Food bullies

At Dr. Fuhrman's Weekend Immersion in Princeton, New Jersey last month, sharing scrumptious meals together with others was a highlight for me. That’s when I had the awesome opportunity to step away from my computer screen and interact with so many wonderful people from all over the country! I loved listening to the heartbeat of what’s happening in the day-to-day lives of those who’ve committed to a lifetime of eating for health, and especially those who were making the commitment to eat for health over the holidays. 

Unfortunately, pushy in-laws and overbearing relatives and friends were a topic of discussion for many in overcoming obstacles during the upcoming holidays.

Hmmm, shall I be so bold to call these pushy relatives and friends, “Food bullies?”

Bullies have a strong need to control and dominate, and usually envy and resentment are at the root of their behaviors. 

If a food bully’s intended target exhibits a “defeated attitude” in response to the pushiness, then the bullying is likely to continue. 

However, as in most all cases with bona fide bullies, if the intended target responds with a clear attitude of self-confidence and a strong boundary line, the bully’s attempt to dominate will quickly diminish. 


Recently I asked Dr. Fuhrman about food bullies, and the following was his response:


"One has to tell relatives and friends now, not later at the dinner table, that he/she is on a special, healthy diet prescribed by Dr. Fuhrman to lose weight and prevent cancer so don’t be offended that conventional foods will not be eaten at the holiday get-togethers. 

Giving into food bullies is just another dysfunctional excuse to continue in food addiction. The inability to speak one’s feelings for fear of a reprimand is also toxic and may be cancer causing. By not addressing it, and by not taking a stand with pushy relatives and friends, giving into food bullies is ill-will and selfish; because one is not giving loved ones a chance to learn what they should be considering for their lives also; whether they do it or not."  


How about you? Do you have a tangible plan of action to deal with the food bullies in your life this holiday season?


Related post:

Is pleasing Grandma ruining your health?







image credit:  flickr by Dinner Series

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Comments (29) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Francesco - December 19, 2011 9:24 AM

To be honest, this whole "food bully" things works in BOTH directions. I eat Nutritarian for the entire year save for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yet, some of my Nutritarian friends attempt to bully me out of those two days and, quite frankly, I don't like them doing it.

Granted, there is probably more resistance from S.A.D. eaters than Nutritarians; however, if we are to be honest about this, we need to watch our own "self righteous" attitudes, as well.

Ayumi Hashimoto - December 19, 2011 10:12 AM

I'd let those who would be at the table know about my diet in advance as much as possible. This way, they may be prepared for my difference. Also, I think they should be helpful and respectful to your choice just as in the case of someone having an allergy to some food. In the case of food allergy, people would not only understand but do their best to help him/her to avoid it. While allergic reaction would give almost immediate and acute suffering, unhealthy food will damage our body insidiously, surely, and severely in a long run..., but damage is damage. We all are in a sense have a sensitivity to the unhealthy food (if not allergy and I do have a mental allergic reaction to SAD=Standard American Diet). So, isn't it incorrect to say, "I am sensitive to micro-nutrient poor food" to those who want to know why I don't eat those food?

Annette Chambers - December 19, 2011 11:08 AM

Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for the reminder that it is selfish of me not to make it clear to the ones I love the most. As I have taken Dr. Fuhrman's Holiday challenge, I am faced with some food bullies. By making my commitment clear and kind, my desires are achieved and by my example, some of those food bullies, may turn into team members!!

Suzy - December 19, 2011 11:51 AM

What's really difficult is to not feel like a "party pooper" because you are resisting the seasonal treats in order to make healthy choices. Our culture is so invested with the idea that festivities equal junk food, particularly high fat and sugar foods, that you can begin to feel like you are "no fun" if you eschew them rather than chew them!

