It’s Okay to Say No

Something I found difficult in the beginning of my food and weight loss journey was learning how to say NO.

I was definitely raised in a “Clean Your Plate” home and would definitely have food guilt for wasting food, or throwing food away. I also felt guilty saying no to food pushers and Weight Loss Sabatouers. The food pushers are hard to resist. “Just one bite, come one, it won’t kill you, try my brownies!” etc etc. People get so uncomfortable with the words “No thanks, I’m not eating that.”

It was hard at work specifically because there’s that weird dynamic of not wanting to be rude, or alienate someone, or appear weird–especially if everyone else is partaking. Or maybe people feel like YOU are judging THEM for eating the treats you are abstaining from. I can’t tell you how many times a coworker tried to get me to eat some kind of sweet treat when I first started my job. I was fairly new at my job and people didn’t know the “before” me and how hard I had worked to lose the weight. Eventually word got out and people stopped pushing food on me.

While the coworkers may have stopped trying to convince me to eat treats, I was still battling the desire to EAT the treats. They were all over the place. The Candy Room at work (N is for Nemesis). The donuts brought in by a coworker on a Friday. The leftover Halloween candy that people bring to work to get out of their house. The bagels (OH! So hard to resist!) and cream cheese. The coworker that loves baking and brings in amazing creations on Monday morning. SO HARD!

I told myself it was okay to say no. Even if I’m not saying it out loud and just telling myself no, it’s okay. Walk past the spread of bagels and cookies at the front desk and just make your photocopies and go back to your desk without giving in.

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows
with the ability to say no to oneself.
– Abraham Joshua Heschel

Each time I said no, it got easier. I usually don’t feel like I’m missing out on something when I skip the treats now. Sure, I have my moments, but most of the time I can walk right by the donuts and not even look. (Check out this old post: A is for Abstinence.)


What if you’re not quite there yet? It’s still hard to say “no”? Try some of these tips:

1. Tell the food pusher that you’d try the treat later. Deferring them is much easier than actually saying no (especially if they don’t take no for an answer) and most of the time they will forget about it!

2. Change the subject. A lot like the first recommendation. Distract the food pusher!

3. Feign food allergy. Gluten-free is a good excuse! Most of the time the foods people are offering aren’t allergen-free. Whether or not you are gluten-free, use the excuse. “I’m not eating gluten right now.” ‘Nuff said. Where does someone go from there? Nowhere, end of conversation.

No junk food

Another tip I have found: it’s MUCH easier to say no to treats when you’re prepared and have a healthier alternative. I always pack snacks for work (usually fruits or veggies) and I’m so used to eating those as snacks that I don’t even think about it. Knowing you already have a snack can make it a simple decision.

Can you say no?


Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

20 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Say No”

  1. Ahh no is a hard one but I’ve been super proud of myself because every Thursday there’s donuts by the copier and I can smell them all day but I haven’t touched them yet!! Anyways most of the time I have a hard time explaining why I am saying no so I love your suggestions, I think I’ll try the off gluten one next time 😉

  2. I think you and I might be similar in that we are “people pleasers.” As long as everyone else around us is happy, you think you will be happy.

    But that only back fires because you put everyone else in front of you, there is nothing left for yourself. I am with you on the office food – there is literally something in my office every day, but I tell myself No, or if someone tries to push the food on me, I just tell them that it isn’t insulin worthy and worth an insulin shot. That usually shuts them up! 😀
    Biz recently posted..Doing Nothing is Easier

  3. Thanks for this blog post! I work in a cancer survivorship centre and we run cooking classes for cancer patients and their families. While the food our chef and dietitian prepare are healthy, its always around and its hard to resist!

    1. That is really cool you run cooking classes. What kind of things do they teach?

      I imagine it’s very difficult not to eat while cooking in a class. I tend to nibble at home when I just cook regular meals!

      1. The class is designed to build capacity in patients and their family members to self-manage. Our chef teaches techniques and skills while the dietitian runs through the health benefits of the ingredients. Really, it is to encourage patients to adopt healthy lifestyles and meet their nutrition needs. Our recipes are designed to be easy, too, since cancer patients often experience fatigue and nausea, and whole lot of other not-so-fun stuff. It is really fun – the patients love it 🙂 We actually live stream the classes and archive recipe snippets. If you’d like to see, I’d be happy to email you the link (don’t want to post here because I don’t want everyone to know where I work, :p)
        Nour recently posted..Jone’s fracture healing: 9 weeks and counting…

          1. Part of the issue of my weight gain was that I didn’t know how to cook, I didn’t know what nutrition was, I didn’t understand the concept of calories and input v. output. It would have been nice to be taught that kind of stuff in school. Calories, exercise, how to cook, what IS a healthy meal, etc. Not just vague, abstract concepts like “eat healthy and exercise.”

          2. Same boat! I think even what is made public is just not enough. I’m Canadian so I’m most familiar with the Canada Food Guide, but have also taken a look at the American “My Plate”. I think they leave too many questions unanswered and gets so confusing having to sift through all that information. I remember in grade 11, I really wanted to lose weight and so I started reading a whole lot of stuff online. It was so hard for me to know what is good versus what is bad, and all those sites trying to sell me something. I gave up so quickly.
            Nour recently posted..Jone’s fracture healing: 9 weeks and counting…

          3. I agree! It needs to be easy to understand and easy to replicate. They need to revamp the whole way they teach kids how to eat, how to cook, what is healthy, etc. Make it easy. Like you said — the kids in your class come home excited to show their parents what they learned how to cook. So the parents need to continue that “training” at home!

          4. You know – I’ve seen certain grocery stores in my area have Saturday afternoon cooking classes. Would be interesting to do something like that. Have a session for parents and their kids, with recipes that the kids can help with that are also nutritious!! There was a live twitter chat about kids in the kitchen yesterday night, or the night before!
            Nour recently posted..Jone’s fracture healing: 9 weeks and counting…

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