From my work with many women in the beginning stages of finding freedom from food and body-weight burdens, I’ve observed something about this time of year …
Some women may already begin to be discouraged with their new years resolutions and intentions for positive change, health, and weight-loss. A self-critical voice can creep in, sometimes quite loudly! There can be the feeling that willpower simply didn’t show up to help us out with the goals, plans and visions that felt so fresh and new and positive only days ago. New hope can start to become a little frayed around the edges as January unfolds …
For those of us with the tendency to struggle controlling our eating and making healthy choices effortlessly, this can feel like a crushing blow. It can impact our self-esteem in every area of our lives. Those inspiring books about healthy eating and weight-loss we got ourselves for Christmas tend to disappear under a pile of life-laundry … we start to feel like a failure for not being able to follow through with what we KNOW is right for us, what we KNOW is healthy for our bodies and our minds…
If this is you, you are not alone. You are NOT a failure. In fact, you are very normal (besides perhaps having an inclination towards food-compulsion which has NOTHING to do with being weak-willed and everything to do with the way your brain and body happen to be around food. It’s not your fault) … and you can find the true freedom you crave.
Before I overcame my habit of overeating, over-controlling, and over-criticising myself, before I found myself in a body I love being in (now well over a decade ago), I thought I just didn’t have enough willpower to resist muffins, chocolate-cake and fudge. I thought that those who could and did resist eating those treats were just strong as nails and cool as ice …
I recall a beautiful slim female customer from my waitressing days order a slice of millionaire shortbread, read the newspaper while sipping her coffee demurely, take one maybe two bites of said shortbread and LEAVE THE CAFE! A part of me truly hated her for her perceived ‘self-control’ with that cake. And, needless to say, the rest of her shortbread took the edge off the envy and resentment I felt towards her, at least for a short sweet while….
I truly believes that I, in comparison to women like this, I was a weak-willed failure who just didn’t have willpower: a loser who should get a life and care about more than how good those treats would taste in my mouth for 30 seconds. (More on the inner-critic blog-after-next… I find she tends to show up quite a bit for us foodies-with-burdens … )
Actually, that critic was wrong to believe that willpower is something we either have or don’t have – something that separates the weak from the strong. Willpower is a brain-function, and it has a lot to do in any one day. Just like the battery on our mobile phone, it gradually diminishes as we go about the business of our lives, until we plug it in again (through the gift of deep, nourishing sleep).
It isn’t just resisting treats or junk food that willpower has to do; many other challenges can diminish one’s capacity to exert willpower, from the very moment we decide to turn off the alarm and NOT go back to sleep to the moment we decide to stop relaxing watching our screens or reading our novels and go to sleep.
The willpower brain-function helps us regulates our emotions and make decisions and monitors how well we perform tasks throughout the day. We use it up as we engage in any of these things. Anything where we’re having to regulate ourselves – such as reading and responding to emails and text messages – depletes our precious, finite daily store of willpower…
So it’s little wonder that after a busy and potentially-stressful or boring morning or afternoon when this part of our brain-function is depleted, we find ourselves reaching for foods that have been banned from our NY-resolution lists. These foods are typically highly-processed convenience foods full of sugars and refined carbs, mixed with just the levels and types of fat, salt and chemicals that whoever manufactured them hit the bliss-bulls-eye: we can’t resist!
These foods work for us … for awhile: They restore our blood glucose levels in our brains, give us a treat to soothe our emotions and (very) temporarily bump-start our energy-levels and brain-functions as quickly as possible … Until there comes the inevitable crash that follows these quick-fixes: often on a physical, mental and emotional level (enter our inner-critics again).
So what can help with our negative food cycles?
Below is a simple suggestion:
As the video shares, I’m a fan of food-planning for anyone who has a tendency to chronically crave and succumb to eating the “wrong” “foods’’. At the start of our FAB Freedom journeys, I recommend this action: to prioritise and prepare our plan for the ‘what, when, where and hows’ of our daily eating in the morning when our willpower-stores are high. This way, we are far better able to care for our tired, emotionally-and-mentally-drained ‘later-in-the-day’ selves.
A note to those who have tried planning and found it led nowhere… read on! We may have become taken over by an ‘over-planner’: an over-controlling part of us that wanted ultimate control over our more spontaneous or indulgent parts. This type of tense, rigid planning comes can tend to come from fear of ‘losing control’. Any action that comes from fear does not lead to freedom but lies within the same paradigm of inner conflict with food and our bodies.
I find that a practice of ‘making a plan’ from myself – NOT from within the inner-battle, is a nourishing and practical way to better get to know what I truly want for myself when it comes to food. With time and practice, it can form a simple feedback loop of information that has nothing to do with the same familiar cycle of control, criticism, rebellion, and shame.
I find that a practice of ‘making a plan’ without also including a feeling-vision can soon become simply not fun. Like writing a shopping-list before entering a world of tempting possibilities, we may know it’s a sensible move, but somehow we may find we just don’t want to. If this is you, look out for my next blog on how to make planning come alive.
Happy new year and happy new decade. May it be one of health, gentleness and an unfurling food freedom for us all.
With love and gratitude,