HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


The Polite Guest v. The Food Pushers

Okay. I'm off on my yearly junket to visit my Dad and all the relatives. This vacation is really more of a boot camp on the art of Visiting. Visiting among my relatives means you must eat copious amounts of very sweet treats while catching up. The cycle goes from house to house to...well, you get the idea.

I love most of my family, warts and all, but my constitution does not allow for the sweets or the quantity. Just can't do it. My aunts and uncles are of the mindset that "well, the crops may fail and the cow might go dry, do you'd better eat lots of this now." I don't want to get into the reasons I can't or won't load up on three pieces of pie, a plate of brownies and a CoolWhip topped cake with these people, as any medical or physical aspect is discussed ad nauseum with all within a three county area. My digestive system will remain known only to me in those situations. The simple statement "I'm not hungry, but thank you for the coffee" does not really work. You. Must. Eat. And lots, so Aunt X hasn't spent the day in the kitchen in vain. *Sigh*

I like being a gracious guest, and I never want to hurt the feelings of these wonderful people, but I simply cannot go on the five-day circuit of sugar. So my question: Does anyone have some super-secret line that they have used to dodge this situation in a gracious manner? I've bitten the bullet in the past and paid the price, but I think it's time to set a boundary. Suggestions?

(And no, I am not just being a self-centered guest. I really can't tolerate the food and don't expect any special dispensation other than being allowed, quietly, to forego the coffee-visit offerings.)

Thank you!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, I would be cheery and stupid, and repeat hte saying " I wish I could, but until I get back the results of the blood test, I'd rather not." Thank them for the concern, smile smile smile and after you are home, can tell whoever, the test were fine. :)

    1. I like Quine's suggestion, but you need to be old enough to get away with it. You could just say that can only have a little bit because you don't sleep well when you eat too much sugar. That might work and won't worry them as much.

      1. With friends or at parties I graciously ask for a small piece/slice/sample and push the food around on my plate while enjoying the family conversation. A few small bits may meet my mouth and the rest I leave behind.

        It's hard to say no to family but if my health was at issue (in my case it's more about portion preferences) for the remainder of my visit...I would definately either fess up or push my fork around the plate :)

        1. Take some, push it around on your plate for a decent interval, and set it aside. If opportunity arises, set it farther away. If questioned, "Yes, I had quite a bit and it was delicious! You always make the best! Can I take some plates to the kitchen?"

          If pressed to take more, "I have to tell you, my stomach is a little jumpy tonight - I'm going to have to be careful - must be the travel." If pressed some more, "Do you think I could take a piece to have later when my tummy settles down?" (Of course you can discard it after you leave.)

          1. Why don't you ask to take it with? You just say you're not feeling up to anything but would love it later on.

            1. My father was what I call a food bully. Serving up dessert with whipped cream on the side, if I said no thank you to the whipped cream, he would anounce loudly, you mean you don't want to eat whipped cream?" and then proceed to pile it on. I scraped it off and ate what I cared to eat. I no longer have to put up with that nonsense. If you notice I said "was". There was not much he could do after we scraped it off, in our 40's 50's he could hardly make us sit at table until our plates were clean.

              1. You speak of setting a boundary, and I think that's a good idea. Assuming that a simple "no, thank you!" doesn't work - it would definitely be a health issue for me, and I would more than likely say something like "my doctor is concerned about my blood sugar, so I'm sorry but I really can't" -as Quine suggested. You also said that it does not sit well with you (don't think it does with anyone, but that's another issue, hm?), and that's an excellent reason to decline, and anyone who won't accept that has their own issues. Would it be the absolute worst thing to have people say "hey, Cousin CAN'T eat sugar!!!"?
                Just my opinion!

                1. I am polite to a fault. They will serve you a pice even if you don't want it. Maybe take a bite. Lie. Tell them you aren't hungry now but would love to have a piece plus the one you did not finish to eat at home when you are hungry. They will love you. All will be well. At some point you will miss those visits.

                  1. "I'm on a low carb diet"
                    "I found out I have a wheat allergy"
                    "I love you for making it, but I just don't eat sweets" (repeat repeat repeat... don't get into a discussion, just become a polite broken record)

                    1. It seems like these are the people who will notice if you just push the peice of pie/brownie around on your plate, point it out, and ask why you hate their cooking. Set a boundry and don't budge. If that means simply saying "No, thank you", then do it. It's their business if they want to get upset about it. Remove yourself if they cause a big stink about it. Some people need to know to accept "No" as an answer.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: graffitipassion

                        Exactly...it is their business if they get upset. It has nothing to do with you and believe it or not, it's not personal! They would do it to anyone.

                        As the next posters says, don't pick up the rope! Don't take the bait or the pie!

                      2. And remember...

                        You can't be in a tug of war if you don't pick up the rope.

                        So don't pick up the rope.

