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How to deal with food complainers?

Hubby and I went out to lunch today with friends that we enjoy. However, the wife couldn't decide what she wants, lets hubby order, tastes his food, ends up eating it, and he has to order something else, and has to wait for it. It is a little annoying.

But the biggest thing is she constantly says this is fattening, or not healthy, or telling her husband not eat this, which he ignores. It is a major turnoff to hubby and me, we enjoy our food as well as does her husband, and if she chooses not to eat that's fine, but I don't want to here her constant chatter about unhealthy food or telling her husband not to eat through out the whole meal.

Is there anything I can say, or do I just keep my mouth shut? I know some people will say not to go out with them, which we would like to try to avoid.

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  1. There is nothing you can say that will make any difference. If these are good friends, join them for an activity that does not involve eating.

    1. how about "stop"?

      a lot of the time people are completely oblivious to the effect their mindless chatter has on others. What she is doing is passive aggressive and more then just a little bit condecending. As if she knows more then you do, and you need her guidance. A simple "please stop. we heard you the first time" should be blunt enough to jar her into realizing what she sounds like.......if that doesnt work, well......stop eating with them!

      1. Let her pick the restaurant next time and see if it makes a difference.

        1 Reply
        1. re: HillJ

          If all else fails, don't forget to laugh. It might not always be easy but HUMOR is a great leveler. Sam's suggestion would work with my husbands crowd but not mine.

        2. Well, you cannot change her. But you can establish better boundaries for yourselves.

          If she is a person you actually have an active friendship with, then the health of your relationship can in part measured by whether you can provide her feedback and accept her reaction to your feedback.

          If this is more of a friendly rather than genuine friendship, I might instead opt for non-eating activities with them in the future.

          1. just tune her and her noise out.

            1. "friends that we enjoy"? Does she do pole dances when she's not whining about something? What does she bring to the party?
              I would tie 'em loose. There's better company out there.

              1. Among my friends, a tactful, "Would you shut the f*&# up?" usually suffices.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    works for me, lol! But do remember to say it with tact.

                  2. Knock-out round: Sam Fujisaka's suggestion - "Would you shut the f*&# up?"

                    Passive- aggressive: Order the mayonnaise based artichoke dip with fried calamari, onion rings, bacon on the side, fried chicken for the main and double dessert. Moan and groan about how delicious it is and insist both of your friends try everything, putting large samples on their plates. Talk constantly about really fatty foods, how to prepare them, where the best examples can be purchased, how you rendered 20 pounds of lard the other day and now its gone.

                    Drinking game: Every time she says the word "fattening" or "unhealthy", yell "skol!" and take a shot. Then high-five one another.

                    Argumentative: Every time something is pronounced unhealthy, ask her for proof that in fact she is correct. Cite 3-4 papers from the literature that support a different stance.

                    Non-Confrontational (no doubt your friend's husband is in this camp if he ignores her all the time): Completely change the subject every time she complains about the food. The more arcane the subject the better (implications of the recent Canadian election, sex lives of aardvarks, qualities of a good band saw, how to pickle herring).

                    But seriously, I don't think there is anything you can say that is going to change her behavior. Since you still want to go out with them, this leaves several options:

                    1. Deviant behavior listed above
                    2. Keep mouth shut and just put up with it. But eventually you will no longer be able to put up with it, unless you are a saint, which I am not... Then you will have to plan other outings like bowling, paint ball or perhaps mini-golf in order to maintain sanity. I would suggest movies, but it is possible she would chatter throughout the movie about the fattening popcorn, so I think it is a no-win situation.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: moh


                      How about just saying, nicely: "It's always such a special occaision when dining out with friends like this, we always give ourselves permission to splurge without guilt. Isn't this special occaision worth a splurge?"

                      1. re: moh

                        This is a scream! I love the Drinking Game response!

                        Seriously, if this is a close friendship, you might have to say something (perhaps privately, before dinner),in a way that doesn't put her on the defensive.

                        1. re: moh

                          moh, if you and sam were to co-author a book of etiquette, i'd buy it.

