Written by Jenn Hand, Holistic Nutritionist, Board Certified Health Coach, NBC-HWC

Wondering how to have “willpower” with food?

In my 13 year battle of relentlessly starting and stopping 116 diets, I convinced myself that all I needed was more willpower.

It’s not hard to believe, as every diet plan convinces us that if we “just” stick to their program, all of our food problems will be solved.

The problem is the belief that we need to have willpower at all. Willpower runs out. It ebbs and flows as we get more fatigued after we make decisions all day long. So how are we supposed to rely on it if it’s not consistent?

The idea that we need more willpower around food is a myth.

I’ve gone weeks eating green peppers and ranch dip, months adhering to a strict whole foods only diet, and days on cleanses. That requires serious willpower! Many of the women I’ve worked with, at some point in their lives, have used extensive willpower to adhere to some crazy diet. It’s not that willpower can’t “work” (well, for a few days or week anyway!), it’s that we’ve got to rely on something else for long term sustainability around how we eat.

The way to develop “willpower” is actually through balance. Instead of force, discipline and harsh rules, we learn how to let go of rigidity, how to fuel our bodies in an intuitive, holistic way and eat in a way that is satisfying and nutritious.

A few quick tips for more “willpower” (aka BALANCE so you don’t need to overeat!)

1. Eat regularly and often

Don’t let yourself get too hungry! By keeping your blood sugar even and steady, you regulate your body’s natural cadence and rhythms during the day. This allows you to make more rational choices since hanger is a real thing!

2. Explore where emotions impact how you eat

Sometimes it’s not that we need more discipline; it’s that we’re eating due to stress, boredom, loneliness, or other emotions. Take a look at where you’re eating for comfort, to distract, or escape something and work on processing the emotion, situation or feeling instead of focusing on using more willpower.

Explore where emotions impact how you eat

3. Let go of rigid rules

Oftentimes, hard rules make us want to rebel. We make rules to try to “reign ourselves in,” but for me, the more rules I make for myself, the more I overeat! It’s a paradox that we feel more in control when we learn to let go of control just a bit. See if you can identify which food rules you have that cause you to rebel and soften them to better serve you. For example, if “I can’t eat bread” is a rule, can you reframe it to “I’m working to have a healthy relationship to bread” or “I am paying more attention to how I feel when I eat bread”?

4. Focus on curiosity vs punishment

One mindset shift that really helped me was the shift from a critical mindset to a curious one. When we get curious about our habits and behaviors around food, we’re better able to see what’s working and why we engage in certain behaviors. This curiosity helps us naturally shift out of habits that don’t serve us.

Criticism leads to punishing ourselves, and never gives us what we really want in the long term: freedom and peace around food.

Sometimes, nothing may sound appetizing and that’s okay! Not every meal will be the best meal you’ve ever had. We’re aiming for an overall sense of satisfaction and nourishment.

Read More

How To Deal with Food Guilt During Recovery

How to Stop Obsessing Over Food and Weight

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You don’t have to be obsessed with food or have a million rules around eating to find your natural weight and learn to love your body. Ready to actually see a lasting change and experience true freedom?

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About the Author: 

Jenn Hand has been helping women like you become normal eaters since 2015.

She’s worked with thousands of women, helping them to balance their bodies, end bingeing, stop obsessing over food, and start feeling amazing again.  As a board-certified health coach and holistic nutritionist, Jenn knows how to support you in making real positive changes that last.

Her articles have been published on Mind Body Green, Tiny Buddha, Thrive Global and other local and global media platforms. She’s the author of How to Be a Normal Eater and the creator of The Normal Eater’s Club program. Listen to Jenn’s advice and tips on the Cake Doesn’t Count Podcast, or read more of her articles for free on the Food Freedom Blog.

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