Why willpower doesn’t work with food issues (and what to do instead)
Right now, it may feel like your struggles with food have been ten-folded! Obsessive thoughts, urges and cravings stronger than ever!
Do you ever feel like the harder you try to get a grip on your food issues the worse they get?
The more you say to yourself, I will make sure this doesn’t happen tomorrow, I will get back on track or I’m going to be even stricter with myself from now on the further seem to be from where you want to be! Feeling even more trapped and stuck than ever! Does it ever feel like the only way you can get the food cravings and urges to disappear is to just give in to them?
Willpower is one of the biggest culprits here. It actually makes your relationship with food WORSE, not better. Here’s why. Don’t think of blue tree….. And voila! What does your mind immediately go to?
You see, your mind, isn’t that intelligent. It doesn’t understand “negatively stated” instructions. Which means trying NOT to do something. Willpower is solely built on the principle of NOT doing something.
“Don’t think about chocolate, don’t eat chocolate, don’t think about what you’re missing out on, resist, resist, resist!” What is happening here is that your entire brain is only hearing chocolate, chocolate chocolate! It becomes consumed with the thing you are so desperately trying to avoid. In addition, it has no clue what you actually do want! You have basically confused your brain by not giving it a clear outcome.
In fact, your brain thinks that chocolate IS the outcome. Ever heard of professional athletes using visualisation or mental rehearsal to programme high performance? When they vividly imagine a particular outcome it essentially programmes their unconscious mind to think, operate, and perform in that way. By using willpower you’re actually using mental rehearsal to programme your unconscious mind to do the very thing you DON’T WANT!!! You’re vividly imagining what you DON’T WANT! On top of that, willpower is a conscious activity. You have to constantly, and relentlessly think about it. Which is exhausting! So, it is no wonder when those thoughts, feelings and urges become so loud and strong you just have nothing left in you to fight back with. You give in out of exhaustion as you just can’t keep it up! Then you find yourself mindlessly doing the very behaviour you told yourself NOT to do. Or, the cravings get so bad (because willpower is making them worse and worse) that you try to take the edge off by giving yourself “just a taste”. And we all know where that leads!!
It is essential that you understand your mind, how it operates and start learning the language it understands (which is nothing to do with willpower, control or trying to analyse or reason with yourself).
The first step is to start getting clarity on what you DO want, instead of what you DON’T want in those moments. How do you want to think, feel and act?
The second step is catching out all those ‘don’t want’ negative statements in your thoughts around food. These are some of the words you MUST eliminate from your vocabulary:
Remember that your brain does not understand negatives and will be focusing on the thing you are trying to avoid!
To fully and completely resolve these issues for good you must firstly learn in detail how the brain works and how it picks us unhealthy behaviours around food. The second step is to start looking at the drivers of this behaviour, i.e. what is at the core of your binge eating, restricting, emotional eating, mindless eating, or food obsession. Food is just the symptom of something deeper going on. If you are trying to resolve your behaviours around food without addressing the underlying causes, you will likely continue to struggle, relapse and feel more stuck and trapped!
That is why nothing worked for you in the past. If you try to fix this problem with only one piece of the puzzle, then of course it’s not going to work! Just because you have never fixed this problem before, doesn’t mean you can’t. It just means that you had an incomplete approach, or worse an approach that only makes things worse - like willpower!
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