by Golda Poretsky, HHC
So we’re officially into December, and that often means holidays and holiday celebrations.
For many of us, that also means dealing with family members, some of whom may not respect our choices. These choices can range from what we eat, to how much time we want to spend with them, to what we wear, to who we sleep with.
In other words, you may be hearing a lot of:
“Why don’t we see you more?”
“Where’s that boyfriend of yours?”
“Are you sure you want a second piece of cake?”
These are just a few examples, and I’m sure at least one resonated with you.
If you’ve grown up with food and body image issues, you probably learned from a young age to “just deal” with these comments, to just handle it, be a peacemaker, and not say much back other than an attempt to justify your choices.
So let’s talk about how you can change this dynamic. The way to do it is to set loving boundaries with the people you love.
Why Set Boundaries?
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re staying with your family of origin Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day (which fall on a Friday and Saturday this year), and your mom really wants you to stay through Sunday night. You, on the other hand, really want to leave Saturday evening so that you have Sunday to relax before a really heavy workweek.
If you set this boundary with your mom and make it clear that you’re leaving on Saturday evening, you get a lot of benefits. You are being loving toward yourself by standing up and acknowledging what you need (key for healing from emotional eating, poor self esteem, and a variety of other issues) and you’re getting what you need (a day to spend quietly at home). You’re also being loving toward your mom, because she’s clear on how you feel, you’ve said it in a kind way (more on that in a bit), and she can make the most of the time she has with you while you’re there.
If you don’t set this boundary, you end up with a lot of negative effects. You feel resentful toward your family for “making” you stay the full weekend. You miss out on that quiet Sunday that you so desire. And, once again, you’re putting other people’s needs before your own, sending the message to yourself that your needs are not as important as theirs.
Using The Boundary Setting Formula In Real Life
Using the example above, it would sound like this: “Mom, you know I love to spend time with you and I know you want me to stay for the whole weekend, but I’ve decided to head back on Saturday night because I have a crazy week coming up at work. So let’s just make the most of the time I’m here, okay?”
See, in this example, you’re being very clear about how much you love your mother, and yet you’re setting a boundary by also being clear about the choice that you’ve made.
And because it’s the holiday season, here’s something you can use when you’re dealing with relatives who like to make comments about what you eat, or your weight or anything else that’s totally inappropriate:
“I know you’re concerned about me, but I don’t feel comfortable when you comment on what I eat or my weight, so please don’t do that again.”
If they don’t take the hint, say it again. And again.
One Final Note
Just a note, setting boundaries can be really hard. Women (especially those with food and body image issues) are often taught to go along and put other people’s needs ahead of their own. Just know that if this is really challenging for you, you are not alone, but trust me, the benefits of setting meaningful boundaries are great.
*For those of you who aren’t “achievers”, I’m quoting a line from The Big Lebowski in the title of this blog entry, like a complete dork.
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.
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