Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Say No?

Q&A Wednesday: How Do I Say No?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: hi there, i just found your site and its so amazing. you’re way ahead of me. i just ate 4 cookies.

i just really would love love love to know something: how do you tell yourself no at the appropriate times and yes at the appopriate times? i can’t seem to generate a ‘NO’ loud enough for what i need in my body. help.

Boy… I hope those were great cookies. I mean, I genuinely hope they were so delicious that they were worth every bite.

Because if they were cheap cookies, they probably tasted like crap, didn’t fill you up at all, and might’ve even left you worse off than you began… because you were still hungry after the fact and then had to eat something else that actually could fill you up.

Listen… I don’t eat cookies. Like, it is wholly possible for me to walk down a cookie aisle and look – possibly even salivate – but not touch. Why? Because I know two things: 1) I can probably bake less expensive yet better tasting cookies at home and 2) those cookies are processed beyond recognizable ingredient recognition, and wouldn’t do me any nutritional good.

I mean, let’s not be mistaken here. We can deconstruct a cookie and I can show you how a cookie can be nutritional – I bake a flourless peanut butter cookie that is a protein powerhouse, allows me to avoid protein powders (if you take them, that’s great, but I don’t) and get in some enjoyment, too – and how it can be cheap and easy to make at home, too… but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about the ability to say “no,” and how to develop and facilitate that habit. I understand.

First and foremost, I don’t tempt fate. Even now, I know that if I’m surrounded by bad food, it is risky. I mean, if you go to a crappy franchise restaurant you’ll order “the least evil dish on the menu,” but it’s still “the least evil dish.” The key is avoiding the crappy restaurant.

It’s the same inside of your house. If you’re buying the crap-you-know-you-shouldn’t-eat, you will eat the crap-you-know-you-shouldn’t-eat simply for no other reason than “I bought it, I’m not wasting money.” It’s easy to manipulate ourselves into doing something we don’t want to do.

Even now, I don’t have any cookies, any cakes, pies, or other typical sweets in the house. I could go downstairs, grab the chocolate chips, the flour, butter, maple syrup, some baking powder, some ground cloves and a mixing bowl and bake some chocolate chip cookies… and it’d be totally worth the effort, but do I want to put forth the effort? Do I want to get covered in cookie batter? Do I want to deal with Mini-me trying to peek from behind me asking “Whatcha making, Mommom? Can I have some, Mommom? Can I lick the spoon, Mommom? Can I lick the bowl, Mommom? Are those my cookies Mommom? Can I help, Mommom?”

By the time I’d be done baking, I wouldn’t even want the darn cookies. And by virtue of never having cookies in the house.. I’d probably wind up pitching the rest or giving them to the little one.

The level of effort involved with acquiring your vice (your vice being the cookies) directly affects whether or not you’ll actually obtain that vice. It’s as easy as that. Keep your household clear of crap.

And let me be honest, too.. when I came to the conclusion that it was better for me to make my cookies instead of buy them? Oh, good grief.. I was baking cookies every week! I mean, every… single… week! And I suffered for it. Not in a way that caused me to gain, but in a way that prevented me from losing. How frustrating was that! My body let me know – straight up: you’re giving me just enough food to maintain this weight, so either you kick up the exercise or kick down the intake. My body spoke, and I listened. How awesome is that?

Now, I may bake once a month. Maybe two. It’s not often. I have no problem taking Mini-me to a bakery so that she can enjoy a nice quality bit of junk food… but again, it’s rare. The $3 to $5 that I’d be spending on cookies each week saves up to about $20 a month I’m saving just by not buying cookies.. I can buy my daughter a chocolate croissant for $3 and still have an extra $17 in my pocket for a pedicure or a book or a new yoga mat or something.

I can’t speak on people who live in houses with people who insist on bringing crap into the house when they know they shouldn’t… either for me or for themselves. Things wind up mysteriously in the trash around me. Mysteriously, I promise.

As for those times when you do find yourself in the throes of junk food passion and can’t get away? Like, say, a business meeting? Keep water handy… and take big, lonnnnng gulps. I mean, don’t be obnoxious with it and drool water everywhere, but a leisurely sip isn’t going to get it for you. At all. As someone who deals with/dealt with a pretty intense sugar addiction, I’m pretty familiar with the guzzling of water. If anyone asks or comments on how much I’m drinking, I just shrug and say “What? I feel dehydrated.” They’ll usually reply with something about how I need to do better… and I just shrug it off because I already know the deal. I’m avoiding the darn sweets.