                        1. the op doesn't want to get into the reasons... so how about a simple "thank you, but i just can't eat sugar like i used to" if they want more details just tell them it gives you a headache or something and change the subject.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: excuse me miss

                            agreed. better to have them talking a bit about your health - a few bites here and there and/or maybe some later discarded pieces to go - than to think you are rude and dislike them or their cooking. distant family can be quite the bear and it's not worth the stink. even though graffitipassion and tobycat have their points in my family - or even more so family inlaw it just wouldn't be worth it.
                            migraines are an awesome excuse. chocolate is a known cause (other sugar could fit right in) and they sound bad enough for people to let you off the hook but not so bad that people will really worry or butt in with lots of questions.

                          2. Hah, sounds exactly like my family. Maybe we're related?

                            For my folks, it really is a matter of being polite, good hosts to feed your guests well. If you say you *can't* eat something "for health reasons" or because "it makes me feel sick" (it's fine to leave it at that), I think your family will back off. They want to be good hosts; they don't want to endanger your well being. Plus, you're being honest, which is always the best policy: too much sugar really does make you feel ill.

                            In my family, it takes about three refusals (it's a cultural thing), but after that, people will leave you alone. Don't budge from your position.

                            I wish you luck!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: cimui

                              Hmm, why not just tell them the TRUTH about why you can't eat sugar. We don't need to know, but I doubt having your family know would be the worst thing in the world. Why all the lying and deception is necessary I don't know.

                              1. re: Rick

                                if they are like one branch of my family they will all become instant experts and tell you exactly why what you are doing is wrong, why you should eat all that sugar (and fat, and caffine, and, and and). Then they will tell you stories about Uncle Al and Aunt Sue and how her toe fell off.... Sometimes all you can do is repeat the "It looks so good, I really wish I could" again and again and again.

                            2. I have relatives notorious for their baking, and when they place a plate full of dessert in front of me and I either don't want it, don't like it, or don't feel like indulging, I take a bite or two and leave the rest.

                              The way I see it, if I'd filled my own plate, I'd have taken only the two bites I wanted, and I do not feel obligated to eat what someone else has piled on.

                              Same goes for children. I do not understand why adults attempt to force children to clean their plates if they did not fill their own plates.

                              1. I run into this problem with my family and friends. I usually say "no, thank you I'm full, that's delicious, how did you make it?" Changing the subject without changing the subject is best. Also, when the plates are being passed around, keep passing and then conviently excuse yourself to the kitchen or bathroom. My mother still thinks I love her mincemeat pie even though I always "eat" it in the kitchen (trash!). Discussing the food while doing the fork thing tends to work best for me.

                                1. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I am the world's pickiest eater. But where I live, people ask once, and when you refuse, they don't keep bothering you about it. It sounds like you're dealing with some real bullies who are looking for validation about their cooking. I think a simple "thank you, no" should suffice. And when you are asked again, you could respond with, "I had already said no." Telling people that it looks too good, but you're full just makes them continue making it every time you come over, and heaven forbid, bring it to you when you're recovering from surgery. They'll get the idea that you have other interests and dietary needs without thinking that you don't love them anymore. And if they don't, they can take it up with their therapist.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: mldubose

                                    I could do that with essentially strangers or co-workers. Family is a whole other subject. Word passes, feelings hurt, you will have to see them again and again, forever, until the funeral(s)...when inevitably there will be a whisper about how much you hurt (insert dead person's name here)'s feelings-years ago.

                                    I still say wrap some up to take home and get rid of it there.

                                  2. Here are a few ideas which will be hard to argue with, if perhaps a bit drastic:

                                    1. to avoid sugar, tell them the doctor says you're borderline diabetic and that you should stay away from sugar to avoid becoming full-blown diabetic.

                                    2. to avoid caffeine, tell them it gives you headaches, jitters, nausea, or the runs. Or any combination thereof.

                                    3. to avoid alcohol, the pre-diabetic story will also work, as diabetics should not drink. Or tell them you have a drinking problem and must abstain. The latter works only if you don't decide to start imbibing later, or it can backfire.

                                    4. maybe the most radical idea, and the one I like best by far -- just tell them the truth already, and pleasantly but firmly decline when it's pushed on you in spite of this. Relatives are like puppies -- you have to set certain boundaries that you won't let them cross, or they'll just walk all over you. You can, and should, take control of the situation, but do be nice about it.

                                    1. How about enlisting one of your closest relatives (whether a parent, sibling, cousin, aunt) and telling them all this, to get their help as you make the rounds. They can help distract relatives, back you up when you decline seconds, etc. They'll also appreciate being in your confidence and so probably won't spill the beans. And of course you should be effusive in thanking everyone for their hospitality, sure you are already.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mselectra

                                        All this reminds me of my grandmother. You couldn't win with her.

                                        If she cooked something and you expressed the slightest liking for it, she would cram it into you until it came out of your ears. Subsequent visits will feature it as well.

                                        If you didn't, yuu would never see it again.

                                        I really liked her ragu for pasta (She was Romanian, but got the reipe from an Italian neighbour.) so I said nothing about it, stole the recipe, and made it myself.