A friend recently said: “I really want to eat a slice of pizza today. But I can’t. It’s not on my meal plan. I can’t eat pizza for another two weeks. So I’m bringing my food to the restaurant.”

Have you, too, uttered these words, or something similar?

I can’t eat pasta anymore, because I’ve committed to not eating carbs.

I can’t eat past 7 p.m. My diet doesn’t allow for it.

I can’t eat tacos. Today isn’t my cheat day.

I can’t eat lasagna, because I’ll need to work out. And today is my rest day.

Why? Why can’t you?

Why do we let external rules, someone else’s standards dictate what we do with our own bodies? Why do we let someone else override our body’s cues, whether it’s a hunger cue or a craving cue? Why do we give someone else power over our bodies? What’s really wrong with a few slices of pizza, a bowl of pasta or a plate of anything else?

Maybe your “I can’t” doesn’t revolve around eating. Instead it revolves around your body image. Maybe you’ve said… I can’t wear that because I’m too big. I’m not muscular enough. I have flabby arms. Oh, and I have back fat. I can’t go to the gym because I’m ridiculously out of shape. What will others think?

Any time you utter the words, “I can’t eat that,” “I can’t have that,” “I can’t do that,” “I can’t wear that,” and so on, ask yourself: Is that really true? Ask yourself: Am I letting someone else drive my own decisions? What do I actually want? What am I afraid of?

Because so often we get caught up. We take the train before considering if that’s the track we want to be on—or if we even want to take the train. Maybe we take the train because we yearn to please others, and it feels uncomfortable physically to decline. Maybe we don’t want to rock the boat. Maybe we try to be “good,” and good people follow rules and say yes or no, according to the specific regulation. Maybe we have certain fears: the fear of others’ criticism; the fear of gaining weight.

Before you blindly follow, before you people-please one more time, maybe you can remind yourself that it’s more helpful, more important, more empowering to check in with yourself first (and last). To identify what you want and what you need and what matters to you.

And if fear is sneaking into your bones, then explore it, too. Explore what it looks like. Explore where it stems from. Pull the fear aside like you’d pull aside a curtain, and see what resides behind. (And surround yourself with reminders that don’t fuel your fears like these reminders and these.) After all, even the smallest decision you make still makes up your life. And you deserve for that decision to be what you want it to be.

Photo by Cameron Kirby on Unsplash.