Time and time again I hear clients tell me that the reason they’re not able to stick to a diet or weight loss plan long-term is lack of willpower.
“I’m weak!” they say. “I love ice cream too much! I just need more willpower!”
But here’s the thing, long-term weight loss really has very little to do with willpower. In fact, long-term weight loss really has very little to do with food.
Long-term weight loss is all about mindset.
It’s about fundamentally shifting the way you think about food and deeply exploring the reasons you eat and the foods that you crave.
In my experience, these are the three most common mindset issues that get in the way of people achieving their weight loss goals – and none of them have anything to do with willpower:
Eating When You’re Bored
When you eat out of boredom you’re trying to use food to entertain and inspire yourself. Unless you’re a passionate chef using food as a creative outlet, food can never truly excite and inspire the part of you that needs to be turned on.
Instead of reaching for something to eat when you’re bored, take a step back and think about what really lights you up, what interests you, what’s on your “bucket list”? Make a plan to explore and pursue those things and the food will lose its allure.
Using Food to Avoid or Numb Uncomfortable Feelings
Uncomfortable feelings like sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, anxiety or overwhelm often cause us to reach for food. The brain is still a very primitive organ and when it feels bad, it immediately yearns for something that it knows will make it feel good. Food (especially sugary foods or highly processed foods that turn quickly into sugar) gives the brain an instant boost. Sugar lights up all the dopamine receptors in the brain like a Christmas tree and you get an immediate feeling of happiness.
Learning how to feel our feelings without bolting is one of the biggest hurdles to get over when it comes to emotional eating. The key here is to understand that a feeling is just energy. You can acknowledge it, feel it and then let it pass through. Trust that you are strong enough to do that and you will no longer need to turn to food to avoid or numb the feeling.
Not Making Nourishing Your Body a Priority
When you eat in your car, or while rushing around the house getting ready to leave, or mindlessly in front of the TV you are reinforcing a story in which making the time to sit down, relax, prepare nutritious food and eat it mindfully and with gratitude is not important to you. That’s the message you’re telling yourself again and again when you make that choice. And, it naturally follows that if eating nutritious foods that nourish and energize your body, mind and soul is not important to you, then you’ll easily choose junk whenever it’s offered.
Start to write a new story for yourself by deliberately choosing to make the time to prepare healthy food and to sit down and eat it peacefully with thanks for the beautiful way it nurtures, sustains and fuels you.
The more you take this deliberate action around food, the more you signal to your brain that this is a priority for you and the more second-nature those positive actions and healthy choices will become.
You can keep trying to white-knuckle your way to your weight loss and health goals and beating yourself up every time you relax and slip, or you can get down to the root cause beneath your food habits and reprogram your brain so that the healthy choices become effortless. The choice is yours.