If there is one thing you can do to stop spinning your wheels and begin to move forward toward any goal, it is to do away with the concept of willpower!
Nowhere is this more true than in the area of weight loss. After years of supporting clients in achieving their weight loss goals, willpower is the one thing I insist they give up from the start. This might sound self-defeating to you, but with a closer look, you will see it is the only way to succeed.
Willpower by definition is counterintuitive — going against the grain of your intuition. Definitions include:
- training and control of oneself and one’s conduct, usually for personal improvement
- the ability of a person to exert his/her will over the inhibitions of their body or self
Take a good, long look at those definitions. What are they filled with? RESISTANCE! Fighting against oneself. Disciplining yourself to go against what your body is telling you to do. What you resist . . . persists.
Relying on willpower inevitably results in falling off the diet.
Here’s how it usually goes. You decide to not eat snacks between meals for 30 days. Or maybe to limit your calorie intake to a certain amount. Very regimented . . . specific rules . . . all or nothing . . . no plan other than deprivation.
- Day One – all goes well. You are determined. You have little cravings, but you manage to ignore them.
- Day Two – you wake up thinking of nothing but a cookie or chocolate, but you are still committed. You stuff yourself with more carrots, celery and low-fat yogurt than you care to admit, but you still end the day starving, feeling deprived and obsessed with snacks. You hold out thinking, “I can power through this.”
- Day Three – you try to stay busy and not think about it. Someone brings a cake to work to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. You begin to create justifications to bend the rules. “I have to have a piece of cake or I will offend the person who brought it or disappoint the person whose birthday it is. I’ll just have half a piece and it doesn’t count. Later that night, the “all or nothing” phenomenon kicks in as you realize you already blew it! You had cake. That wasn’t on the list! It’s all over now. You have failed. You are OFF THE HOOK and the diet is over.
Now that you have failed, there is no real reason not to eat the whole bag of potato chips to drown your sorrows about failing. Since you screwed it up so royally, what’s a pint of ice cream? You could replay this scenario a hundred times and it always ends the same way. So what’s the alternative? Intuitive Eating.
Intuitive Eating, also known as mindful eating or conscious eating, is eating according to what your body needs versus what your mind thinks it needs. In other words, eating for true nourishment and energy requirements, versus eating to numb emotions, out of boredom or to prevent you from thinking about something else. Dr. Susan Albers defines conscious eating as, “when you learn more about how and why you eat and less about what you eat. When you are so closely in touch with what is going on inside you, you know the exact moment you are satisfied rather than stuffed or starving.”
I tell my clients to forget about specific diet plans and counting calories and ABSOLUTELY throw away the scale! None of these so-called dieting tools tell you the first thing about what is going on inside of you or how to meet your body’s needs.
Everyone is bio-individual and weight fluctuates greatly by water content, muscle mass and fat content. Weighing yourself is another great form of self-sabotage as it usually goes one way or the other:
- You step on the scale and you’ve lost some weight. Great! You celebrate by allowing yourself to cheat-just a little. The downward spiral of willpower begins.
- You step on the scale and despite all your hard work, the needle has not moved. Feeling completely deprived and like a failure, you grab the nearest snack to console yourself.
So how do you do away with willpower and approach weight loss from an intuitive perspective?
- Pause before you eat anything and ask, “Is this my body talking or is it my mind?”
- Bring your awareness to how your body feels after you eat something. Are you satisfied or just on to the next snack?
- Learn to read your cravings. Cravings are the body’s language and not something to fight against with willpower. You simply need to learn to interpret cravings accurately. For example, the body’s request for sugar is a request for energy. You mistakenly grab something sweet or some coffee to perk you up. This is a very short-term solution and not at all the sustaining energy the body was looking for. So it asks for energy again, and again. You would have been better off to eat some whole grains or protein and truly fill the need.
- When you think you are hungry, consider that you might instead be thirsty. Dehydration is the #1 cause of cravings. In addition to thirst, there are 13 other possibilities I consider when helping a client understand his or her hunger.
- Become a Nutritarian. This is the term Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of many books including “Eat to Live” coined for a “person who strives for more micronutrients per calorie in their diet-style. A Nutritarian understands that food has powerful disease-protecting and therapeutic effects and seeks to consume a broad array of micronutrients via their food choices. A Nutritarian is a person whose food choices are influenced by nutritional quality.” When your body has the nutrients it needs, it will maintain balance and settle in on your natural, intuitive weight.
Does all of this sound too good to be true? Have you given it your all and are convinced your body wants (or even needs) foods like sugar and white flour? You might be right! You could be one of many people who are low in one or more brain chemicals and for whom these foods, drinks and even substances temporarily give you a boost. The bad news is that in the long run, you are interfering with your body’s own ability to produce its brain chemicals and that results in overeating, depression, anxiety, anger and addictions. The good news is that these deficiencies are very correctable and I invite you to assess your brain chemistry and schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your results.
Learn to listen to your body and your intuition and your body will take care of itself, heal itself and maintain its natural weight easily for the rest of your life. No more need for willpower or dieting. Eat intuitively and allow your body to thrive the way it was meant to from the beginning.
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