What To Do When Somebody Offers You Food

Anyone who works in an office environment will likely be familiar with the temptation of snacks offered by well-meaning colleagues.

This is a rarity for me, thankfully. Although I spend my weekday mornings in a coworking space, most of my ‘colleagues’ tend to be relatively healthy types, and biscuits and other such snacks aren’t typically shared around with abandon.

However, the other day was an exception. I was offered a white chocolate chip cookie, and my response was to accept without hesitation. Far be it from me to turn down free food – especially when it’s in cookie form.

I soon discovered the error of my ways, however. The cookie was overly crunchy for my tastes, and the white chocolate made it sweet to the point of sickliness. (For me, cookies are pretty damned sweet to start with, so a scattering of dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts provides a welcome contrast.) Furthermore, after a few minutes, I developed a bit of a headache as the refined sugar surged through my system.

In short, I soon regretted my decision to accept the cookie offering – not only because I didn’t enjoy it, but also because I hadn’t even thought about saying no.

This got me to thinking about impromptu food offerings. I quickly realised that there is almost never a situation where you truly need to accept food offered at random. It’s not to say that you shouldn’t say yes to some food offerings – life is too short – but I think there’s a solid argument to make for your default answer being “no”.

So, here’s my thinking: Next time someone offers you a surprise treat, respond immediately with a “no, thanks” before your inner glutton has a chance to protest. Then, give yourself an opportunity to reflect on the positive aspects of decision. (I mentioned this recently in a post on controlling food cravings in the moment.)

To give you an example, I know I could’ve told myself plenty of reassuring things had I not accepted that cookie the other day. I first could’ve reflected on the fact that the cookies were overly crunchy and rich – not to my taste. I could’ve also considered that it was nearly lunchtime, and that I’d spoil my appetite by succumbing to temptation. Perhaps most compellingly, I could’ve recognised that avoiding the cookie meant avoiding an unnecessary headache. Giving yourself a headache doesn’t seem like the brightest course of action, after all.

Finally, I could’ve fallen back on my ever reliable approach of delaying gratification. If I’d really wanted a sweet snack, I could’ve have one after lunch – and something better than an overly crunchy and rich cookie, no less. When looking at the situation from that perspective, accepting the cookie seems like an absurd choice.

And thus the feedback loop can be completed. Start with a default “no”, then find compelling reasons to support your initial response, thus largely quelling any temptation you may have harboured.

Now I’ll admit that this process may not always be as straightforward. What if, for example, you can’t think of any good (enough) reason not to succumb to temptation? In that case, you could change your mind, and tell your friend or colleague that you will in fact have what was offered. However, the slight social awkwardness of having to go back on your previous “no” might convince you to stick to your guns.

If you do choose to accept and eat the snack, I advise you to eat it mindfully, then reflect on your decision. You may well find that you don’t find the snack as satisfying or fulfilling as you might’ve expected, as I did with the cookie. That being the case, you can use your experience as feedback to encourage you to react differently next time around. Don’t waste your time beating yourself up about your decision, but do use what you learn from it for good next time around.