So… how do I say no? I protect myself by avoiding ever having it in my house, and if I insist on indulging, I’ll make it myself… even though the effort required is usually enough to make me change my mind. If I’m already in the middle of a situation where it’s hard to avoid, I stick to the water and drink like my life depends on it. Before too long, it loses its hold on you, and saying “no” comes naturally.

What tips or tricks do you use to help you say no?

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Akeia December 1, 2010 - 8:55 PM

Good question! I personally don’t constantly say “no” because for me this can lead to binging. It may be helpful to moderate. For example, if I get a craving for a snickers, I will get a mini sized one instead of the regular sized bar. I think constantly depriving yourself can be dangerous, so it may be helpful to find alternatives like Erika said to make healthier cookies instead of buying them. As far as living with other people who insist on having “junk” food in the house, you can always keep your own healthy snacks in the house. That’s what I do. If I don’t have my own food and snacks and desserts then I get myself into trouble. Other tips I have found are to chew a piece of gum. Also calling a friend and chatting for a few minutes. This gives the craving time to pass and will help you to find a suitable alternative. Good luck!

Nicole December 1, 2010 - 10:20 PM

Generally I will drink a ton of water, I mean just guzzle it down. It keeps me going to the bathroom so I dont even have time to continue thinking about the food. Another thing, I will drink some plain tea (preferably green tea). I also try to munch on fruit. That sometimes will take away my sweet tooth.

Other times, I will brush my teeth, which kills my appetite for some strange reason.

Sandra December 2, 2010 - 12:01 PM

This was an excellent and real question! What was even better was the answer 🙂
Saying no is a hard part for me. I don’t crave sweets and junk food but I do crave things that have me go bananas. Say PIZZA for example. Just saying the word makes my taste buds sing. And I too, do just what you say. I stay FAR FAR FAR away from it. Because I know in my head pizza is the devil I say no but not even allowing myself to be any where near it.

Let’s be honest, saying no is a big part of why we can’t lose weight however, saying no is what we need to do in order to lose weight. 85lbs later, it’s still a struggle for me so I understand 🙂

Rita December 2, 2010 - 9:31 PM

I constantly battle with “saying no” so I tend to (1) drink lots and lots of water (2) go for fruit first (c) if all else fails for every piece of junk food I eat, I immediately have to eat something fresh and healthy (example: I ate 3 oreo cookies at lunch. So, at dinner I made myself have a spinach salad with little fixings.)

Jennifer January 5, 2011 - 4:52 PM

Erica, can you pretty please post the recipe for the flourless peanut butter cookie? Also do you read/ use Cooking Light Magazine?

Erika January 5, 2011 - 4:55 PM

I DO read CL, but I tread lightly with them – they support using some relatively unclean products (reduced fat/low fat/no-fat) and some of the recipes are awful… but you can make it work if you’re creative and careful.

LaShanda Glover January 5, 2011 - 5:18 PM

I’m not always successful saying no to myself, but I’ve gotten pretty good saying no to others. I try to stay focused on what I have already achieved and how good it feels. After losing 80 lbs I think about how I’ve boosted my confidence and improved my health. Then I can say no with no problem!

Lee April 28, 2011 - 1:11 PM

I’ve also found that keeping the stuff out of the house in the first place helps, and like Erika, I keep the cabinets full of staples if I really want to bake. But sometimes the effort to bake is so daunting (and I LOVE baking) that I just say, “Eh, if I want something sweet right now, why don’t I just eat a handful of this granola I made, or some raisins, or a nice cup of tea?”

And boy, keeping the water bottle handy is a lifesaver–we had free lunch in my office yesterday, and that ice cold Pepsi was calling my name, but I brought in my steel water bottle full of freezing H2O, took looooong sips and turned my back to the 2 liters.

Autumn May 16, 2011 - 5:14 PM

Wow!! That is my biggest problem. Saying NO to Cokes which is my worst enemy that I love so much. Even without buying cokes to go in the house has helped out a lot, but when I’m at work with the vending machines it just worsens my crave. *big sigh*

milaxx June 8, 2011 - 7:58 PM

I’m the don’t bring it in the house if I can control myself around it person. fortunately I live alone so it’s fairly easy. I can bake, but I’ve never been a person who bakes on a regular basis. So if I had to bake it to eat it, it might never get made.