Drfood - December 19, 2011 1:19 PM

My family generally are not bullies, but just ignorant of the full consequenses of the S.A.D. When you hold fast without compromise many people will call you a killjoy. Some feel hurt as you "reject" their foods and bring ETL alternatives. Others will give you the "Everything in moderation" line. I then explain that it's "moderation in good things" not moderation in those things we know are disease producing. A few will appreciate that you are trying to make changes, but some family members who have seen the many diets you have tried (and failed on) see this as just another fad diet attempt that will pass. The difference is that this is not a fad diet and the toxic addiction for unhealthy foods will eventually be gone. It's difficult not to get into a debate (almost like religion and politics), but we know the healing power of the ETL plan. The results speak for themselves.

Thanks to both you Emily and Dr. Fuhrman for all your inspiring help,

Dr Food R.D., C.D.E.

Emily Boller - December 19, 2011 3:02 PM

No one, not even a pushy or overbearing relative or friend, can make us eat anything that we don't want to eat. It's totally our choice. Always.

We are always free to choose; however, we are never free to choose the negative consequences of unwise choices.

Cheering for the best choices for all!

Two weeks to go to the New Year!

Barry - December 19, 2011 3:08 PM

Tell me something. What is so wrong in staying regimented in
your Nutritarian healthy eating all year long but cheating a little bit when Thanksgiving & Christmas roll around.
----What's the big deal?????

Rick - December 19, 2011 3:29 PM

Yes, it is always our choice.

I plan on leaving around 3PM to head home and not have to drive in the mountains at night. It provides me with a convient excuse to miss dinner and the ten deserts that go with it.

Sheesh - December 19, 2011 3:59 PM

Thank you very much for posting this. This morning I got another comment by a co-worker "you eat too healthy" when I turned down a piece of birthday cake. I hear comments such as this, and the above, many times a week and I too feel as though it is a form of bullying.

Kate - December 19, 2011 4:08 PM

When I first started this diet three years ago, I went to Costco with my MIL. She offered to by me an icecream bar. I told her no thank you. She offered to let me have some of hers. I told her I don't share germs. She said, 'it isn't as fun to eat, when I have to eat it alone.' I finally said, 'I don't eat that sort of thing. I haven't eaten that sort of thing most of my life. I don't eat that sort of thing because I want to stay slim." She said she would get a knife and cut it in half. I finally got blunt and said, 'I don't eat that sort of thing because I don't want obesity, high cholesterol, or cancer like you. Dr. Fuhrman assured me that it is the healthiest way to live and the surest prevention against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. OK!" She finally stopped bullying me. She died last spring from cancer and Alzheimer.

Emily Boller - December 19, 2011 6:22 PM


There's nothing "wrong" with it per se.

But not everyone likes playing with fire anymore. I innocently played with fire like you mentioned above, and at the time, it was no big deal.

Twenty years later, the fire got out-of-control and nearly burned my house down.

So if you want to take your chances and smoke in bed; just make sure your smoke alarm has batteries in it! :)

Ask any former heroin addict if he/she can shoot up just once or twice a year?

Ask a young adult who smokes cigarettes daily, who had absolutely no addiction to nicotine at age 10, why he/she can't quit now.

Ask a recovering alcoholic what's wrong with making just a few exceptions with Jack (Daniels).

Rick - December 19, 2011 7:20 PM

Emily and Barry,
This discussion brings up a good point. People are different. Some can cheat once in a while and it is not a problem. Others cheat and the next thing you know they are eating poorly again.

MIke Rubino - December 19, 2011 7:35 PM

If you can get to be an old grouch like me most people will stop bothering you . I laugh more at them than with them when they tell me Im no fun any more and then tell them I dont like their kind of fun.

Emily Boller - December 19, 2011 7:40 PM


I hear ya, and I would've completely agreed with that mindset years ago.

If someone would've told me at age 20, when I was slender and relatively disciplined with food choices *in moderation*, that in twenty more years I would be 100 lbs overweight and severely addicted to toxic foods, I would've never believed them.

The lie is, "It could never happen to me."

It's the little, seemingly innocent compromises that are the subtle dangers.

One is never suddenly addicted.

It takes the exceptions and cheats to get there.

