Does Your Willpower Need a Permanent Vacation?

by | Jun 27, 2015 | Nutrition, Willpower | 0 comments

How many times, through the years, have you heard that all it takes is a little willpower to:
  • eat better
  • lose weight
  • not binge
  • not eat the bad food (LOL)
We have all run into willpower issues. It can be hard to pass up that piece of pie served by your hostess (I can’t hurt her feelings so I will force my self to eat it HA!) or try and restrain ourselves from going out and having pizza (that’s okay, I’ll just have their house salad…sigh). So we decide how we SHOULD eat, set up rules and start to follow them….sometimes…
What Does Reliance On Willpower Look Like?
Perfect eating. I used to make it to Thursday. I would start off my week on Monday eating “perfect”. Strong start. My friend “willpower” was sticking with me and helping me keep my resolve. Tuesday would come and go and then here came Wednesday night. I always got anxious on that night, because I knew that as soon as Thursday rolled around, I would “NOT EAT PERFECT”. Not right away, mind you. There was always a little hope inside that I would get through the day living up to my perfect standards but still knowing that my friend “willpower” had lost interest and was hoping to ditch me. Breakfast usually started good, lunch was….sometimes okay….by dinnertime, though, I was tired from the week, ready to order out and not caring about the effects of unhealthy food on my nutrient seeking body. Once I let down my guard on Thursday, it was down hill through Friday. All bad food. I was on my own…willpower had flown the coop. Being on my own and grasping for some justification, I kept telling myself that I worked hard all week so I should be able to eat what I wanted on the weekend!! By Sunday, willpower was begging to be friends again. As soon as I accepted, I was once again ready to perpetuate the never ending cycle of madness.
The Willpower Myth
It does not matter what I write here. Your relationship with food is yours….very personal and time honored and VERY unique. Would you accept a thought though? Willpower is not sustainable…say it with me….willpower is not sustainable. Saying that willpower can be used  long term is a myth, because it does not help change your relationship with the very food that is supposed to fuel your body. Expecting willpower to be the thing that keeps you strong is like leaning on a twig. Easily bendable to what YOU want and only as strong as YOU allow it to be. Not living up to your expectations of willpower leads to…..stress. At that time in my life, I could tell you how I would feel each day for months that had not even happened yet and I could also tell you I always felt the pressure of knowing I would fail…knowing I was not strong….knowing that I had set myself up. Stress. Stress. Stress.
When we rely on willpower to strengthen us, we are not relying on food to nourish us. And it is scary to let our friend go because who will protect us from the pie?
So let’s look at what it looks like to live life on our own terms, surrounded by temptation….
Food Worth Eating 
In our minds, there is “good” food and “bad” food. Very simple. Our good food is that which we feel supports our health. Different foods provide this nourishment, so again, this is a very individual concept. Now think of your list of good foods….what is on it? Do you like to eat the food on your good list or are you just eating these foods because you are “supposed to”? However you answered, willpower is not required in the intentional eating of these foods. If we like them, and they taste good, then we eat them.
Now let’s look at the bad food list. What is on your own list? My list has pizza (seriously, I love this stuff!), subs, pie, cake and ice-cream. The reason these items happen to be on my bad food list is that many contain sugar, many contain bread or white flour and they ALL contain preservatives. That is what makes this food list a “bad” food list for me, maybe not for you. What is wrong with the food on your bad food list? Can you identify the reasons your foods made your own bad food list?
Adjust Your Food Expectations
We were made to enjoy food, not struggle with it. Yes, it is fuel for our body but it is also delicious, fun and satisfying. We gather with friends over food and snuggle with a bowl of hot soup for warmth in the winter. Food will be with us all day, everyday for the rest of our lives….
Don’t you think it is time to embrace food and stop stressing over it? When you understand the best food to fuel your body, that in itself is a freedom like no other. Trying to relentlessly stay away from ANY food that does NOT benefit our bodies (that’s right, pie, I am calling you out!) hinders our freedoms, ups our stress levels and proves that willpower is not sustainable.
So eat the pie. I mean it.
No, I did not say every night before bed. No, I do not mean the whole thing in one sitting. I mean take a bite (or 3) of the pie….on a simple Tuesday night. See? The world did not blow up and you did not gain 2 pounds. Now put the pie back. You can get it at any time you want. If you are hungry, you should be eating some real food from your good list, but if you want a few bites of some food that is on your bad list, then do it and stop pressuring yourself to be the perfect food goddess….
Why is this so critical? Because by trying to use willpower, we are giving food WAY too much power over us. If we know we can eat the vegetables, eat the meat, drink the healthy juice, then we can’t give any more power than that to the pie or the pizza or the tacos.
So you ate a good breakfast that fell in line with your expectations of your “good” food list, and lunch was great too. Uh oh….going out to dinner tonight? This could be a big bust unless you think…wait a minute! I am no longer under the control of food! I am going to a steak house, and I want a steak, and steak is on my good food list. So what would I want to order there that may not be on that list? A glass or two of wine? Check! Maybe a dessert? Check! So to feel really good about this whole thing, I am going out, enjoy my evening with friends, eat a steak, have some vegies, not have the wine, but I WILL order a dessert. Will I eat the whole thing? I may have a few bites for the flavor and then push it away. I can justify the cost because I HAVE worked hard all week….and maybe, when it’s time for dessert, I just won’t order it because the choice is mine, and dessert no longer holds any power over me….I like this freedom!!
Take A Win When You See It
Eating a bite or two from your bad food list throughout the week can also help eliminate the power of bad food. None of us like having our choices taken away from us, and that includes food. But having a meal that includes more from the bad food list than the good food list also does not need to end a winning streak!
You just go to the next meal. New chances. New choices.
Let’s say Saturday morning, you go out with friends and end up having French Toast. Why can’t you continue your day with good food? Who made the rule that just because you had a dreaded “bad food meal” that you can’t thoroughly enjoy it and move on from there back to the land of nutrition?? I promise, there is NO RULE that says that your life is ruined until Monday morning. Really. Just pick up your conscientious eating at the next meal. Did you enjoy your French Toast? Great! Did you enjoy your friends? Excellent! Just because you eat from the bad food list does not mean you are not aware of how better foods serve your body better.
I really want to hear from you….how does food make you feel? Do you rely a lot on willpower to get through the day? Tell me what’s happening in your food life!!!