Refusing Holiday Food and Staying Low-Carb by Dana Carpender

Originally published 10/14/2010, Updated by the author on 10/11/2023.

Watch the Podcast

Dealing with the holiday food pushers

It’s October and you know what that means: the holidays are straight ahead and with them piles and piles of carby junk and worse, people nagging you to eat the stuff. Why so many people think that saying things like, “But you have to eat it, it’s a tradition” and “I worked all afternoon making it just for you,” constitutes an expression of holiday good will, I have no idea.

But sadly, this behavior is all too common. You need to think ahead about how to respond to this sort of thing. You have absolutely no obligation to eat anything you do not want to eat.

That sounds important, so let me repeat it.

Refusing Food from the Food Pushers
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You have absolutely no obligation to eat anything you do not want to eat.

If you had a terrible allergy, the sort that would throw you into anaphylaxis at the merest taste, you would not hesitate to refuse that food, nor would you apologize for doing so.

Similarly, If you were a recovering alcoholic, you would feel free to say no thanks to a drink, and would consider rude anyone who pressed you. Carbohydrate addiction and hyperinsulinemia don’t kill as quickly as allergic reactions, but they kill vastly more people. And a case can be made that dying quickly of anaphylaxis is preferable to the long, drawn-out years of deteriorating health and increasing debility that carb addiction can wreak on your body.

So, no feeling apologetic when offered food or drink one does not care to consume. No thank you is always the polite thing to say. Conversely, nagging people to eat foods they have politely refused is rude-rude-rude. You are in the right here, no matter how people try to browbeat you into thinking that you’re the unmannerly one.

First of all, Do not JADE

J A D E: Justify, Argue, Defend, or Explain. Do you really want to bore everyone at the table with a stirring defense of low carbohydrate diets complete with medical journal citations? Heck, no, it’s just not festive. More importantly, any explanation or justification past no thank you, or I don’t care for any thanks, will be seized upon as an opportunity to argue with your decision.

Refusing Food from the Food Pushers
Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

You’ve heard this sort of thing.

“No, thanks, I’m on a diet.”

“Oh, nobody diets on Christmas.”

“No thanks, I’m avoiding carbs.”

“That crazy diet? Everyone knows it’s unhealthy. You’re killing yourself. Everybody’s eating plant-based now. Come on, you have to have some”

… Et cetera. Every good salesman works to get the hesitant prospect to state his objections because that’s the moment he can start arguing them away.

Do not let yourself in for this.


You do not need a reason beyond, “I don’t care for any, thanks.”

You just don’t. However, it can be hard not to embellish upon “no, thank you.”

Conversation Changers

So, instead of offering an explanation or a defense, change the subject, like this:

“Oh, you have to try my famous cornbread stuffing!”

“No, thank you. Hey, what’s playing at the local theater? Is that new horror movie still there? I’ve been dying to see that.”

Let’s try it again:

“You haven’t had any banana bread. I use great grandma’s recipe. You just have to have some.”

“No, thank you. By the way, does anyone want to go shopping tomorrow? Brave the Black Friday crowds?”

Low-Carb allulose cinnamon bun

You get the idea. If you know that you’re going to be confronted with busybodies and nags, practice this in advance. Come up with a list of conversation changers.

  • “What do you want for Christmas?”
  • “Has anyone heard from Uncle Bill lately?”
  • “Can you believe how our football team is doing?”
  • “I got the coolest new app for my phone the other day. You’ve got to see this!”
  • “When does Junior’s holiday break start?”
  • “When does Cousin Bill deploy?”
Food Pushing Bread
Photo by Kate Remmer on Unsplash

Anything will do, really. This makes it far, far harder for the person shoving the food at you to continue. If you only say, “no, thank you, you’re going to hear, “But you must have some,” and it’s going to turn into a whole back-and-forth tug of war.

“I don’t want to”
“But you have to!”
“But I don’t want to”
“But you have to!”

Ugh. Once you’ve said, “Hey, have you seen Cousin Susie’s new baby? Anybody got pictures? 0r whatever,” the food pusher is going to look just a tad obsessed if she keeps going. Instead of the other diners looking at you funny, they’re going to look at the food pusher funny.

It’s a neat form of social jujitsu, and I recommend it highly.

I'm a Carbohydrate Addict by Dana Carpender

One tangential, but related tactic

If you come from a family where holiday get-togethers are an occasion to be… honest – in other words, for people to say unkind things to one another, arm yourself with my all-purpose comeback, “How very kind of you to say so.”

Again, let’s practice.

“You’ve been on that diet for six months now and you’re still fat.”

“How very kind of you to say so.”

“Haven’t you gotten married yet? You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

“How very kind of you to say so.”

“Your sister just got a promotion. Thank heaven one of my children amounts to something.”

“How very kind of you to say so.”

Isn’t this fun? You’re driving the thrower of darts out of their flippin’ mind and making him or her look like an ass, all while remaining impeccably polite yourself.

Next year, consider having dinner with friends.

Happy Holidays.

More Low Carb Recipes & Articles by Dana Carpender

Check Also

What About Cheat Days on Your Low-Carb Lifestyle?

What About Cheat Days on Your Low-Carb Lifestyle? – CarbSmart Podcast Episode 14

I frequently see questions about cheat days – most commonly, “How often should I have a cheat day?” There seems to be an assumption that cheat days are a good idea, something that should be built into a low-carb diet to keep people from feeling deprived.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.