Does this sounds familiar?
You’re trying to lose weight and develop a healthy relationship with food.
You’re working hard at changing your habits and not overeating.
And you’re doing great!
Except that there’s always someone in your life who seems to want to undermine your efforts. It could be a relative or a friend. Maybe a coworker. Even your mother.
They say things like:
• You’re no fun when you’re trying to lose weight.
• You’ll look older if you lose weight.
• What do you mean you don’t want a piece of MY birthday cake?
• Oh, come on. You can eat that!
• If you keep doing that, you’ll develop an eating disorder.
They do things like push food on you despite your polite and repeated refusal. They pressure you to eat.
They try to shame you into eating the way they want you to.
Or openly express their judgments about you and your food choices.
Some of these folks are envious of your success and are trying to undermine it.
Others truly believe they have your best interests at heart and are being helpful.
Both are road blockers. Both are making the already challenging path to breaking free from those habits that have made you overweight more difficult.
For the road blockers you know, develop strategies in advance. The best way to deal with road blockers is to avoid eating with them, but that isn’t often possible.
The most important thing is to not give them the power to push you into self-sabotaging behavior.
My mother, who was overweight most of her life, would tell me things like “don’t eat bread, it’s fattening!” then she would have leftover chocolate cake for breakfast and offer me some. Because I was so annoyed by her telling me what to eat, I would sneak food to spite her! Yet I was only hurting myself.
If you find yourself feeling badly because of something a road blocker said to you, remember that you control how you think about what they say, and they can’t make you feel anything without your permission.
When a road blocker says something hurtful or not helpful, it is really about them and not you. Stop and think about how you are feeling.
Your thoughts might go something like this: “I’m feeling hurt because Marnie said I’m no fun anymore. Is that really true? Of course not. She’s just saying that to manipulate me because she doesn’t want to feel bad about her own overeating, or she’s jealous because I’m losing weight.” You can decide not to give Marnie the power to affect how you think about yourself, how you eat or your weight. You know that you are doing what is best for you and decide not to care what other people say or think.
When road blockers push food on you, you can politely decline in the way I described in last week’s blog post.
You can also set boundaries. A boundary empowers you to decide what to do when someone else acts in a way that you’ve asked them not to. If Aunt Effie is always trying to get you to eat more after you politely decline, you can tell her that as much as you love her cooking, if she keeps offering you food, you will have no choice but to stop taking meals with her for now.
That leaves the ball in her court. You’ve set a reasonable boundary, and she knows what you will do if she crosses it. The choice is hers.
Be prepared for road blockers to test your boundaries. You must be willing to follow through, or your boundary becomes a mere idle threat.
Then there are the role models. How I love good role models!
Role models are rare. They are people who have a healthy relationship with food. They love and enjoy good food and don’t deprive themselves by making any food off limits (except for medical reasons). They control food. It doesn’t control them.
You can go to a restaurant with a role model, and they order whatever they like. It may be French fries and a salad with blue cheese dressing. They order two or three appetizers instead of the main course if that’s what looks most enticing. If they want dessert, they’ll eat it. But they never order dessert if they’re already full.
Role models don’t stuff themselves. They usually leave food on their plate. In fact, they’re about the only people nowadays who do this. They know that doing so will have no effect upon whether children in Somalia have enough to eat. They never use their bodies as the trash can for excess food when they’ve already eaten enough.
Role models almost always eat the same way, whether it is a holiday feast, a party or a vacation. They know that there is no shortage of delicious food in their lives, so they don’t feel like they have to overeat because it’s Christmas or because they’re in Paris, and don’t know when they’ll have another opportunity to eat croissants that good.
Role models are very different from “diet thin” people. While both are usually a healthy weight, the weight of a role model remains stable without ever dieting.
Diet thin people, in contrast, have mental lists of good foods and bad foods. They DO clean their plates. When they overeat at Thanksgiving or on vacation, they feel guilty. Then they either abuse their bodies by over-exercising, or vow to go on a diet as soon as the temptation of the moment is over. If they indulge in a “sinful” dessert or food, they bore you talking about it, then deprive themselves for the next week or month to make up for it.
If you are working on losing weight, look for role models. Watch how they eat. Go to a buffet with a role model, and notice what they do. Consider how you can incorporate their approach to food into your life. Become a role model!
Dealing with road blockers can be challenging, but your health and self-determination are always more important than what other people think.