Important Update: Calorie Count will be shutting down on March 15th. Please click here to read the announcement. Data export is available.
Moderators: Sheila, devilish_patsy, sun123, imlosingw8

At What Point Does It Become Sabotage?

Quote  |  Reply

Recently I had my 24th birthday and another family member had his. For one reason or another, the big family did not celebrate it as one but separately. So we had a stretch of four days where we had a big dinner party, ate the leftovers the next day, had another dinner party, ate the leftovers the next day. Then my grandmother, who lives with my family, served a creamy spaghetti carbonara.

I love her cooking and everything but after dodging and weaving overeating (aside from my birthday, of course), I was being given a high calorie meal. So I talked to her afterwards and said that "you know what my dietary/health goals are (I wanted to get her on my side), I can't honestly expect to eat this after what I had the last four days". She countered with "You shouldn't expect everyone to eat like you just because you're trying to lose weight" and "Anytime there's food, it's in my habit to offer it. If you don't want it, just say no".

On the one hand, this is probably not as sinister as it seemed and I should calm down: I'm being paranoid because you're the only one in the family trying to eat healthy, I shouldn't expect people to eat the same food as I am just because I'm trying to lose weight, some people like to cook for loved ones, some people have a habit of offering food etc.

On the other hand, it's not the first time I've had this talk with her about making food that keeps me away from my goals. I mean, there's a big gap between her "If you don't want it, just say no" and the follow up questions and her putting food on my plate without my permission when we're actually at the dining table.

I agree, know, and realize that ultimately everything's in my hands and that everything's my responsibility. But I'm curious:

At what point does "Look what at I made", "We don't have to eat the same food as you just because you're dieting", "Here you go have another one", and "It's my habit to offer food" crosses over from something harmless to something that sabotages you?

At what point does it cross over from "maybe I'm just seeing things" to "something fishy is going on"?

Is it a subjective thing or is it something that we can objectively calculate?

9 Replies (last)

Based on the spagetti carbonara I'm going to assume your grandma is italian. In that culture offering food is a sign of love. I know I suffer from food as affection as well and when I really want to show someone i care I will make them great food. So probably not deliberate sabatoge but trying to show love

Something that you may or may not realize and that she may respond to is the italian way of eating pasta which is as a small portion at the start of the meal.

We're of Chinese background, actually. But my grandma tries to cook other food as well.

My in-laws are Chinese and though I don't specifically think it has much to do with it, my MIL never stops offering food. She's makes these huge wonderful meals, urges you to eat constantly and in between meals all she does is discuss options for what we should have for the next meal while blindly putting out snacks non-stop. It's entirely about trying to show love with food. On the other hand, she doesn't seem to see the correlation between that and anyone gaining weight though she has no problem pointing out that we're gaining weight and should exercise more. That's the part that annoys me. Anyhow, enough of my life. ;)

Other possibilities of why she's doing/saying this could be:

  • She takes offense to the suggestion that she's providing unhealthy food for your family.
  • Is everyone else in your family at a healthy weight while also eating her food? If so, the issue of specifically catering the meals for a large group to your needs has some merit. 
  • If you aren't the only one with a weight issue but the only one trying to change that, it often forces people to think about the problems they're ignoring which can result in backlash.
  • Again, if you're not the only one with weight issues then we return to the issue of she is providing unhealthy food for your family and then your accusations could really be hitting home with her that she's the cause of these healthy problems in her family.

She's a grandmother and with age comes that "set in her ways" thinking. It's not impossible but harder to expect someone to change. Not to mention, Chinese culture is all about respecting your elders and you're not supposed to expect them to change for you but the other way around.

Keep the issues mentioned above in mind when you talk to your grandmother. Think about ways to talk to her and ask her for her help in that will emphasize how you need her help and support without making it sound like an accusation. Even saying something like "I'm trying very hard to be strong but I need your help. Can we make a deal that you won't offer me food/seconds?" Or something like that?

How often do you eat your grandmothers food?  You know how she cooks, so you could have offered to make a big salad to go with the dinner and have some of that and a smaller portion of pasta, go for a run that morning and eat what you want.  I don't think that her dinner counts as sabotage.  Sabotage is when you tell your grandmother you are going on a diet, and she sends 5lbs of candy to you the next day.

It must be frustrating to feel sabotaged.  I don't know your family well enough to say, but let's just imagine they are trying to undermine you: What Now?  You can give in, eat like crazy, and resent it later.  You can raise a fuss, argue with everyone, and upset one or more people.  Or you just accept that this is one of the many, many, MANY obstacles you'll encounter on your weight loss journey and try now to figure out the best strategy for you to overcome it...

There's always going to be temptations: weddings, potlucks, buffets, parties, you name it.  Finding a successful coping method now can only help you in the future, right?  I just saw this quote on another thread, and it seems really appropriate to share here:

"To be successful in the long term, our strategies for preventing weight regain may need to be just as comprehensive, persistent, and redundant, as the biological adaptations they are attempting to counter."

Quote  |  Reply

No one really sabotages us unless they tie us down and force feed us.  What we need to control in this ocassions is how much we eat and either having a smaller portion or leaving some in the plate.  We are all guilty of letting situations undermine our determination to lose weight.  I have done this several times and used many excuses to justify this.  The varied from being in an important business situation to I do not want to offend her/him/them.  The main problem I have found is that plates this days seem to have become much bigger and if there is no presentation it looks like there is nothing on in even when the portion is appropriate.

Since I realised this is has been much easier to control how much I eat at dinner parties or family ocassions and I eat a little of everything.  Hope this helps


You are 24 and old enough to cook for yourself. Bring a healthy dish of veggies or something, fill up on that and take a few bites of something you really want to have. You said you know that it is ultimately in your hands, so grab onto it. It sucks to be tempted, but temptation will be everywhere, might as well start practicing saying "no" or "just a little along with healthier options" with your own family. You might even be able to find healthier alternative recipes that your grandma might love...

Honestly, if you're going over to her house and eating, you don't have a leg to stand on. Grandma makes whatever she wants, and she's right, you can choose to eat it or not.

My meal stretching ideas involve fresh veggies - figure out which veggies would go great in a cabonara (or generically) steam them, bring them over and fold them into a half-portion of fatty dinner.  You have a huge plate of food and still get to enjoy the flavors.

The only thing you can do is avoid her food without fussing about it, find a way to eat a few bites of it, or supply your own side dish like a very low-calorie salad - a large bowl of salad with just carrots, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and tomatoes has like, 35 calories. Dress with red or balsamic vinegar and pepper, and you can really offset even a 'normal' serving of fatty foods with a tiny calorie salad that is actually huge in volume.

One last thing you can do is take whatever she puts on your plate without fuss, and nibble on it.   Put down your fork between bites, drink lots of whatever liquid is served, and spend most of the dinner talking rather than eating.   Eat half of it, and leave the rest, scrape into garbage when she's not looking.

Quote  |  Reply

Yay, sounds just like my grandma. Are we related? lol.

I don't think it's sabotage, it's just the way she is. She may have more things going on than she is willing to admit, including guilt about the food she loves making. Just stop talking about it and complaining. Watch your diet really close and exercise extra a day or two before you visit and have a nice healthy low cal meal before you go to visit her. Then just eat small portions of whatever  she cooks without complaining, and do not eat the seconds even if she puts some on your plate. She will learn not to offer those if she doesn't want the food wasted.

9 Replies