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Sabotage, & Assertiveness
By Lawrence Feinstein, PhD
Our eating habits are
influenced by those around us. For example, how and what others eat and whether
they offer us food will influence our own behaviors.
The people around us are
part of our environment. Practicing environmental control therefore includes
working with those around us to have them support our weight management efforts,
or at least not to hinder them.
Types of support:
Aid or Assistance
(listening, caring, "being there")
Many people mistake advice
for support. The most effective way to communicate support is to let others
know that we hear what they are saying; the most difficult thing to communicate
is that understanding.
Intentions: sometimes the
interaction feels unhelpful even though the person was intending to be helpful;
e.g., someone offering advice or checking up on your diet while you don't want
Types of sabotage:
Overt: example: telling
you that you "should be able to control yourself", and that "the rest of the
family should not have to suffer (without ice cream) just because you have a
weight problem; taking you out for dinner and suggesting that it won't hurt
you just to eat this one time; bringing
donuts into the house; telling you that weight management programs just don't work.
bringing home chocolates as a "reward" for success on the diet; asking you
to break the fast to go out for a "special" dinner.
Responses to sabotage, e.g.,
spouse bringing problem food into the house, insisting that you go out for
dinner or prepare food for family and you don't want to:
During the fast: explain
that the fast is time limited, that it is important to your medical health that
you maintain the fast down to goal weight and that the longer you maintain the
fast, the faster you will be able to eat again. Invite him/her to attend the
During maintenance: explain
that now that you have significantly reduced your risk of heart attack, cancer,
and premature death, and feel better about yourself, you would like to keep it
that way, and that you would appreciate his/her help. Then discuss specific
ways for him/her to help.
Communication and Support:
Express to those around
you what types of support you want; don't expect them to know
or to read your mind.
Express what types of
support you don't want; e.g., wives tell husband that you don't want
advice or surveillance, tell him to keep it to himself.
If your desires change,
be sure to express that; if you're confused regarding what you
want, express that.
What do you do if your
spouse is not supportive? Nothing, or maybe talk about it.
What do you do if your
spouse is sabotaging?
You need to decide what
you need, what you deserve, and what you are entitled to...
What you are willing to
risk, and how much conflict you are willing to tolerate until things change.
Understanding your own
fears and regarding risk, confrontation, conflict, rejection, and possible
abandonment, and what you are willing to do to avoid them is essential (your
role as the "peace-maker", the pleaser).
Being assertive involves
skills in how to
communicate and negotiate effectively; some examples:
present your message
clearly: to express feelings, say what you feel, don't label the other
person; to request change in behavior, express your message in specific
listen to and
acknowledge other's message to reduce defensiveness
then stay focused on
your message without being distracted by other issues
use repetition: repeat
your message like a broken record, and use problem solving to figure how the
other person will comply with your request
willingness to do so:
may involve tolerating temporary conflict and coping with fear of rejection
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