Karen - December 19, 2011 10:11 PM

Emily and others, thank you so much for your posts! I have been spiraling out of control since Thanksgiving!!! I was doing so well before then. Then I took a day "off" and I've been off every since. I think it is even worse this time around than before. I now know that I have to go cold turkey like any other addict would. Hopefully this point of admitting how really sick and out of control I am will be a turning point for me. Those of you who pray PLEASE just mention my name. I feel like I need to go away to rehab to get refocused.

Peg - December 20, 2011 7:44 AM

I've been reading all of your comments and have to agree that one 'slip' can be the catalyst to a downhill slide. I am a senior citizen with many health issues...though I thank God I have no cancer or heart disease and now, I am only slightly overweight. My husband and I have been nutritarians for 15 months. I admit, we have sweets more than we should and we do eat fish, but we concentrate on the healthy choices and have both lost considerable weight. The best thing is that I no longer have high cholesterol! I no longer need a cane to steady my walking either! I guess what I am trying to say is that it is worth it. Let the bullies bully...they can only hurt us if we allow them to. Just be the right example and pray they will someday see the light too. And yes, Karen, I have mentioned your name...please do the same for me. God Bless.

Pat in NH - December 20, 2011 9:56 AM

This brings to mind years ago, when my MIL, who meant well, and has been the Queen of the family seemingly forever, served a holiday meal at her house while I was on a pay-per-week diet regimen. The table was offered cakes and brownies, and I requested (and got) a ripe pear with a small knife. "Oh c'mon- you can have some cake, a little won't harm you!" was the general hue and cry. I replied, "So, are you willing to reimburse me for all the previous weeks' and this week's diet payment?" This shut them up, big time! Then they all started to drool while I neatly and lovingly sliced and savored every bite of that pear. They still talk of it to this day! It's been 30 years, but they know about Me. They are respectful about my preferences. If I had to do it today, with what I know today-as we detox and get rid of some sneaky poundage by following Eat To Live, with not having a weekly packaged-diet fee to hold up to them, I might say, "So, are you willing to pay my Rheumatologist's bill when all my joints flare up from these inflammation causing substances?" I was younger and only slightly more brash then. Today I do say, "I want to totally maximize my health, and keep your son as strong and healthy as possible as we grow old together". I am working on a blog, which seems sometimes redundant from what all else I am lucky enough to read, but, I have my own perspective and the more Nutritarian blogs, the better, IMO. it's Eat.Drink.Detox.Smile! And thanks Emily, for all you do here.
Pat in New Hampshire

Bonnie - December 20, 2011 10:06 AM

great article!!! I loved it! I also got giddy (is that the right spelling?) when I read Dr. Fuhrman's response. Keep up the good work, Emily.

Karen - December 20, 2011 10:09 AM

Good morning! Just want to report that I am having a large salad for breakfast and my lentils are cooking. I am back on track today! Thank you for the encouragement and the prayers. Thank you Dr. Fuhrman for ETL.

Bonnie - December 20, 2011 10:59 AM

Kate, your post made my eyes fill with tears.

mike rubino - December 20, 2011 12:24 PM

Ironically I'm sitting at work and we have enough candies and cookies here to fill up half the office. I find the temptations tougher than a bully . Knowing they're there gets to me, and as it's Christmas I can't tell everyone to get them out of here. So wish me luck.

Emily Boller - December 20, 2011 1:24 PM

Cheering for you Mike!

Cheering for all!

Let's all be honest and acknowledge our feelings. In the right kind of situation, for many of us, that cookie and candy stuff, especially at Christmas, does bring back an emotional longing . . . .

However, let's also be honest and acknowledge that none of us want to lie helplessly in a nursing home someday after a stroke; with one side of our body paralyzed, and totally dependant on others for pureed SAD food (gross), elimination needs, cleanliness, mobility, and unable to talk. Even just one day of such confusion and helplessness would be a nightmare to experience!

Hal Merrill - December 20, 2011 1:50 PM

Yes, those tempting treats are all around us. I gave in a few days ago and indulged, but now I'm realizing, I don't need to do that. I'm back on track today also!! Thanks for all of you great thoughts here.

