Three Nice Ways to Say “No” so You Can Stop Using Food for Comfort and Self-CareBy: Melissa McCreery, PhD
Emotional eating happens when you aren’t getting or giving yourself what you really need. Food becomes a way of trying to cope with feelings—to numb them, change them, or to try to comfort yourself when you have feelings that you don’t want to deal with directly. Many busy women trace their emotional eating to time issues.
“I take care of everyone else and there is nothing left over for me. I end up comfort eating.”
“I don’t have time to take care of me—so I eat.”
“By the time it’s my turn to get what I need, I’m too tired to do what I should do—so I eat.”
“I have so many responsibilities and so many people counting on me. I can’t begin to figure out how to fit myself in.”
The truth is that self-care and making time to respond to what you feel and need are critical ingredients to making lasting peace with food. However, when life feels so full and complicated, it’s easy to experience analysis paralysis about how or where to begin.
The place to begin is often carving out some solid space for you. You can’t get better at taking care of you unless you have the time and energy to do so. And since none of us can make time, you are probably going to have to get better at saying, “No” in some areas of your life so that you get to claim some space.
Want to know something? Some of the most capable, most professionally assertive and successful women don’t feel comfortable saying, “no” in situations where they really should. Instead of saying, “no,” they do more work. And they often find themselves at the bottom of their priority list. If you’re nodding your head, please know that it’s not just you.
Here are three nice ways to say, “no” so that you can claim more time and stop using food as a way to take care of you.
“I’d love to but I can’t.” Notice that this is short and sweet and includes no long explanations or justifications. This is key. An effective “no” does not open the door to negotiation and arm-twisting or to discussions of any guilt feelings that you might have.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me. I won’t be able to participate but thank you for thinking of me.” Again, you are expressing regret, being very pleasant, but keeping the conversation loop closed.
“I’m not available to do that/participate/attend.” The essential key is remembering that commitments to you count as much as commitments to anyone else. If your calendar says “go to the gym,” then you have a prior engagement. It’s not a flimsy excuse. Self-care commitments aren’t lightweight propositions that deserve to be brushed to the side to make room for important stuff. They are the important stuff that allows you to show up as your best self to take care of everything else.
And that’s the final and most important key to saying, “No” effectively. Once you start seeing what feeds you (and I’m not talking chocolate) as essential, you’ll feel more empowered to defend the space for it. I’m guessing you always make time to brush your teeth in the morning, right? Same concept. We do what we know we have to do.
Practice saying, “No.” Start with smaller, easier stuff.
Are you a smart, busy woman struggling with stress, overeating, or overload? Claim your free audio set: ”5 Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm With Food and Life” at www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.
Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a Psychologist, ICF Certified Life Coach, Emotional Eating Solutions specialist, and the founder of www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and stress. She is the author of the Emotional Eating Toolbox(TM) 28 Day Program and the Emotional Eating Toolbox™ Weight Loss Surgery Edition. Bariatric professionals: Customized patient materials and programming are available for bariatric practices.