                          1. re: moh

                            Fattening !! You owe me a drink !!! :)
                            Loved that one.

                            Funny part of this is that people who seem to go on and on about "unhealthy" etc, seem to have very skewed ideas of what that means . NO, you'll never change them. If they're really good friends you'll put up with their quirks, but equally so, if they're really good friends, you're close enough to tell them to knock it off.

                            1. re: moh

                              Great post! How about kicking shins under the table?

                              Seriously, why can't you talk to her, alone, and suggest that she discuss this with her husband beforehand and try and work out an arrangement so it doesn't come up while dining, because you (both), like your guilty pleasures when you dine out. Say how you feel it is indirectly affecting your ability to enjoy your splurges and the companionship, which you value and otherwise enjoy. You could also suggest that an occasional deviation from a healthy diet is not a deal breaker or that moderation is a key element.
                              You could also say that you and your husband worked out an arrangement not to argue, discuss politics, sing, or whatever, while having a meal. Your "example" might encourage her.
                              One would wonder whether this is her only concern, "that her husband eat healthy", or if he is generally henpecked? If so, above suggestions will probably not work or it will shift to "you're making eating noises" or something else.

                              1. re: Scargod

                                Isn't this why mickeys, ruffies and ecstacy were invented?

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Yes, and when used with discretion, can definitely enhance a meal shared with friends.

                                1. re: moh

                                  I like the suggestion of yelling "skol". Seriously, I would use humor to let her know that the is just behaving like a stick in the mud. Say things like "I just heard that people who eat a lot of ________ will live an average of ten years longer", or " They publish a different study every day. Who cares?

                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    We use a form of these, too, with my SIL, who is a reformed dieter. It tends to quiet her, usually, which is enough for others to bring up other topics.

                                    Sometimes, though, a decisive, "We all know you have your opinions about <insert cream/butter/Crisco/etc.>. Please don't share them again." is necessary.

                                2. Maybe look her in the eyes, smile and say, "Next time the four of us go to dinner, YOU get to stay home and babysit." If that doesn't work, then Sam's retort is the default.

                                  1. I think non-eating activities is the way to go. People who feel very differently about such a subject and when one is very vocal about it, it just makes for bad eating companions. This is why we quit going out to eat with some friends of ours who are both militant vegetarians. It just became too unpleasant to eat with them so we finally quit it. Now we don't see them at all, and really, that's fine with me.

                                    1. I feel for you. There are various levels of this dilemma due to different belief systems that each person has. At least, though, you seem to have 2 other people in your same camp, as opposed to being the only one.

                                      Even though there's no real hope in changing someone, to say your piece, I would maybe tell this person one of favorite jokes that I got from that marvelous thread about food pranks and jokes (thanks to the hound who posted this joke):

                                      "An elderly couple are killed in an accident and find themselves being given a tour of heaven by Saint Peter. "Here is your oceanside condo with the sunset beach view, over there are the tennis courts, swimming pool, and two golf courses. That building has the masseuses. If you get hungry, just stop by any of the many fine restaurants located throughout the area."

                                      "Dang it, Thelma," the old man hissed when Saint Peter walked off, "we could have been here ten years ago if you hadn't gotten hung up on those low-fat bran muffins!"

                                      1. I understand better why my wife and I are our own best dining partners.
                                        I refrain or get deleted.

                                        1. Ever eat out with a really really fidgety person? It sounds like she is fidgeting with her mouth? Does she go on and on about other things too? Or do you only hang out with them to eat food? The only two serious suggestions I have are either to go to a place that serves alcohol (or byob) and get her to have a few drinks and relax, or try to find another subject for her to fidget verbally about, or would that be almost as annoying? Other than that I love Moh's suggestions. ps Go Phillies!!!

                                          1. As a nutritionist I hear a lot about food choices while I'm eating with a new acquaintance or whatever. Why people feel the need to share their knowledge of the latest healthy food fad is beyond me but I think it has a lot to do with the person talking themselves through their guilt or judging others to make their food sins less evil, or to get confirmation and approval from me. The guilt process around food is really something to behold.

