You’ve initiated habit change. In fact, you’ve taken on a lot. You’re regularly working out and you’re following a healthier eating plan. Heck, you’re even taking the time to log what you eat in an online food journal.
 
Habit change isn’t easy. That’s why 90% of Americans drop their New Year’s Resolutions by Jan 17th. One main reason we fail has to do with our environment. Our physical environment matters. For example, choosing nuts over chips depends on how we stock our pantry. We’ll eat more fast food if we live close to fast food restaurants. Beyond the physical environment is our social environment: friends, family, co-workers. Someone once said we’re the average of our five closest friends. And, if you’ve got a case of the “disease to please,” those people have a significant impact on your decisions. So, how can we better prioritize our own needs and voice our intentions? I turned to our favorite psychotherapist, Pattie Cashman, to give us some direction.

headshot of white women in red jacket smiling in front of a yellow tulip tree

Should I Share My Goals with My Friends, Family or Co-Workers?

“There is risk in sharing your health goals or habit changes with friends, family, and co-workers,” says Pattie. Research bears this out and there are a variety of reasons why this happens.  It’s important to know that the majority of people are not going to be supportive.  She advises we share our goals with a handful of people that we can be sure are committed to support us.

If I’ve Got the Disease to Please, How Can I Help Myself?

Self-identified “pleasers” have likely lived a life where they’ve put other’s needs in front of their own. Pattie states, “It can be harder for a pleaser to prioritize their own needs and stick to healthy habits.” For example, does it feel disrespectful to to decline your mother in law’s luscious lasagna? Have you considered it’s a greater shame to ignore your own needs? I love the quote from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo: 
“It is delicate and never-ending work, this sorting of what is truly ours, and what is not. When unable to stay within ourselves, we become codependent, never feeling at peace until the emotions of everyone around us are managed and tended – not so much out of compassion, but as the only way to quiet our anxious burden as carriers of sadness.”
It’s a good practice to get curious about how we balance pleasing others compared to meeting our own needs. 

Practical Tools from Pattie

If you’re your pleasing tendencies are getting in the way of personal progress, we’ve got ideas:
  1. Tell only one or two people and ask for total support. 
  2. Come up with a personal mantra such as: I’m going to love myself like my life depends on it. “
  3. Remind yourself that most people aren’t that put off by your boundaries or personal goals.  For anyone who works hard to persist in upsetting your goal, run!

And, a couple of statements for the food pushers in your life:

  • Aren’t you so sweet to share your baking (cooking) talents with me? Then pass them on to someone else! (keep the focus on their talent, their intention etc.)
  • I’m doing an experiment to see if I have more energy when I eat less sugar.  So far it is going well and I don’t want to wreck this good feeling.
  • I just ate.  I will save this for later.
Everyday, we vote for our health through our daily habits. Let’s start voting for ourselves and let others learn from us. #livebyexample #voteforyou

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.