If that sounds familiar, I’m here to let you in on a few secrets, and to be the bearer of good news… willpower is not the issue. There are a number of underlying contributing factors to people’s challenges with weight, body image and their relationship with food, but willpower certainly isn’t one of them. So many of us are perfectionists – trying to keep a tight control over what we eat, how we look, and how much exercise we do. It’s not surprising given the messages we are constantly being given by the media in terms of how we should look, as well as daily new research telling us what we ‘should’ eat. But sadly, just around the corner from perfectionism often comes self-abuse when we’re not able to do things as perfectly as we like.
Who really knows how much you should weigh? Who really knows what you should be eating? There’s only one person, and that’s YOU. ‘What, little old me?!’ I hear you say. ‘(insert name of latest diet here) tells me exactly how much of what I should be eating. I just need to exert a little more willpower, and eat what I’m told, and I’ll be skinny in no time so I can start living my life!’
You may not believe it just yet, but you have inner wisdom which tells you exactly what you should be eating. It just needs to have a voice and stop being ignored.
Diets are not sustainable – if they were, then why have so many people been dieting for decades? Yes, they work in the short term, but how many times have you or someone you know started yet another diet, only to regain the weight when it’s not sustainable? This piece of research comes with a public health warning, demonstrating just how dangerous diets can be. On average, I reckon I started at least two a year for 20 years. You do the maths! Absolutely ludicrous when you put it like that.
Stress plays a huge role in our excess weight. When our body is in a stress response (otherwise known as fight or flight mode), our sympathetic nervous system dominates, and our system goes into shut down to preserve energy for the fight. We struggle to digest our food, excrete essential nutrients, and flood our system with excess cortisol and insulin is certainly a contributing factor when it comes to excess weight. Calorie burning is at its all-time low.
So all those years of stressing about dieting, and beating yourself up for having no willpower has been having exactly the opposite effect. Showing yourself some self-love and compassion is more likely to help you achieve your ultimate goal.
How many times has your body been yelling at you to feed it, but you’ve ignored it because you’ve already eaten 1000 calories that day, and you really musn’t eat any more? Trying to control your appetite is almost as crazy as trying to control your breathing. You need oxygen to live. You need food to live. Ignore your appetite for long enough, and you’ll more than likely find yourself bingeing on absolutely anything you can get your hands on… out of date crackers that have been hiding in the back of your cupboard for a year… fifteen low fat chocolate bars… raw mushrooms out of the fridge… spoonfuls of marmite! Which I have no doubt will closely be followed by beating yourself up for having ‘no willpower’.
Restricting your calorie intake can also cause your body to go into starvation mode as your body goes into shut down because it thinks it’s being starved. Your body actually needs a lot of calories to keep its metabolism going.
And how often do you make yourself go to the gym when you’re exhausted, or you’ve got a niggling pain in your back; just so you can burn off that chocolate bar you so naughtily had earlier on in the day?
Please rest assured, you are not alone, and it’s not your fault! This is a hugely collective issue which unfortunately so many people suffer alone and in silence.
Having been a chronic dieter for over 20 years, I finally plucked up the courage to experiment with dumping dieting about 18 months ago. It’s like saying goodbye to your best friend and your worst enemy all in one fell swoop. It’s both lonely and liberating. What if you gain weight once you let go of control? Where do you focus your attention now? You’ve always been trying to lose weight for as long as you can remember, so what will you think about now instead?
How about trying to live your life as if you’d lost all the weight you wanted to and not waiting until you are thin; or working on getting a little more pleasure in your life? What about giving your full attention to your loved ones, and being fully present in a moment rather than being pre-occupied and tormenting yourself because you’ve eaten too much? Loving your body as it is now and not allowing numbers to rule your life? Hating your body into weight loss doesn’t work.
For me, I found the answer to that question in turning 20 years of upset, pain and stress into something positive; training as an Eating Psychology Coach to help others transform their relationship with food and their body.
There really is another way to live your life, and I’d love to be part of it with you. I offer 1-1 coaching sessions to help you develop a more positive relationship with food and your body. Click here to find out more.