At a recent Weight Watchers meeting the topic was “Speak Up for Yourself.” How appropriate a topic, at almost any time. In our weekly Weight Watchers pamphlet, a member shared a story of how sabotage works. Friends will say, “Have another slice of pie, it won’t hurt.” Or, “You look fine the way you are.” Or, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
When we are vulnerable, it is easy to buy into other people’s beliefs and opinions about who we are. Believe me, I know all too well how that game works.
Years ago, when I first joined Weight Watchers, I was only 16 pounds overweight. By my standard that was more weight than I wanted to carry on my body. I recall my first day, almost like it was yesterday. Several women asked me why I was there. They said, “You are so thin, you don’t need to be here.” One even smugly said to me, “Honey you should be eating more not taking anything off.” Perhaps their assertive comments were intended as compliments, perhaps not. One thing for sure, I chose to take their words as providing me with the excuse I needed (and wanted) not to go back to Weight Watchers. At least not until years later when I was 26 pounds overweight.
I recall another similar situation where I didn’t speak up for myself, but instead gave away my power. This time it had to do with exercise. I was a daily runner and often ran 5 and 10K races. Then one day someone said to me, “You are so anal about working out.” She said, “Take it easy, don’t be so maniacal.” The problem that presented for someone like me was I always looked for an excuse NOT to do something I needed to do. In my mind, she gave me permission to slow down.
I stopped running for a day. Although I felt guilty, I felt good. Then I gave myself permission not to run for another day. By day three, it became easy to give myself a break. Before I knew it, I hadn’t worked out for a week, and I had not adjusted my eating. By that time, exercise was off my radar, off my calendar, and I had put on 5 pounds. Then I got accustomed to not working out for a month. By that time, I was 20 pounds overweight and kept going. Before I knew it, I was back to eating Snickers bars, ice cream, and tons of bread, with no exercise in sight.
It is so easy to blame others for the choices I make. While we live in a society where blaming other is the norm, when I do that, I suffer. Speaking up for myself, learning to say no, learning NOT to give other people the power to dictate who I am, is a constant battle. And a choice I need to make daily.