When you are taking steps to heal your relationship with food, you soon find that your “issues” with food really have very little to do with food. It has to do with your self-care and the healing of old wounds and traumas. One of the areas of self-care that is often looked at is boundaries. Boundaries with people, boundaries with your time and schedule, and most importantly, how often you use the word “no.” For those of you who cringed when you read that, this article is for you!

When we look at boundaries, so much depends on how you were brought up with boundaries. Were you taught to have boundaries? How were your parents with boundaries- with people and their time/schedule? Did you have boundaries enforced on you that felt too controlling? Can you discern the difference between a controlling and a loving boundary? I believe that when you were either too controlled or not given any boundaries, you really do struggle with finding that for yourself.

Positive Behaviors with Boundaries

Let’s start by looking at what positive behaviors are with boundaries.

  • I maintain a manageable schedule at work or school, which includes taking breaks.
  • I take breaks from electronic media, including my computer, smartphone, or television.
  • I say no to extra projects or responsibilities if I am overscheduled.
  • I set limits with my family and friends.
  • I set limits with volunteer projects.
  • I set limits with work, such as not working while on vacation.
  • I strive for balance among work, family, school, play, relationships, and rest.
  • I speak up when others attempt to cross my boundaries.

How did these land with you? Some of these require some good thought and reflection. Do you find yourself saying, “Well, I kind of do that, but just only in certain circumstances?” I know for me, I am a work in progress on a manageable schedule. When I first started my practice, I said yes to almost every client that sought my help. I worked long hours, didn’t take breaks. I was exhausted. Once I started having kids, the hours got shorter, but I tried to keep the same caseload, but fewer hours in the day. I learned, the hard way, that I needed to have time for myself and that I had to schedule that in my day. I needed to say no more than what I was. I realized I was engaging in a lot of the boundary disruptors.

Boundary Attunement Disruptors

Are you checking these boxes?

  • I have a hard time saying no to people’s requests.
  • I feel the need to make others happy.
  • I feel selfish if I say no to a request.
  • I tend to take on too many projects and activities.
  • I automatically say yes to requests without reflecting on my schedule or prior commitments.
  • I take pride in being super busy.

The Struggle is Real!

I’ve got to tell you, I feel like so many moms struggle with this. I can go through this list and say yes to many of them, especially when managing my schedule and my kids’ schedules. It is learning the lines that need to be drawn and the tribe you need to create, and if not a tribe, a circle of women you know you can rely on.

As I have mentioned in “Have You Forgotten Your Emotional Self-care?” taking on a million things can be glorified. As much as you are crumbling and struggling, you can be applauded with statements like, “I don’t know how you do it.” Or “You are managing so much and doing it so seamlessly.” I know for me when I’ve had people say, “I don’t know how you do it,” with juggling a career and four kids, I began to listen to the voice in my head that was saying behind my fake smile, “I don’t know how I do it!” The fact is I was not managing it well at all, but part of me had this twisted pride in doing it all. Once I saw that and how I was really managing and realized who was falling through the cracks (me!) I knew I had to shift things.

I called on girlfriends to help me, and I would ask myself if I really wanted to do something that was asked of me or was I just saying yes. I practiced the beauty of saying no. I’ve got to tell you, it felt great. It opened up the space that I had been craving, and I learned that I needed to take care of myself first to take care of my four little people and all the women I support. I see it so clearly, not just with the women I sit with but also with myself. And what great reflection to lend to them. I know it because I have been in it. I have struggled with setting the boundaries, with the struggle of feeling guilty if I say no if I take the time just for me. It is, in fact, not selfish, but self-care!

But here is where it comes out if we aren’t setting those boundaries- we feel angry, we feel depleted, we feel exhausted, we feel overwhelmed, we count down the hours to have that glass of wine as a reward, or we dive into food to help soothe the overwhelm we feel. It can show up in so many ways.

Your Body’s Boundaries

When you are looking at changing your relationship with food, it is about learning to listen to your body’s boundaries. But if you consider that boundaries may be difficult for you in general, you can understand why this would be difficult as well. I approach this by looking at it as a loving boundary. This takes work to say, “Body, I will listen to what you are saying.” We get to practice with boundaries every day with ourselves.

What can this look like? It might start with a schedule of eating and sticking to the boundary that you will not let more than 3-4 hours pass without eating. It is setting the boundary that you will eat when your body says it needs food. It is setting the boundary with yourself that you will stop when you feel full and give yourself the permission to have more food later if you want to. It is the boundary that if you find you do not like a food you are eating, that you will stop eating it.  If you can look at it in terms of a loving boundary, you can start to feel the shift to be a kind act for your body versus feeling like a rule. The work is shifting what may have at one time felt like a rule to the intention of honoring and listening to your body. The shift in the intention is respecting the boundaries that your body is setting with you.

Looking at how you are with boundaries and saying no is an imperative component of self-care. Boundaries show up in so many areas of life. If you can take the time to see where you are saying yes, where you need to be saying no, and the practice of taking up the space to say “I matter,” you find a strength and confidence inside of you. One that has just needed some edges to follow to find its way to you. And when you find it, you see how important YOU truly are.


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