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How to Wrangle a Food Bully

Updated: Jun 22, 2023



Believe it or not, this can be an incredibly divisive issue for some people and their families/friends. This is even trickier for vegans – you would think they are plotting to crush all the puppies of the world.


One: Recognition - What does food bulling look like?


Food bullies aren’t always obvious or easy to detect. However, they tend to fall into three categories: Well Meaning, Not Well Meaning and Fastfood-dom. The world of fast or quick service food and the impact on our diets I’ll address in another blog, it’s just too big of a fish to squeeze in here.


The Well Meaning.


Sometimes it is simply the way a family operates. For example, when dinner is served, you eat everything on your plate, the end. No arguments. Sometimes it’s a grandmother who connects feeding you to loving you and doesn’t see that the two can be separated. Other times it’s a close friend whom you’ve had a long-standing relationship based on pizza nights or going to a favorite donut shop or to bars + bar type foods. And at other times it’s a spouse or roommate who make a concerted effort to cook like they do on the TV or online shows and this effort/expense that are just soooo hard to turn down. I think you get the idea.


The Not-Well Meaning.


These folks tend to be a LOT more obvious and have no problem letting you know how should be eating. Their tactics range from belittling to all out aspersions of disgust. If some of these comments look familiar, you know what I’m talking about.



“so, you don’t eat meat, eh? What is wrong with you?”

“ohhh, here we go, she’s going to be a real pain here about ordering, so you better take a seat” [said to the waiter/waitress]

“don’t you have any REAL food in this house?”

“If I’m buying, we are going where I want to eat”

“I guess I’ll just throw the rest of this out since you are above eating normal food”


Two: Wrangling


Be prepared. Do not assume that just because you have finally decided that being bloated or fraught with indigestion is no longer ok for you, that everyone around you will go along. Believe it or not, this can be an incredibly divisive issue for some people and their families/friends. This is even trickier for vegans – you would think they are plotting to crush all the puppies of the world. This does not mean you need to be adversarial or drum up anxiety that isn’t necessary – but know you may get some flack and to stay the course of positive decisions for yourself, be ready.



So, whether it’s a well-meaning relative, close friend, or a plain old jerk who loves to make digs about what you eat, they are all obstacles that need to contend with.


Learn: Some sure-fire points of retort or discussion.


For the well-meaning relative: “I know you love me, and I cannot thank you enough for thinking of me, but I have recently found out that those foods are not my friend, so I’m going to have to pass”.

WMR: “Nonsense, what’s the harm in a little indulgence now and then?”

You: “I wish it were nonsense, but for me, a little indulgence has put my health at risk, so again, thank you, but I need to pass.”


For the close friend or relative where much of the relationship revolves around indulgent foods, alcohol, etc.


LTCF: “So I heard about this AMAZING new pizza place, seriously we have to go.”

You: “I would love to, but I need to back off those amazing foods for now. I still want to go out, let’s see if we can find a place that will work for us both.”


For the jerks who take pot-shots or are hell bent on sabotaging your efforts. Though on the surface, these folks may seem to be the most difficult to “manage”, they are usually the first to back down when put back in their place. But not everyone is equipped to play verbal ping pong. So, saying absolutely nothing in return is best. Silence. But, to yourself, it will be important to tell yourself a couple of times “I will not take part in this sabotage effort”. “I will not take part in this sabotage effort”. But if you are feeling your oats and want to play ball, try a couple of these:


“I appreciate your keen advice what I should be eating, but what I really need help with is my poor selection of wrapping paper”.

*OR _______. Fill in the blank with any other inane thing that will get a very confused look in response.

“I guess I shouldn’t sign you up for my healthy living support newsletter.”

“I wish everyone I knew cared as much about what I eat as you do!”


Although there are many (SO many) other food bullies or bullying entities out there, by far the most difficult to work with is a spouse or partner. For some couples the world of food is a critical ground of commonality, which is a basic comfort and a large part of the foundation for that relationship. It can also be a giant buffer. A buffer for keeping the anger at bay “as long as she gets her chocolate, she won’t lash out at me”. For others, it’s a huge test of their relationship, can it handle a “split” in food choices? As silly as this may sound, believe me, plenty of relationships find out that they cannot. They rely on their partner eating similar foods as they do, sharing their “favorites”, going to their favorite ice cream or yogurt shop once or twice a week. The list goes on. I cannot emphasize this enough that to be successful in healthier food choices, PLAN and take seriously the impact it will have on your relationship. Include your partner in your planning. Ask them to be “on your team” as a fan and support. Understand that it may take an abundance of effort to eat differently. But it is worth it. And there is even a possibility that they may join you. I’ve seen some of the staunchest, most junk food dedicated types change their ways, some a little, some a lot.

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