Author: Project Fit Life Coach Merry C. Lin
*adapted from Craving Change by Shah and Cannon
By now, you may have realized that the strategies I've been teaching you are actually great for addressing many kinds of problematic thinking and behaving! Although the directions I've given you are specific to your problematic eating, you can see that growing in any of these areas will help you in many ways.
This week, we look at the last two strategies that can help you change your eating. I'm particularly excited to introduce these two menu choices to you because they are so helpful in many realms of our lives. As you apply them to your eating, think about how these strategies can improve other areas of your life, and how they can begin to help you gain a sense of control over your life.
Menu Choice #9 - Assert Yourself
Use your mouth to speak, not to eat.
Okay, be honest here: how often do you say, "yes", when you actually want to say "no"? I know that I'm guilty of this, especially as a recovered people pleaser. Did you know that many people who struggle with their eating are pleasers? They want to make others happy and will put others before themselves. And the last thing they want to do is confront someone on a problem!
While learning to understand why you have a hard time setting boundaries and saying no is beyond the scope of this blog (you can check out a number of blogs I've written on boundaries by searching for "boundaries" on my website, www.drmerrylin.com), now is as good a time as any to start thinking about asserting yourself.
Did you know that when you choose to please others rather than assert yourself, there can be negative consequences? Many pleasers keep strong feelings bottled up inside themselves and these emotions can then be a trigger for problematic eating. Rather than using their words to deal with issues, they use food.
Being assertive can be described as saying "no" with backbone, but not a bite. Boundaries may hurt a bit, but they don't harm others. By openly and honestly communicating what you want and need from others, you actually lessen the likelihood of misunderstandings (which can then escalate problems down the road) and lessen the load of negative emotions that you're carrying around. Calmly exerting your rights with others and letting them know your limits and concerns is critical for your emotional health. Learning to be more assertive may be a vital step towards controlling your eating.
Here's what you do:
1. Become aware of situations or relationships where it may help to be more assertive.
2. Attend an assertiveness workshop or read books on assertiveness. For example, Cloud and Townsend have written two wonderful books called, "Boundaries - When to Say Yes, How to Say No" and also "Boundaries Face to Face - How to have That Difficult Conversation You've been Avoiding".
3. Work with a coach or someone you admire for their assertiveness, to help you be more assertive and set healthier boundaries.
4. Practice saying "no" at first in situations where it's not very difficult, for example, to the waiter trying to coax you to buy the larger order of food.
5. Keep practicing.
6. Not that sometimes when you start to become more assertive, things get worse before they get better. Don't let this discourage you, but understand that it's normal.
Menu Choice #10 - Solve Your Problems Effectively
Deal with your problems step by step.
Many times, we can't seem to solve a problem because we keep trying the same solution that doesn't work. It's also hard to think of solutions to our problems when we feel anxious, angry or frustrated. Too often we blame others or the situation for the problem and feel powerless to change the situation. Or alternatively, we blame ourselves and feel overwhelmed and helpless.
Try turning the tables on a problem. Let's say you're thinking, "What's wrong with me? How come I always quite going to the gym after a few weeks?" Instead, try thinking, "What's wrong with this exercise program? What is it about this type of program that stops me from going regularly?"
Now you've got something to work with. Don't just blame yourself or others and see yourself as a victim. Carefully examine the situation and determine the real problem. And the first question to then ask yourself is, "Do I have any control over this situation?" Many times we do, so it's a matter of identifying what aspects we have control over and what we can work on changing. But sometimes we don't, and that's a good time to pray and release it over to God, and choose to no longer dwell on the problem. It's not at all profitable to think about something over which we have no control, but we can rest in peace, knowing that God is in control.
Problem-solving is most effective when you use a step by step approach. Taking the time to problem-solve gives you more options to choose from, and you feel more in control and hopeful about your situation. The next time you have a problem, try doing the following:
1. Determine the actual problem. Be very specific. Write it down.
2. Think of as many ideas as you can for solving the problem. Brainstorm and be creative. Ask other people for their suggestions. Write down every idea without judging the value of the idea.
3. Choose one solution to try. Pick one that seems reasonable to start with. DON'T try more than one solution at a time, and give it a chance.
4. Try it. Give yourself enough time to thoroughly test the possible solution. Many times, people give up too quickly or have the negative mindset that "it'll never work". Imagine that you're a researcher who's genuinely curious about experimenting. As you know, many great discoveries are made accidently!
5. Assess the outcome. Is the solution helping you solve your problem?
6. If your problem is improving, continue using this solution. If it isn't, either modify the solution or try another idea from your Step 2 list. Again, you could ask others for solution ideas - check with family, friends or professionals.
7. If none of the solution ideas are working, start back at Step 1, and make sure you've identified the true problem. Sometimes you just have to accept that the problem may not be something you can solve at this time.
As you try some of the techniques and skills of the Change Menu, make notes about your experience. Answer some of the following questions:
· What were the circumstances?
· With whom did I try the strategy?
· What did I do?
· How many times did I try the strategy?
· What worked?
· What didn't work?
· What would I do differently next time?