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Putting Yourself First

I just returned from a wonderful time (professionally and personally) at the Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas where I’d been invited to do two workshops on eating. Although the resort caters to both genders, unsurprisingly, only females showed up to hear me. During the workshops, it became clear that many women believed they had to be away from work and family to take care of themselves, and I was struck (once again) by how hard it is for women to put themselves first. I got the impression that many of these women felt they could do so only when they were out of their home environment.

For example, discussion arose over what and when to eat if you have a husband to feed. Eyes rolled when I suggested that women ask their spouses to be more flexible about eating times; snickers erupted when I proposed that husbands consider making it easier for their wives to eat “normally” by not being so rigid. These women had difficulty imagining putting their feeding needs before those of their husbands, implying that the men wouldn’t get it or comply and would regard their requests as unreasonable. I had to laugh—and may have even mentioned my vision to the group—picturing a flock of men sitting around debating whether they could impose on their wives to change the dinner schedule. Can you even imagine this happening? Of course not—most men would state their needs and be done with it. They wouldn’t swallow their wishes or fear that their requests would be ignored; they’d assume that a spouse would want to help them out.

Of course, women putting others’ needs before their own is no news. Interestingly, my male clients and students also have difficulty taking care of their own needs and not neglecting themselves. In fact there is a high correlation between eating problems and the inability to nurture or take care of oneself emotionally and physically. Although it’s understandable that we need to get away once in a while to renew and recharge, we all should be able to nurture and give ourselves good care every day of our lives. Self-care should be as ingrained as breathing.

So, if you are a woman working on becoming a “normal” eater and believe that making changes in your dinner schedule or menu would help you accomplish your goal, think like a man, and let your husband (and family, friends, and coworkers, as well) know what isn’t working for you and what you think might work better. You are not being pushy or overbearing. You are taking care of yourself. Remember, one of the key ingredients in becoming a “normal” eater is self care, which includes learning to express your reasonable and appropriate needs and ensuring that they get met.