                                            When they start talking about the fries on my plate or theirs, or their small salad I usually just say "well, everything in moderation!" and leave it at that.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Lixer

                                              This is true for a lot of people! I should know because I used to do it:} Of course, I didn't even realize why I was doing it....I was feeling tremendous guilt about food. This is unfortunately the product of a diet obsessed culture that has an unhealthy attitude towards food. I went to a bridal shower the other day and while everyone commented on how yummy the cake was, more than one of the girls at my table commented on "breaking my diet" or "I'll pay for this later". I wish everyone could just eat food and enjoy it, or be strong enough to make better decisions. I'm not picking on anyone because I catch myself still occasionally doing it, but at least I'm aware and overall I know that this is a very unhealthy attitude. For myself, knowing that I am very healthy overall, eat well and exercize, I always allow myself to indulge in dessert at least once a week (more if not that rich) but only do it if I am confidant I will not feel guilt for it.

                                            2. its directed at her husband, not at you. not much you can do. . . except avoid eating with them. If she asks why after a few declines, then let her know.

                                              My grandmother used to do this all the time to my grandfather. He was supposed to be on a strict diet imposed by his doctor, which he refused to follow. She did what she thought a good wife was supposed to do.

                                              1. we get lunch brought into our office most days by pharmaceutical reps. One of my coworkers is critical of pretty much everything that we get. Things like 'I hate turkey' 'my mac n cheese is better', 'I don't like chicken with cheese/cream', 'I hate salads with craisins/seeds', 'the tomatoes aren't ripe'.

                                                To be honest I find it embarrassing. Nobody is forcing her to eat the free lunch but she always has something to say. Wish I could find a way to shut her up!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: smartie

                                                  My best friend has suggested in the past the two of us having dinner at my beloved diner, the r and s keystone, but I always complain that they don't serve alcohol and we wind up somewhere else. The real truth is that she is far too critical about everything and I couldn't bear to witness my favorite eatery ripped to shreds. I could go to the diner like she wants to and smile and nod but I am afraid that this very special place would become tainted for me. Maybe I'm being silly but I just can't take the risk. I'm not sure if she complains less after a beer or two but I know it's easier for me to take. She is mature enough to have some knowledge of herself and even (her saving grace) some humor too. A few years ago leaf lawn bags in the shape of jack o lanterns were all the rage and she told me every time she drove past one she found something wrong with it, too stuffed, not stuffed enough, and then she laughed at herself. So maybe there is hope!

                                                2. If they're friends, I think you have to poke fun at them...in a non-threatening way. Of course I have no idea of their personalities but some aptly applied wit can do wonders, if done in good fun.

                                                  I remember one line from left field during dinner, "would you like some wine with that whine?" It was said off the cuff in good fun but it made the complaining obvious.

                                                  If it's really about the wife kvetching at the hubby...some mild deflecting for the guy can help. Something like, "Bill go ahead and eat it, I'll treat you to a colonoscopy next week."

                                                  1. Thanks for all the replys, we thought that a lot of them were fun. We are going to be with them tomorrow, and I might try to take her aside and say something to her. Her english isn't her first language and sometimes she says she understands but doesn't. He wasn't henpecked, if fact he was the one with the mouth, now I think she is trying to assert herself. I'll let you know what the outcome is.

                                                    1. When I went out for food with one of my boyfriend's best friends and girlfriend, she made a comment casually near the beginning that she hates it when people blow their nose at the table. As I was eating spicy, I was sure to only wipe during the meal. The same thing might work. Just say, before she can get anything in, "Did you know that governments want to force restaurants to put calorie counters on menus? I don't want to know how much fat is in my pasta; I just wnat to enjoy it!"

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: miss_bennet

                                                        A great suggestion. Like akq said above, "http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5651...", if at some point you preface the meal, and any discussion of the menu, with "we want to have an occasional guilt-free meal", that might get the idea across.
                                                        Another idea with similar implications: One of my brothers has a sign in the kitchen that says, "No Whining!". Perhaps you could have a sticker on your forehead or surreptitiously stick a placard on the table saying "this is a guilt free dining area".

