Impact of People Pleasing on Keto or Banting Weight Loss Journeys

By Victoria Webster, clinical psychologist

How many people-pleasers does it take to change a lightbulb? 

Well, only one, and not only will they change the lightbulb (and bring spares), they will pay the electricity bill, pick up the groceries and make you a sandwich (or hopefully a healthy Keto snack if you request it). 

The people pleaser will go out of their way to make sure others around them are comfortable and well taken care of. While on the surface the people pleaser may seem like a selfless and generally caring person (usually quite happy and well put together), behind the scenes there is another side to being this person, a much darker side than what you might imagine, especially if the people-pleaser’s own light bulbs have blown, they have given away all their spares and they haven’t paid their own electricity bill. 

The dark side 

The truth about people pleasing is that it actually stems from feelings of low self-worth and from insecurity. Typically, a person who feels they need to people-please will depend upon external validation, reassurance from others, to feel a sense of self-worth. This is because they haven’t built up their own internal resources of self-worth and self-esteem. The people pleaser’s internal world, their mood, feelings, and thoughts about themselves, will often be easily impacted by the mood, feelings and thoughts of others. 

As an example, imagine working on your laptop and the electricity goes out: if your laptop battery is not charged it will immediately turn off and this might cause you to lose whatever you were working on. However, if the laptop battery is fully charged, your laptop will stay on and functioning despite the external power outage. The people pleaser is like an uncharged laptop who can be easily influenced by external circumstances and cannot charge up their own battery and feel good about themselves on their own. 

Depending upon others for validation and a sense of self-worth is a difficult position to be in hence saying no to others can feel extremely challenging. The people pleaser may feel that if they say no or set boundaries, they will no longer be liked or valued and, ultimately, rejected. There is a fear that making others uncomfortable or unhappy will lead to this rejection. The idea here is: if you don’t like me, it must mean I am unlikable (this is a laptop with zero battery life). The mechanism of people-pleasing is then used to manage and control the outcome of a situation by avoiding any uncomfortable feelings or conflict. 

If you are a people-pleaser, you are likely to be a genuinely caring person with good intentions, but the act of people-pleasing is actually designed to take control of situations and people’s reactions. Relationships are then based upon soothing or placating people in your life and so these relationships can easily become superficial and inauthentic. In trying to control people’s reactions and trying to take responsibility for their feelings, there is no space for your own values, thoughts, feelings and (god forbid) actually expressing those feelings out loud, and it becomes impossible to be honest and communicate authentically. Suddenly when you look at it in this way, you can see it for the unhealthy coping mechanism that it is— the people-pleaser’s self-worth is tied to how they can manipulate how others perceive them. Please do not be fooled that people-pleasing is harmless because it is actually very damaging to relationships and to an already fragile sense of self-worth. 

 

Shining a light on the issue: ten signs that you may be a people pleaser:

  • It is difficult for you to say no 
  • Dependent on approval or reassurance from others
  • You feel responsible for other people’s feelings
  • You are often left feeling drained by others
  • You agree when you don’t really agree
  • You are terrified of being disliked by anyone (even strangers)
  • You will compromise your own values to get others to like you 
  • Your relationships are often superficial 
  • You feel like people don’t really know you
  • You are always apologising
  • You eat food that you know is unhealthy for you because it is hard to say no 

 

What does people-pleasing have to do with health, lifestyle and eating? Well, just about everything! 

We live in a world where we are pressured to look a certain way, be a certain way and eat a certain way. We are meant to juggle children, careers, relationships, lifestyle, eating and exercise, and to look perfect while doing it. If we do not learn to say no and to put down boundaries, life can become incredibly overwhelming, and it becomes nearly impossible to take care of ourselves. On top of this we are surrounded by messages about what to eat, and by challenging food situations, where we are put down, judged or made to feel guilty because of our food choices. 

With all this to deal with at the best of times, it makes sense that the people pleasers of the world are the most prone to overeating, giving into peer pressure with food and struggling with sustainable weight loss. It might work in the short-term to eat the cake at a birthday party to prevent the people around you from thinking you are a party pooper (which is all in your head anyway), but all you are doing is maximising your discomfort in the long run. 

A light at the end of the tunnel

If you are identifying yourself as a people pleaser (or maybe a “recovering people pleaser”) it may be time to start putting down boundaries and, most importantly, getting used to saying no. Learning to stick up for yourself, your values and your choices is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. If you tune into the RMR weekly workshops, you will hear the term “people pleaser” being used a lot because many people struggle with this, and the workshops teach tools to help with looking how to start pleasing yourself. The RMR Coaching program is also designed to help eliminate people pleasing because you will be held accountable (by another real human) for standing up for yourself and putting yourself first. Read that sentence again because it is pretty powerful: you will be held accountable for standing up for yourself and putting yourself first. That is pretty epic. Moving away from people-pleasing means creating authentic and rich relationships that have healthy boundaries. What better way to do this than learning from a community of people who are trying to do the same thing? 

 

So, time to take a stock take of your own light bulbs, make sure your own electricity bill is paid, that you have shopped for your own groceries to make yourself a nutritious Keto snack. Lend out a spare lightbulb here and there, but only when you have made sure you have enough for yourself. I hope this is a lightbulb moment for you and will help you stay out of the dark: if you need to choose one person to please today, let it be you.



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