What are boundaries? They are limits that we set for ourselves within our relationships. Not just with our partner but also family and friends.
Boundaries are an important tool to avoid becoming enmeshed with another person. Healthy relationships are built on trust, mutual respect and individual growth. Retaining your independent identity is a crucial element of a healthy relationship.
Boundaries help us to show others how we want to be treated and supported and prevents us from being used, being expected to put everyone and everything before ourselves, or feeling that we need to defend ourselves.
If you have set boundaries and they are repeatedly being crossed, or disrespected, then perhaps it is time to step back and take a look at whether the relationship is a healthy one:
- Know where boundaries need to be set
- Clarify your boundaries to yourself first
- Communicate your boundaries clearly and firmly
- Take responsibility for what you want and need
SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH FOOD
Setting boundaries when you are trying to achieve a weight loss goal can be a tricky one, but unless you do then your battle against the bulge is likely to be more hard fought than it needs to be. We all know a “feeder” (very often it is our own mother!) Whilst they usually have a genuine, loving need to feed you, making sure you are looked after, and cared for, there are some people who seem to be deliberately trying to sabotage your efforts. This can be extremely unhelpful (and annoying) when you are trying to keep your nutrition on track and you are regularly faced with offerings of cake, biscuits, crisps, fizzy drinks, alcohol etc…
Sometimes it can simply be a misunderstanding of what you are trying to achieve. Friends and family feel sorry for you, and think you are missing out on the fun, so they want to include you. This is all very nice of them, of course, but not terrible helpful when you are trying to avoid said food or drink. Making your intentions known in a polite, but firm, way should be all that’s necessary to stop the constant deluge of offerings. However, if the barrage doesn’t stop, it’s time to sit down and have serious words.
People that sabotage other’s attempts at losing weight are known as “food pushers” – yes in the same way as a drug pusher. Really. It can be extremely intimidating when someone constantly tries to ply you with foods you are struggling to say no to at the best of times. I have so many clients who feel unable to say no because they are made to feel guilty if they refuse: ”Oh but I made this especially for you” or “go on, just for me”. Another common scenario is when you have reached your goal weight and are trying to maintain it, and “just one won’t make any difference”, when you know that “just one” might make ALL the difference and set you off down the spiral once more. If we did the same with an alcoholic or tried to force someone to have a cigarette we would be rightly frowned upon and put in our place. Why is it different with food?! It is somehow acceptable to taunt and cajole and persuade someone to eat something they are very obviously trying to avoid.
The problem is that we have to eat. We need to eat every single day and this can present real issues for some people because their addictions get the better of them. Surely this is the one time when we should be overly supportive of someone in this situation, not trying to trip them up at the first hurdle? It’s bad enough that you may be using every ounce of willpower to not eat the huge slice of birthday cake that’s been thrust into your hands without having to deal with the inevitable eye roll that goes on when you politely decline.
Being made to feel guilty because you are trying to make healthier choices is pretty bad form in my book. Often it can be because the person trying to tempt you is struggling with the same issues themselves, and feels guilty for indulging alone when they could have you to accompany them. However, it is important to recognise that this is not YOUR problem.
How do I say “NO” to people?
Peer pressure from friends and family can be a tricky thing to deal with so here are a few ways that may help:
- Be strong in your conviction that what you are doing is right for you.
- Politely decline.
- Be more firm with your answer if they persist.
- Take the person to one side and tell them that you do not appreciate what they are doing and how they are handling the situation.
- Don’t put other people’s happiness before your own.
- Remember your goals.
- True friends don’t pressurise you – re-evaluate any toxic relationships.
- Tell your family what you are doing, why it is important to you, and what they can do to help you.
- Explain what benefits you are experiencing & why this is helpful in your life.
- It is not always easy to stay strong in the face of pressure, but remaining true to yourself, and making sure that you really are putting your health and happiness first, will help you to stand firm.
- The more you are able to do this consistently, the less you will find that others try to dissuade you
Remember, you don’t have to justify your choices to anyone. Whilst you may hope to have the support and understanding you need by setting boundaries, at the end of the day it is your prerogative and your life. Stay strong and determined in your convictions.