                                                        1. re: Scargod

                                                          My PhD advisor of long, long ago had a sign in his kitchen that said, "Gluttony is its reward".

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            The OP must be dining with my SIL, who pulls this schtick every time we are forced to dine out with her (luckily, its only once or twice a year). I'd gladly take Sam's route, telling her to "shut the --bleep-- up" but this technique has already been tried. She just gets louder. A few years ago she lost a bunch of weight on Atkins, and became "Carb obsessed". My SO and I had our own little drinking/betting game going. Every time she said "carb" we would toast each other, or "fist-bump" (depending on the situation). She also talks loudly and endlessly about nothing at all, but will not hesitate to analyze the complete nutritional value of what is on YOUR plate, whether you want to know this or not. If you order something she doesn't care for, you'll hear "oh! dont order that! Its gross!" It is agony to listen to her order a meal -- she ALWAYS wants some sort of substitution, and has been known to ask for a reduced price on an entree if she has it "without such-and-so".

                                                            How to deal with this? Well, if this were a friend, I would, indeed, avoid the restaurant scene all together, and if it is a long-time friend, I might even be able to tell them why. A casual acquaintance? The girlfriend of a friend? Co-worker? That might be a more difficult. People like this are, indeed, passive-aggressive, and seem to be immune from harsh glances, direct questions, or the more blunt "no one cares what you think". If I had my way, I would never eat another restaurant meal with SIL -- Im just grateful I only have to see her once a year, and her behavior is now just a family joke. We deal with it.

                                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                                              It is agony to listen to her order a meal -- she ALWAYS wants some sort of substitution, and has been known to ask for a reduced price on an entree if she has it "without such-and-so"."

                                                              Sounds like the scene from "When Harry Met Sally," where Sally orders the apple pie. Will your cell play movies? How about editing this down to a clip, and when she starts, just set it in front of her and hit "Play"!

                                                              I do like to have fun! '-)

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                Well when Sally Allbright ordered a sandwich with this instead of that, and something on the side, but only if its this or that .... its cute. When THIS woman does it, it becomes merely a test of wills between her and the poor server, who will soon find out that this picky PITA has never tipped more than 15% in her entire life.

                                                        2. re: miss_bennet

                                                          i am not sure the girlfriend was really trying to be a complainer with the nose blowing. It is considered very rude in some cultures to blow your nose in public. I think there is a difference between blowing and wiping your nose though. Many people prefer to excuse themselves to blow their nose, which I think is fine since at that point I probably want to wash my hands anyway.

                                                          1. re: queencru

                                                            I've been at a few dinners where i WISH someone had spoken up at the beginning of the meal to state "no nose blowing"...........definitly something that lends an ick factor to my meal. Dabbing during a spicy meal is one thing....anything beyond that, go to the washroom pls.

                                                          1. re: grampart

                                                            He also got to say things like, "Wassa mattah which you? You wan' me to slap you down?" People don't get to say stuff like that anymore. People wouldn't even know what "slap you down" meant. And a grapefuit in the face would bring assault and battery charges.

                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              Sam, I don't think this problem is cured by nostalgic techniques understood by only a few. A more comtemportary solution is called for, e.g. a gentle 2-hour session of washboarding....:)

                                                          2. Jfood would never think of doing most of what people are suggesting. The dinner table, out with friends, is for enjoying food and friends. It is NOT the place for teaching adults how to behave. All that does is take the situation from the gutter and into the sewer. And what right does anyone have to embarass the other couple in public. Shame Shame.

                                                            If this is a friend then do what friends do. Have a quiet conversation off-line while having a cup of coffee, going for a walk, off-line and out of the line of fire. That's what friends do.

                                                            First you should see if everything is OK with her. Who knows, she may have had something unfortunate happen in her life. That's what friends do.

                                                            Second, see if there are restaurants where she would feel more comfortable going to so it meets her requirements. That's what friends do.

                                                            And if all else fails, try something other than dinner with this couple.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              This couple sounds like they would be great movie companions.
                                                              If movies wont work
                                                              Purchase them a ticket to anywhere. Ask them to write as that's what friends do.