Sameena September 19, 2012 - 3:24 PM

YES!! She had a realistic question!!! Plus its hard when your husband brings home all your favorite goodies (that you shouldnt eat anymore like Cheesecake is my only sweet I cant say no b/c its sooo rare) or want you to make delicious food…like stuffed shells or…. fried tilapia…. or baked mac n cheese….( and let me say..Ive created low calorie recipes for all the good stuff) HOWEVER…It doesnt work if you are getting seconds, thirds and four servings.
So with that, im having a hard time…but am determined to get to my desired weight of 130 (use to be 285, now im 233). Im not a “sweet” person either (except for cheesecake) but salt is my craving…you know things like chips. But this is what I do. I am in Love with sunflower seeds…been eating them since I was 5 years old. I go for those. Its Low in calories and healthy at the same time. So I go for the raw salted peanuts, sunflower seeds, pistachios, and then Im fine. I guess it’s all about substitution. And if you are baking from scratch(which I always do instead of buying store bought) Instead of oil I use applesauce which will cut the calories drastically…all about substitution

Alisha Semplar September 19, 2012 - 3:41 PM

I’ve simply gotten to the point of no return….I’m disciplined enough to simply say nooooo!!!!!! I waltz through the cookie and cake aisle without any feelings of desire! I really believe, like Erika, that knowledge is power! If we truly understand what processed ingredients are in the “junk” foods that we crave, then it really works, mentally, to turn down food that has a gob of junk and unhealthy ingredients. That is enough to allow me to continue to say no. I also love how my flat stomach, tight legs and thighs and upbeat energetic attitude feel constant basis….that motivates me to continue to avoid the junk that will simply drag me back to the past!!!! 😉

Evon February 13, 2013 - 9:51 PM

Ok- I’m finding it tons easier to keep unhealthy things out if my home. But I teach at a high school where students believe it is their duty- no matter how much you’ve insisted that they purchase other things- to gift teachers with candy, cookies, & other delectables. I’ve told students millions of times to refrain from buying sweets for me- I write tons of college recommendations, & students call themselves showing gratitude, no matter how I resist. They never witness me eating junk food, either. I just give away the sweets, often in front of the givers, but really, what are my other options? As I’ve said earlier, everyone knows I’m maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I just don’t understand.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 14, 2013 - 11:03 PM

I think those ARE your options. Continue to give them away, making it clear that this is not acceptable for you and, if giving you the gift is more about you than it is their inherent need to give what THEY want to give when THEY want to give it, they’d do what they could to respect that. Since they don’t, you should feel comfortable thanking them politely, then offering it up to everyone else to partake. You, on the other hand, will have to pass. 🙂

Bezzymates February 13, 2013 - 10:14 PM

I also find that thinking about your progress and the thought of regressing works too. Are cookies, chips, etc and the moment on your lips worth blowing all your hard work at the gym for? Also, portion control. I never have a piece of cake anymore. I looooove cake, but if I must eat it, it’s just a sliver.

Erika Nicole Kendall February 14, 2013 - 11:03 PM

Excellent comment. Also, great name.

Geminibreeze February 20, 2013 - 6:00 PM

For me I can say no easily to most things because I am vegan which makes saying no rather easy. Sometimes people say no for, they say oh, you can’t have this it has cheese in it. Let me tell you, being vegan has saved me from many binges. Yes, there are chips, and cookies and bread that are not vegan but normally I can resist. One way I fulfill my cravings is cooking for my bf. Watching him eat the things I crave satisfies me. I know it crazy but I love to cook so cooking and watching him it gives me pleasure… he is going to have to start hitting the gym with me real soon!

Kitana March 15, 2013 - 6:55 PM

Saying no has gotten easier for me with the more progress I make in the gym. When I think about how I used to feel eating all that crap all the time (all kinds of pain, back pain, shoulder pain, gas, stomach cramps…) and how I feel now eating clean and working out every day, it’s easy to say no, I’m not going back to that. I don’t say no to every single thing ever (I had a pre-St. Patrick’s Day cupcake today at work), but saying no to the majority of things also makes the occasional sweet 10x more satisfying when I do have it.

Meri September 4, 2013 - 8:55 AM

Saying no to other people is easy. I have so many food allergies that anything processed is likely to contain one of them. Once you get past gluten, soy, dairy and nightshades as well as MSG no one can argue anymore.

Saying no to myself is a harder thing. I say no because I need to be healthy for my son. I say no because I see what decades of eating disorders and self abuse with food have done to my diabetic mom who is now bedridden most of the time. It isnt always easy and I am far from perfect but I am getting stronger and I am learning that saying no to myself is like a muscle that gets stronger with use.

Kellene September 4, 2013 - 12:27 PM

My employer very generously provides lunch items to all of the employees, bread, sandwich fixins, etc. Most days, I bring a salad and add a can of tuna or lean lunch meat to it. Hooray for me! However, scattered all over the table in the break room, are bags and bags of communal chips. “But I can’t help myself – they’re right there!” I would whine in my head as I cram tortilla chips into mouth. Just yesterday I had an epiphany. Now I prepare my lunch and march right back to my desk – where there are no chips.

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