and when to eat it) should be in your hands without any pressure because it’s only one life to decide whether you want to avoid certain foods to stick to your goals.