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Give Saying No to Yourself a Different Meaning

Most emotional, mindless, compulsive overeaters consider saying no to themselves a huge drag, just about the worst thing that could happen to them. That’s because “no” has a negative connotation for them from childhood. Healthy adults see “no” as positive: it balances out all the many yesses they say to themselves and puts up the proverbial guardrails on the crib so that the baby doesn’t fall out and hurt itself. It’s a self-loving, gentle reminder to think ahead to the consequences of their actions, an expression of how much they value (in Jungian terms) both expansion and containment, the voice inside that cares enough to, as my father-in-law used to joke, “Save me from myself!”

What exactly does no mean to you that it’s become such an unwelcome, outlaw of a word that you can’t bear to say it around food? Here are some possibilities:

  • No means cut out the fun. Maybe you grew up in a family that valued work over play and duty over goofing off. In childhood, perhaps just as you were starting to relax and lose yourself in the pleasure of the moment, Mom or Dad came along and told you to quit lolling about and do something. So “no” came to mean the end of fun and pleasure and now you want to squeeze all the joy out of every minute and prolong the good times as if your parents are still policing you and running the show.
  • No means you must do what someone else wants you to do, not what you wish to do. If your parents saying no to you felt as if they were wresting control of your life from you, they were. You likely got tired of that happening and decided that when you grew up you’d never say no to yourself just to show who was in charge. Now you refuse to say it to show you’re the boss, even when it’s not in your best interest.
  • No means that someone else knows better than you what’s good for you. It’s true that in childhood, we can’t always decide what’s good or bad for ourselves because we simply don’t have the brainpower or experience. Maybe you were told what to do long after you had the brainpower to decide for yourself and you came away feeling resentful that you don’t know what’s enough for yourself and must always follow someone else’s advice or a set of rules that aren’t of your own making. Now that you’re an adult, you still don’t want to say “no” to yourself because you’re not sure if that’s the right decision or because you haven’t had much experience in sensing and deciding what’s best for you.

Make new meanings of saying “no” to food: it’s about nurturance, self-love and self- respect, being fair and just, showing maturity and wisdom, keeping yourself in balance, showing that you deserve to be in charge of yourself, and being a caring parent to you.

Best,

Karen

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