                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                When people are ruining your dinner with bad behavior it's rude to push back, so we should all be good and pretend things are fine? BUT it's okay to lecture others on how to behave in such circumstances? <sigh> Jay, sometimes you leave me with the conviction that a tire on your car wouldn't DARE go flat! Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck in the real world. '-)

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  Cee1, Thanks so much for allowing jfood to answer your questions on how to act in the real world.

                                                                  Q1 - "When people are ruining your dinner with bad behavior it's rude to push back, so we should all be good and pretend things are fine?"
                                                                  A - Absolutely, pushing back is the incorrect response. That is what is meant by going from the gutter and into the sewer. One needs to rise about such triteness, not escalate it. Embarassing people in public is totally unacceptable in jfood's eyes. Keeping your counsel until appropriate time is the proper action in the real world.

                                                                  Q2 - "BUT it's okay to lecture others on how to behave in such circumstances?"
                                                                  A - Thanks for another question and jfood will once again give you the proper response. Absolutely not!! Others have suggested that lecturing is the proper response. Jfood disagree profusely. Lecturing is not the appropriate response. Jfood's post stated to take it off line in a quiet one-on-one setting.

                                                                  Jfood is glad he was able to give Cee1 the proper advice yet again on how to react appropriately in the real world.

                                                                  "Jay, sometimes you leave me with the conviction that a tire on your car wouldn't DARE go flat!" Thanks for the concern, but unfortunately jfood has experienced several flat tires on his car. In fact he learned the true definition of poison ivy when he changed one in a batch of the stuff. Now that's REALLY being stuck in the real world.

                                                                  Hope that answers the appropriate response to your real world questions.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    LOL! Welcome to "the real world," Jay! It's nice to see that you do indeed know how to push back. And now you are just like the rest of us. Welcome! Well, except that most here are likely just venting, but you rose to the challenge. Congratulations! '-)

                                                                2. re: jfood

                                                                  "Jfood would never think of doing most of what people are suggesting. The dinner table, out with friends, is for enjoying food and friends. It is NOT the place for teaching adults how to behave. All that does is take the situation from the gutter and into the sewer. And what right does anyone have to embarass the other couple in public. Shame Shame."

                                                                  Jfood, I do hope you realize that my post of suggestions was tongue-in-cheek. I would certainly never do these things, but sometimes you have to joke about things. I suspect a lot of people are just joking in their responses.

                                                                3. Update: Well, I didn't run into them today, they were a no show. So I didn"t get to say anything. I'm still not sure what I will say when I see them, but I will let you know what happens. Thank for all the suggestion, love hearing all the banter.

                                                                  1. Thank you to everyone who replied and gave me a lot of food for thought. We happened to be with these people this last Friday night. We were at a funeral and I decided to ask some of the people to come for dinner that night because I cooked alot of food the night before.

                                                                    The woman and I went into the kitchen, and I just decided to come out and be honest with her about the last lunch we had. I explained how uncomfortable it was to listen to her constantly tell her husbank not to eat this or that, and how healthy or unhealthy something was. I just said that hubby and I enjoy going out to eat and we don't to hear all of this and telling her husband constantly not to eat something made her look like a nag, and only makes him eat more. I explained that there was nothing wrong getting her husband to eat healthy but it should be done at home or in privacy, not in front of other people.

                                                                    She said that she didn't realize that she was harping on so much, and that she appreciated me telling her. We'll see what happens in the future. In this instance so far the direct approach worked.

                                                                    Thanks again to everyone.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: paprkutr

                                                                        Sounds like you handled this with diplomacy and tact. Well done.

                                                                      2. We have a second home and our next door neighbors there are only up occasionally as well so we don't see them all that often. But they were constantly criticizing each other. This wasn't about food but just a constant harangue. One night - after at least one extra glass of wine - I said 'ya know, I'm just crazy about the two of you but the constant bickering is such a turnoff.' It started improving almost immediately. I honestly think, after 25 years of marriage, they never even heard themselves any more. I think this could be done with the complainer. And if gets p*ssed, then you'll know you don't want to go down the friendship road with her. Just a thought.