Est 4 min read
When it comes to health, willpower is not helpful. It is not a good way to try to change your relationship with food and your body. Here's why…
Willpower isn't helpful because when your attempts at change don't work, you will tend to think things like…why can’t I stick with it? I know what I should be eating, I know what I should do, I just don't have any willpower. It reinforces this idea that there's something bad or wrong with you because you're not eating perfectly or following the “plan”. It sets you up for failure, like somehow you're defective because you don't have enough willpower. That mindset increases shame.
I just wrote a blog about shame and how shame based motivation does not work. In fact, it works against you in your relationship with food and your body. When you tell yourself that you need to have more willpower, that is saying, there's something wrong, I don't have enough, I'm somehow deficient and that increases feelings of shame. It increases preoccupation, anxiety or anxiousness about your relationship with food and your body, and it causes you to try to control, manage or fix. Those just don't work. You cannot control your way to balance, peace, ease, joy or satisfaction and you cannot control or manage your way to a secure attachment with food and your body.
Again, willpower is based on trying to control or manage. It's forcing or pushing yourself to make a thing happen. When it comes to a relationship with food and your body, if you look at it from an attachment lens, forcing/controlling/pushing puts you on the anxious spectrum. More of an insecure attachment with food and your body, either preoccupied, anxious, or anxious avoidant. It feels like being stressed out or anxious and trying to control or manage or fix your relationship with food and your relationship with that body.
Okay, so willpower doesn't work, then what does work? Well, what works instead, is getting really curious, and having an abundance of self-compassion, because you need to have compassion for yourself in order for that curiosity to open up to really see what's going on and see what patterns are happening.
You can ask yourself- What patterns or behavior am I worried about? Why? Is it because someone told you that you should do it differently? Or is it because this behavior actually isn't feeling supportive to you anymore and you'd like to shift it. If it's because you'd like to shift it, trying to control or manage it, you're going to just be playing Whack a Mole all the time. It's going to pop up over here then over there and you're going to feel like you're not doing it good enough.
If the behavior is truly something that isn't working for you, then you want to look at what the drivers of that behavior are and what's really going on for you. You want to get curious, look at it like you're a scientist and see what's really happening here. After getting more information you can start to address the underlying issues. Addressing what underlying needs aren’t getting met, focusing on the reason that you're doing those behaviors in the first place. So, instead of using willpower or trying to control or manage and beating yourself up, you're going to shift using curiosity and compassion, build connection and trust with your body, start to come from a place of deserve around deep nurturance for yourself, try to motivate through care and compassion of yourself rather than trying to motivate through this push/pull energy using your willpower or trying to do it harder. That never works.
Willpower doesn't work. It is not helpful to approach eating from that lens, it only adds shame. There's nothing wrong with you. You can have the kind of relationship with food and your body that you’d really like, with the right support and approach (non-shame based).
If you need support in your relationship with food and your body, I can help you. I’m starting a group program Summer 2022 and I have one-on-one coaching as well. If you would like to get support my email is Tiffany@coachtiffanyrn.com or you can go to my website to apply for a free Peace with food session.
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The first step to healing your relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals your body gives you. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale..