I have a confession to make. As a lifelong people-pleaser, I SERIOUSLY struggle with boundaries. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of hard work on loving myself enough to set more boundaries. I know you’re not here to read about my life and my struggles, and you might be wondering, “what do self-love and boundaries have to do with my diet?”
Friend, more than you could possibly imagine.
In this post, I’m going to explain how flimsy boundaries bleed over into your health and fitness. And while I’m no expert on boundaries myself, I’m going to share a couple of resources to help you set better boundaries if you struggle.
But first, let’s talk about what it even means to set boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
There’s been a lot of buzz about boundaries in the personal development space recently. But do you know what a boundary is, actually? I gotta tell you–I thought I did, but my understanding was only the tip of the iceberg.
Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of the AH-mazing book Set Boundaries, Find Peace describes a boundary as “… a verbal communication or an action that you communicate to someone to feel safe, secure, and supported in a relationship.”
In other words, a boundary is a directive on what you need to feel good in a relationship. And, FYI, that relationship can be with another person, or it can be with yourself. Here are a few examples of what a boundary might look like:
- “My work is important to me and my days are very full. Moving forward, I won’t be available to text with you during the workday.”
- “I’m going to need you to be home when you say you will.”
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t do that right now.”
- “I’m not going to look at my phone past 8 p.m.”
This might feel bossy or selfish or rude if (like me) you’re prone to people-pleasing. And I won’t lie: Setting new boundaries is uncomfortable.
But even if you do struggle with it, I can promise you it’s an amazing act of love for yourself AND for others.
And to put my dietitian hat back on, I can also share that working on boundaries can help break down some of the roadblocks women encounter when trying to improve their health.
What do Self Love and Boundaries Have to Do With Your Diet, Anyway?
So, how do self love and boundaries impact health and fitness? Here are just a couple of ways.
Have you ever taken on so much that you ended up feeling physically and emotionally exhausted?
That sounds like burnout, mama.
Citing research by Emily and Amelia Nagoski, the authors of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Tawwab Glover argues that burnout is a symptom of poor boundaries.
More specifically, burnout is often a product of people-pleasing, self-abandoning, prioritizing others’ needs over your own, setting unrealistic expectations, and trying to do it all.
Does that resonate with you at all? Yeah, me too.
Burnout can wreak havoc on your body and is pretty nasty in and of itself. And it also makes it difficult to make healthy choices.
Skip the gym for weeks on end? Yes, please. Bag the healthy dinner you planned for greasy fast food? You betcha.
See where this is going?
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane before, you’ve probably gotten the whole spiel about needing to put your oxygen mask on before you help your kids with theirs.
Burnout would be like doing the opposite of that advice–you’re so busy doing for others that you can’t take care of your own health needs.
People-pleasing is a cause of burnout. But even if you don’t feel burned out, it can cause you to abandon your own needs, wants, and goals.
I see this a LOT in clients who hang out with food pushers.
A food pusher is someone who pressures you to eat stuff that doesn’t align with your goals.
This might be a sweet granny who lights up with joy as she plops a massive portion of lasagna on your plate, an auntie who thinks you’re “skin and bones,” or a college friend who insists on another round of nachos and margs “for old time’s sake.”
In other words, you end up eating stuff you don’t need, want, or even LIKE so that you don’t risk upsetting the other person. Or, you end up resenting your goals because they leave you with a case of FOMO when your friends go out for burgers and beers.
Listen. The people who love you want you to be healthy and successful, even if they have a funny way of showing it. I wrote here about how to lose weight when your loved ones are sabotaging you, so check out the post for a few ideas.
In short, poor boundaries can leave you too burned out to take good care of yourself, and they can make it more difficult to resist temptation when you’re trying to work out and eat healthier.
What to Do if You Need More Boundaries
So now that we’ve talked about a couple of ways that poor boundaries can wreak havoc on your health and fitness aspirations, let’s talk about what to do if you’re feeling seen (or even a little attacked) right now.
The first order of business is to grab a copy of Set Boundaries, Find Peace. It’s a quick and easy read that’s filled with practical advice on healthier relationships.
A licensed therapist can help if you really, really struggle to set boundaries. I have been working with one for a while now, which has helped tremendously.
Admittedly, setting boundaries can be much trickier than (say) eating an extra serving of veggies every day. But I can promise you that even some progress with boundaries will make your health and fitness goals more attainable (and your life better).
Disclaimer: Sometimes, I love products SO MUCH that I want to scream about them from the rooftops. This post contains one of those products, and I may receive a small commission from any purchases that originate from this post (at no expense to you).