How I Lost 50 Pounds and Kept Them Off by Stopping My People Pleasing Ways
Your People Pleasing Ways Are Making You Fat!
- Are you more likely to eat on the run, grabbing a milkshake and a hamburger at a drive-thru, than you are to sit down at a table and leisurely eat a salad?
- Do you secretly think women who make time to go to the gym, have their nails done, and go to book clubs are selfish and self-centered?
- Were you brought up to view women who are opinionated, direct, and assertive as ball-busters?
- Do you avoid conflict at all cost, stuffing your anger and frustration with food?
If you’re answering “yes” to these questions, no amount of dieting and exercising will result in permanent weight loss until you change your passive people pleasing ways. You need to adopt the habits of fit, thin women who make themselves a priority, speak their minds, and eat out of hunger, not to stuff their emotions. You can change your eating and fitness habits but, if you want to keep the weight off permanently, you must also change the way you interact in the world and seize control of your life.
To Lose Weight and Keep It Off, You Must Put Yourself First
A friend and I were walking up our neighborhood hill after a Saturday morning chat at the coffee shop. As I trudged along, my breathing became loud and labored. I was mortified by all my huffing and puffing, becoming convinced I was about to have a heart attack right then and there. I was 49-years-old and in terrible shape, both physically and emotionally.
During the prior 18 months, I had gained over 30 pounds as new onerous responsibilities got placed on me at work. Plus, there were obligations at home—two kids (one with autism), a husband, and an aging mother. Like many women who are people-pleasers, I had put everybody’s needs before my own. I had stopped exercising, stopped eating right, stopped caring about my appearance, and stopped doing things that brought me joy such as writing, gardening, listening to music, meditating, being still, and spending time in nature.
I thought about dieting but knew the weight would just creep back on like it always had in the past. Yes, I desperately needed to lose the pounds but, more significantly, I needed to overhaul my entire life. It was finally time to acknowledge that my people pleasing ways were inextricably linked to my obesity. If this was going to be my final weight loss journey (and I needed it to be), I knew wholeheartedly that eating less and exercising more would be only part of the solution. To restore my health, I needed to stop pleasing others and start pleasing myself!
5 Keys to Losing Weight, Keeping It Off, and Ending Your People Pleasing Ways
Without a doubt, I ate less and exercised more to lose those 50 pounds and keep them off permanently. However, the discipline it took to do that only came about when I stopped my people pleasing ways and started putting myself first. I’d finally seized control of my life, my eating habits, my appetite, and my fitness routine. During my weight loss journey, I discovered the following steps were key to losing those excess pounds and no longer allowing thoughts of food to rule my existence:
- Make your health your number one priority.
- Feel every feeling.
- Grow a backbone and learn how to say no.
- Please yourself and your family before pleasing others.
- Handle conflict with words, not food.
This video has good advice on saying yes to yourself and no to others.
1. Make Your Health Your Number One Priority
I grew up with an overweight mother who never exercised. She suffered a stroke two years ago but still refuses to take care of her health. Her doctor says she needs to walk, but she doesn’t. Her physical therapist gave her strengthening exercises to do daily, but she doesn’t. Instead, she drives her friends to and from their medical appointments, spending hours a day in her car. She’s a people-pleaser and it’s going to kill her, but it won’t kill me!
Going against my mother’s example and what was instilled in me during my religious upbringing, I began putting myself first. Iyanla Vanzant, the renown spiritual life coach and author, helped me realize that this behavior isn’t selfish (as many of us women were taught) but necessary for our physical and emotional well-being. For a life-long people-pleaser like me, this message was exactly what I needed to hear in order to make myself a priority and not a casualty.
Vanzant says, “It’s self-full to be first, to be as good as possible to you. To take care of you, keep you whole and healthy. That doesn’t mean you disregard everything and everyone. But you want to come with your cup full. You know: ‘My cup runneth over.’ What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine. But I’ve got to keep my cup full.”
2. Feel Every Feeling
I’d been on weight loss plans throughout the decades, losing pounds and then gaining them back plus some. I knew my middle-aged body couldn’t take the yo-yo dieting any more without serious consequences. At long last, I understood that my obesity had less to do with a love of food and more to do with unresolved childhood pain. I had stuffed my emotions for far too long and was finally ready to comfort myself in ways other than eating.
Diane Petrella, a psychotherapist and life coach, writes about the connection between emotional pain and overindulging in “Stop Numbing Your Feelings With Food, For Good.” She argues it takes more to conquer our weight issues than just cutting calories and increasing exercise. She writes, “To end emotional eating and release weight permanently, you need to stop pushing away your feelings with food and instead let yourself feel your feelings…Think of your feelings as little children calling for your attention. They need to be heard, soothed and comforted. Not pushed aside as if, they—and you—don’t matter.”
3. Grow a Backbone and Learn to Say No
Being a people-pleaser, wanting everyone’s love and approval, makes it nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off permanently. When we try to be all things to all people, we’re never our authentic selves. This makes us feel drained, depleted, and resentful. We turn to food to make us feel better, give us a boost, and provide some much-needed comfort.
Psychotherapist and author, Amy Marin, says people-pleasers struggle mightily to lose weight because they don’t speak up for themselves, find it nearly impossible to say no, and put other people’s needs before their own. She writes, “people-pleasers often sabotage their goals. Studies show that people-pleasers engage in self-destructive behavior if they think it will help others feel more comfortable in social situations. For example, people-pleasers eat more when they think it will make other people happy.”
4. Please Yourself and Your Family Before Pleasing Others
Many people-pleasers put more effort into satisfying acquaintances, co-workers, and even complete strangers than themselves and their own families. I had unconsciously done that for years, giving my loved ones the short shrift while trying to win over everybody else. I’d volunteer at the elementary school, patiently helping the students and doing any tasks the teachers asked of me, but then was short and sarcastic with my kids at home. I always made time to assist my co-workers on their various projects but ran out of steam when my husband wanted to go out for dinner or have sex.
Like other people-pleasers, I had gotten my priorities discombobulated and needed to set them straight. I was exerting too much energy on my public persona—trying so hard to look nice, helpful, and enthusiastic. I was always acting fake, leaving me exhausted and unhappy.
When we spread ourselves too thin, we don’t have the time, strength, and determination to lose weight and keep it off permanently. Sherry Pagoto, a licensed clinical psychologist, writes, “People pleasing can turn into a vicious cycle of chronic stress and unhealthy behaviors. If you have the constant feeling like you are too busy and doing everything for everyone else but yourself, you might be stuck in this cycle.” I certainly was and, only when I got unstuck, did I have the energy necessary to lose those 50 pounds and keep them off permanently.
5. Handle Conflict With Words, Not Food
Before losing those 50 pounds and keeping them off permanently, I dreaded conflict and avoided it at all cost. It made me anxious, causing me to steer clear of situations where I might need to express a differing opinion, take a stand, or risk offending someone. As a people-pleaser, I wanted to be liked and not make waves or even a ripple. Social psychologist and author, Susan Newman, writes, “Often, people-pleasers are afraid of confrontation and will agree and say yes to most anything to avoid an uncomfortable argument or disagreement.”
While I don’t relish conflict today, I now don’t go out of my way to avoid it. Instead, I see it as a normal, healthy, and inevitable part of life. When you disagree with someone and work through it together, you build a stronger bond. You discover people will still like and respect you (sometimes, even more) when the two of you have differing viewpoints. After decades of failing miserably to lose weight and keep it off, finding my voice and ending my people pleasing ways was what I needed all along!