Willpower as defined by Merriam-Webster is the ability to control yourself. Strong determination that allows you to do something difficult like lose weight, stop overdrinking, quit smoking or stop yourself from saying something inappropriate. In weight loss, willpower is what we use to resist the urge to overeat. It is a temporary measure and available in limited supply. I have always tried to use willpower to lose weight in the past and that is why diets did not work for me. After 3 months all my willpower was gone and I felt deprived and hungry.
For example, if someone brings in brownies and puts them in the break room, we see the brownies and have the desire or urge to eat one and say to ourselves, no, no, no I will just avoid the break room so I don’t have to look at them and try to keep busy doing something else. If that happens often, it is like trying to hold a balloon underwater, eventually it bursts through to the surface with a big splash and then we give in to the urge and eat the brownies and wonder what went wrong. Nothing has gone wrong but instead of allowing the urge, we used willpower or resisted it.
There are 3 ways to deal with the desire for overeating or handling an urge to eat foods that are not on our eating plan: An urge is desire or an emotion
a. Using willpower to resist or avoid the urge (balloon under water)
b. Giving in to the urge and eating the food that is not on our plan (perpetuates and intensifies the desire and dopamine pathway) – Our primitive brain is in control
c. Delayed gratification or allowing the urge – Our parent brain is in control and we decide we are not going to eat the brownie and we will just feel the urge or vibration in our body and breath it in.
Being able to stay present with an urge takes practice. All urges are caused by thoughts that we are often not aware of. Try to become more aware of what you are thinking when you feel an urge to overeat or eat something that is not on your eating plan. When you allow an urge, you can also try to feel where it is in your body and take a moment and describe what it feels like (tightness in your muscles or fluttering in your chest, etc.)
When we reduce the desire for overeating by limiting sugar and flour in our eating plan, after about 4 weeks (100 or more urges), the desire is mostly gone and we do not have as much need to use willpower to resist overeating. That is the goal, to reduce the amount of time we spend thinking about food and spend all that time doing something else we enjoy.
How do you use your limited amount of willpower? If you want to figure out how to allow an urge and reduce the amount of desire for concentrated foods with sugar and flour, click on the link below. The first coaching session is FREE.