Many people don’t know how to say no.
It isn’t that they don’t want to, it’s that they find themselves lacking self-discipline. Especially when the people around them aren’t saying no.
This applies to a lot of areas in life, but let’s focus on physical health for now. When we talk about saying no, we’re talking about saying no to seconds, saying no to dessert, saying no to the unhealthy options. That’s the way that you’ll start improving your health (and/or lose weight).
So how do you say no when you really want to say yes?
Decide Your Priorities
This is a struggle between what you want now, and what you want later. Pepsi may tell us to ‘Live for Now’, but that’s not always the wisest approach. It’s a trade-off.
The problem with only focusing on now is that consequences of decisions are ignored. For example, we all know that eating too much can lead to a stomach ache. But in that moment of decision, most of us are only thinking about how good the food tastes. Not how it will make us feel sick later.
Then there’s the ongoing feelings of general health: energy levels, self-consciousness, and stress. When you choose to indulge now, you are sabotaging your efforts to be healthy later.
You have to decide that what you want later (good health) is more important than what you want now (“just a few more bites”). It will take self-control and patience, but before long, your body will thank you for making the tough decisions.
Take Baby Steps
If you’re not used to exercising any self-control, it will be difficult to flip the switch and suddenly be able to say no.
You can start by taking smaller, incremental steps toward saying no. If you are offered seconds on dessert, start by limiting how much of it you eat. Instead of saying no to the whole thing right away, say no to half of it. Then next time, say no to three quarters. Then the next time, say no to seconds altogether.
Taking baby steps in changing your habits is much easier for many people. Try this with the number of bites you take, try this with how much you put on your plate to start with, and try this with how fast you eat (bites per minute). It will help.
Find a “Say No” Buddy
As with many of the topics discussed on this blog, making lifestyle changes and working towards goals tends to be easier when you aren’t alone. Ask your spouse or a close friend to commit to saying “no” with you.
It’s often easier to be strong for someone else. So with a buddy, you can be strong for each other.
Your buddy can remind you that you aren’t supposed to eat mayonnaise on your sandwiches anymore. Your buddy can remind you that you don’t need thirds. And you can remind your buddy of the same things.
Having a buddy also helps with the feeling of “missing out” on something. If you aren’t the only one saying no, it doesn’t feel like you are the odd man out. You aren’t the only one watching your carb intake any more.
Practice, Practice, and Say No
It’s true that the more you say no, the easier it will be the next time. The best way to get better at it is to start practicing saying no today.
There is a Chinese proverb that applies here:
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Keep that in mind before you say “I’ll start next month.” The sooner you start taking baby steps, the sooner you’ll build up your self-control and start making the decisions you need to feel healthier.
So what are you waiting for? There’s no day like today!
Do you have other tricks that help you say no? Leave a comment below!