Saturday, October 25, 2008

Assertiveness in Action

If there's anything worse than the feeling I get when I know I've made a bad decision, it's the feeling get when I know I've let someone else do it for me. In the former situation, I may feel remorseful, but I also am aware of my own personal power. But when I allow someone else to make choices for me, I abdicate that power, feel a loss of control over the course of my life and am faced with regret and resentment.

In spite of all this emotional disharmony, I regularly am a passive witness to my own life. This is especially true when it comes to my lifestyle, and most especially, my diet. I have blogged about allowing my co-workers' behavior to influence my own, but the truth is, that's only part of the problem.

Most of the issues arise when I'm with my family, which on the whole does not share my weight loss goals. I live with my sister, who in my days near 300 pounds, was my snacking buddy. We planned out our ice cream, pizza, cake and cookie feasts with serious delight and overwhelming anticipation. Then we would devour our food without a shred of guilt.

The trouble is that, much of the time, my sister still wants to do just that. She's not trying to sabotage me, but she's made it clear that she doesn't like to indulge alone. But sabotage she does, just by virtue of how guilty she makes me feel. She'll say that we should have ice cream and if I say that I don't want any, she'll say "but it's no fun to eat it if you don't." Then she'll tell me that I probably could have just a little; that it wouldn't hurt "just this once." Before long, she has me in the kitchen dishing out two bowls of ice cream.

When I view the problem in retrospect I know that part of the trouble is that I really do want the ice cream, and am, therefore, a lot easier to convince. But I think that the greatest difficulty is that I'm not accustomed to being assertive about what I want. Rather, it's more important that other people are satisfied. I know a lot of people, women in particular, who have a similar problem. My situation is complicated enough, but throw in children, a husband or sick parents, and it can be really easy to let your interests get lost to the general good.

I don't want that. I deserve to get what I need just as much as anyone else, but I know that I'm going to have to struggle for what I want. To that end, I tried my assertiveness hat on last night. My sister wanted to order dinner from a local Chinese restaurant, but she wanted to use our limited funds to get fried foods covered in sauces or surrounded by rice and noodles. I told her that those foods wouldn't fit with my goals. She could order them if she liked, but I wasn't going to eat them. She then suggested pizza, sausage hoagies and a whole host of foods that would provide an entire day's worth of calories in one shot.

I held my ground. She sat on the end of the couch looking sad and talking about how there was no food in the house. I said, "Let's go to the grocery store then." But she didn't want to. Finally, around 7:30, a whole 1hr 45min after this whole debate began, we struck a compromise and went to a place where I got a delicious salad and she got what she wanted.

It was exhausting and stressful, but I feel great this morning knowing that I was strong. I know change is hard for everyone, but I was very clear that she was welcome to eat whatever she pleased. I said this without judgment, but her issue was that she wanted me to follow her down the garden path. Part of me wanted to follow. It would have been incredibly easier, but I knew I had to stand firm for my goals. In the end my assertiveness won the day.

I hope everyone else is having courage and enjoying success today! Have a great weekend!


Karyn said...


Give yourself a huge gold star.

I cannot imagine living with someone who is not supportive in my weight loss goals.

Have you talked with your sister about how she is hurting you and your efforts by her selfish desire to have you join her in her bad habits? After all, if you join her, she doesn't have to feel guilty. (sorry for sounding harsh, but that is really what is happening, by the sound of it) Sounds like an honest, even confrontational heart to heart is neccessary.

If she was supportive, not only would she not invite you to join her, she would make efforts to indulge when you weren't even around so as not to tempt you.

Don't hang that assertive hat on the rack.....keep it on...sounds like you need it!

Good job. I'm proud of you.

new*me said...

It is hard to be strong around others who aren't "FOR" you but stand your ground and remember that THEY can't lose if for you :)

MizFit said...


it's still hard, after almost 40 years of trying :), for me to be uber assertive.