As a kid, pleasing people kept them happy and me safe, but it cost my independence. When I got married, I changed my name and address, but I couldn’t embrace my grown-up freedom. I was stuck in a cycle of people pleasing followed by resentment or independence. Every choice was followed by guilt. Now, I’m the Mom. I make the rules, but I’m still following everyone else’s, especially on sugar.

Unhealthy Amounts Of Guilt

Our beautiful son came to us via an orphanage. At 13 months old, he weighed only 15 pounds. He was at risk for growth failure, and EVERY time I took him to the doctor, I got a lecture on how he doesn’t weigh enough. I felt guilty about that.

Now that he’s older, my son’s finally at a healthy weight but loves cookies, soda, cakes, and ice cream. If I let him eat his weight in sugar, I’m not being a responsible parent. If I say “No”, I feel guilty for robbing him of comforting childhood memories. You know, visions of sugar plums, giant chocolate bunnies, ice cream cones and all.

Unhealthy Amounts Of Sugar

The American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends children and teens consume less than 6 teaspoons of “added sugars” per day. The brown sugar and cinnamon pop tart I gave my son this morning has 17 grams of added sugar. Since one teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams, he’s one serving of ketchup away from reaching his sugar limit for day.

Trapped By “All Or Nothing” Thinking

What’s really missing here is a sense of balance. I don’t have to only choose to please others or only choose to please myself.

In recovery, I learn to do what’s best for me first. Sometimes, my decisions result in a sad or mad child. I have learned to separate my feelings from his:

  • “Just because he’s sad doesn’t mean I’m bad.”
  • I regularly ask, “How important is it?”
  • Will it really hurt for him to have ice cream once in a while as a treat?

Recovery lets us celebrate each day, and some days we celebrate with ice cream. Other days, we celebrate by going for a bike ride. As long as I don’t give into people pleasing, I’ve made some progress.

Co-dependency is treatable. Visit Recovery Guidance to find therapists, counselors, and other treatment options near you.

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Pam Carver

Pam is the author of two books: Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps. She's also a contributing editor for Reach Out Recovery. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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