And Joel Fuhrman - great introductory video there. This is my first visit to your site. Hal

JR - December 21, 2011 2:25 AM

I wonder what sort of weird foods people are being bullied with.

I can see the cookies and stuff, but honestly ginger bread cookies and coffee are about as bad as it gets in my family. The rest of the dinner maybe not up to strict nutritarian standards, but it's pretty non-SAD. Red cabbage, green beans, lingonberry salad, split pea and kale soup, potatoes, lefse, fruit soup, butternut squash, wild rice, etc. The meat eaters do eat meatballs but we also have veggie meatballs for the vegetarians. The grandparents are 93, it seems to have worked for them.

MIke Rubino - December 21, 2011 8:32 AM

Thanks all depsite your encouragement and my best intentions I slipped abit and had some treats. Stupid I know, but the big thing is to learn from the mistake and not let it become an everyday event. Hope all of you handle whats thrown your way better than I did.

JR it sounds like your family has it pretty much dialed in.Mine will have SAD with an added Italian flair , plus cheesy and creamy desserts .Ill have more than one person tell me that it doesnt hurt to loosen up for the Holidays.

Carry - December 21, 2011 12:35 PM

Reminds me of a dinner I had with my in-laws a while ago. We had a lovely meal with salad, roasted vegetables, and a soup of some sort. Then the dessert. I politely declined, saying I was full. (I was!) After the fourth time someone asked me if I was sure I didn't one a small piece of dessert, I blurted out, "Oh stop it! No one offered me Brussels sprouts eight times during dinner, so stop pushing dessert on me! If I don't eat sugar, it won't kill me!" Fortunately, it came across as funny, and everyone laughed. No one in that family offers me a slice of dessert more than once anymore.

Barry - December 21, 2011 3:07 PM

Emily,,,,,,,You have gone down the road of focusing on some huge addictions when responding to my viewpoint. But I understand why you say what you said.
But I also think Rick is quite accurate in saying everybody is different.
During Thanksgiving & Christmas I may sample a little of this and little of that but nothing substantial like sitting down in front of a great college football rivalry and before you know it,the whole pizza is gone. But once these 2 sizeable Holidays are over, I'm right back into my regimented Nutritarian lifestyle mode for sure and I don't look back. Once I eat the quality high nutrient based food,I really don't miss the empty calorie inferior foods at all. But I'm just speaking for me personally. Have a great Holiday & 2012 everyone!!!! Stay healthy,,,,,,

Vickie Rakich - December 21, 2011 6:41 PM

Food Bullies look out!! I caught Dr. Joel Fuhrman's new program on ch 11 in August. I've lost 21 pounds as of Dec 18th, a total of 67 pounds this year. My BMI was 38.7 Jan 1, 2011, and wt was 198lbs that day. Now, I weigh 131 lbs.,my BMI is 25.6. My blood pressure was 148/96, now my pressure is 100/68. No way am I going to pack on pds by eating garbage. Usually I make Indian Pumpkin Pudding using brown sugar and cornmeal. This year, I have created a pumpkin, apple and banana smoothie blending some Vanilla Energizer Protein within the mix. I add 2 stevia packets, 1 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of grd cloves, and a little grd ginger, and thin with water. I also, plan on bringing my salad to munch on, pea pods and some almonds in snack zip lock packs. There is plenty of ice water to drink. My Christmas day is well planned now. Into 2012 I plan on reaching my wt loss goal. No one will stop me. My success has inspired both of my sisters and catching the interest of many followers. I told them about Dr. Fuhrman's program and his many published books. Look out world! Obesity is going to be a faze of the past. Merry Christmas and Good Health to one and all!!!

Mary - January 24, 2013 8:03 PM

I have found great success with the broken-record method, which is to say politely "no thank you," and again "no thank you," and over again "no thank you" very politely but firmly. I never answer or get into arguments with family bullies who ask "what, you don't drink?!" If anyone seems sincerely interested in my weight loss and asks about it, I say "I've gotten very interested in nutrition" or "I'm following a plant-based diet," and only then will I explain about Eat to Live.

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