The people in our life can support us or sabotage us in our healthy lifestyle pursuits, however, it is OUR behavior as a people pleaser that is the threat, not our loved ones.
I recently asked around on social media about the obstacles people struggle with most when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. “People” showed up several times. I see this as a common theme in my nutritional coaching. You have a plan and then your sister says, “We’re taking the kids for ice cream. Do you want to come?” Or maybe it’s a co-worker inviting you out for drinks and all the happy hour food that goes with it. Some days it is your mother-in-law offering you her signature pasta dish. On any of these occasions, a people pleaser will give in so they can avoid hurting someone’s feelings
People Pleaser Behavior
What is it about peer pressure and social expectations that have us saying yes when we want to say no?
We worry about disappointing others yet what hurts more is when we disappoint ourselves.
Choosing a healthy lifestyle is a daunting task. Consider a few statistics:
- 60-70% of North Americans are obese or overweight
- 51% of those that are overweight WANT to lose weight
- Of those, only 26% are making an attempt to lose weight and
- 95% of those will gain it back within one year
On most days, you have the willpower and discipline to say “no.” The trouble is, we have a limited number of “no’s” to hand out each day. We say no once. Twice. Three times. Eventually, even the strongest will run out of no’s. When it is to the same person over the same food group at the same party three times in a row, well that’s just plain aggravating! And, let’s call it what it is: Food Bullying.
The Hero’s Journey
Losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle is a Hero’s Journey! It is not for the faint of heart and there is no room for the people pleaser.
A hero is a person who goes out and achieves great deeds on behalf of the group, tribe, civilizations, or even on behalf of themselves or their family. Being as healthy as you possibly can be is a benefit to everyone in your life.
A People Pleaser never says no. They fear rejection because of a lack of confidence. They sacrifice their own needs, wants, desires, and dreams by giving in to what others want.
People in our lives may not be on the same journey as us when it comes to health and eating. They may live by an alternative philosophy of “eat dessert first; life is uncertain!” And in living by such a philosophy, they want company. They want us to join them and they will ask again, and again, and again. They may say things like
- Oh, come on! One bite won’t hurt you!
- You’re no fun anymore since you don’t eat sweets.
- But I made this especially for you.
Pleasing the Person in The Mirror
At the end of the day, you have to face yourself in the mirror and ponder whether you were true to yourself. If the answer is anything other than “hell yeah,” then you are the one who’s hurting you. The guilt and shame that comes with disappointing yourself carry into your daily habits, and every nook and cranny of your life, eroding away at your self-confidence with every yes that was meant to be a no.
Here are a few tips toward saying no, being your own hero, and avoiding the people pleaser behaviors that derail you from your healthy lifestyle:
- Say NO politely but firmly. “No, Thank you. I’m taking steps to improve my health and that is not part of my plan.”
- Sometimes you need a firmer stance with yourself and others: “No, thank you. I don’t eat that.”
- Set boundaries. Let people know you LOVE spending time with them but you are making changes for the benefit of your health and you won’t be eating sugar/alcohol/gluten/ice cream/French fries anymore.
- Let people know WHY you are living a healthier lifestyle and you will Gain Support Not Sabotage.
- Before you say yes or no, ask yourself: Is this DECISION Helping or Hurting the Future me?
- Choose between what you want now and What you want most.
- Recognize that what you eat or don’t eat is YOUR choice. You have a voice and you can use it. What someone does with your yes or no is up to them. It’s not on you. Release the guilt.
- Call people on their sh!t. You can do this with love. You can turn the table back on your loved one by asking why it’s so important to them that you eat what they are eating or have made. Say it with a smile on your face and then close your mouth. Wait for their reply. This can be a great stall technique and it gives you time to remember #1-7 above!
Keep Your Promise. Be the Hero.
Each and every time you do something that is out of alignment with the goal you set for the promise you made, you make it easier to do again and again. When you keep your word, you build the muscle and the mindset that you always keep your promises.
Be true to yourself. Stay aware and focused on your goals and dreams so that when you say “Yes’ to please others, you are not disappointing yourself in the process.
With love, gratitude, and kindness,
NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles on Obstacles to a Healthy Lifestyle Series: People