Ask LH: How Can I Turn Down Free Food?

Ask LH: How Can I Turn Down Free Food?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been employed as a fly in-fly out (FIFO) worker for a year. In that time I have gained over 10 kilograms and with little time to exercise due to the schedule, I’m worried for my future health.

It is a small camp where everyone knows everyone else and it has reached the point where people put beers in my hand or the chefs load my plate up before I even ask – and people seem insulted when I refuse. How can I pass up everyone’s offerings without insulting them so I can stick to a regular diet? Thanks, Pot Belly

Dear PB,

Given my unique line of work, I’m probably not the best person to solicit advice from in this area. That said, the most obvious solution is to be honest and declare you’re on a diet. Most reasonable people will accept this and stop pestering you to overindulge.

You might get the occasional person who attempts to guilt-trip you into participating or blithely insists you don’t need to lose weight. In these situations, politely explain that you’re following strict orders from your doctor. (If you don’t like telling fibs, actually book an appointment with your GP. If you’re currently overweight he will strongly advise you to eat less, which could be construed as an order.)

Alternatively, instead of refusing food outright, just be clever about what you accept on your plate. Get into the habit of calorie counting, avoid fatty/sugary condiments, choose smaller meal portions and ask for light beers. Nobody is going to care if your plate has more salad than meat on it, so just use common sense.

At the end of the day, your health is more important than a few seconds of temporary embarrassment. As long as you stick to your guns and remain consistent with your meal portions, everyone will support your decision in time. In your quest to lose weight, you can also take inspiration from Rae Johnston’s Couch Potato To Wonder Woman Challenge. Good luck!


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  • +1 for the honest approach
    I used to love a free feed and exercised a fair bit so never had too much weight trouble.
    When I found out I had high cholesterol and was advised to reduce my saturated fat consumption I managed to adapt my diet. Preparing my own food made it easier, but explaining to others was important in avoiding offending people. Yes some people claim that “a bit of …” but it isn’t too hard to ignore/get over that. I don’t really miss cakes, cheese, regular red meat etc. and its got easier now people aren’t surprised.

  • Same problem here. Try approaching the food counter from the veggie end and fill the plate with veggies so you don’t have so much space on the plate to let the chef fill it with meat. Or just take food from the counter and don’t even order steak or something. Stay away from the deserts and ice creams, don’t even walk pass it. The moment I look at the desert, I take one. I usually sit next to the exit door somewhere so I don’t get tempted after finishing my dinner.
    And strictly salads for crib packages. Don’t take those meat pies.
    Also, use the gym or the pool or whatever you have there. Take a walk around the camp and go straight to your room, avoid the wet mess after shifts. I stopped drinking while on site altogether. You have a fitness trainer in camp? Talk to him/her about that problem, they can usually assist and motivate you to choose the gym over wet mess.
    Night shift makes you also gain weight, because of your messy sleep patterns…

  • Also, do remember that you can do a superb workout in 15m in your own room, using bodyweight exercises, or suspension cables from the door. Google has details 🙂

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