People-Pleasing Can Pack On the Pounds

This seemingly harmless personality trait may take a toll on your waistline. Find out why—and what you can do about it.

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| April 18th, 2012

To stop these harmful behaviors from becoming a problem and causing weight gain, try these five easy tips:

Always order first. You can avoid the mirroring effect by being the first to pick your meal at restaurants, suggests Albers. That way, you set the tone and make the first decision rather than risk being swayed by others’ less-than-healthy orders.

Practice refusals. If your beloved aunt or mom is a food pusher, practice saying, “no thank you” in your head before you go to her house for a family dinner. “It has to effortlessly slide off your tongue, so that you can do it automatically,” says Albers. Struggling with your words or seeming indecisive creates an opening for others to put pressure on you to eat more than you want.

MORE: One Easy Trick to Stop Overeating

Think about why you’re eating. Take a split second to think about what you’re eating and why, suggests Exline. Sometimes it might be that you really just want the spaghetti Bolognese. Are you hungry? If yes, go ahead and eat it. But other times ask yourself this: Are you only ordering dessert because your friend is and she doesn’t want to chow down alone or are you eating that donut because everyone else in your office is digging in? Do you genuinely want it? If the answer is no, simply recognizing that fact can help give you a reason—and the willpower—to abstain.

Use humor. If you’re worried that you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings by passing on the dessert seconds, try making a joke. For example, one of Alber’s pregnant patients used this tactic when she was at a family gathering and wanted to politely turn down more food. “She said that she wanted to eat for two, not for three,” says Albers.

Keep the bonus benefits in mind. Learning to curb your people-pleasing ways and control your social eating will benefit your weight, but it can also influence your self-esteem, according to Albers. Situations in which you feel pressured to give in to other people’s wishes will come up again and again in life. Once you learn to handle them, you’ll feel more empowered and confident—and maybe even be a few pounds lighter to boot.

MORE: Conscious Eating for a Better Body Image

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