Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Not Willpower You're Missing

You get home from work or school, grab the chips, and while standing, begin to inhale them. One after the next, straight from the bag, barely tasting them. You overeat the snack in spite of the knowledge of what’s an “appropriate” amount to eat. And you don’t even enjoy them. You know better, I certainly know better, and yet we all do it. “Why can’t I control my eating?” you may wonder.  “Why don’t I have the willpower to stay motivated and eat well?” I know I shouldn’t be eating this way! And yet you continue.
The biggest trigger for this scenario? Excessive hunger. For any number of reasons you may under eat during the day.  Perhaps you skipped a snack because you were too busy or thought you could get by without it, maybe save some calories.

You may not even be aware of your hunger because of the volume of beverages you drink--water, coffee, diet soda, which may mask your hunger. Or you are stuck in the mindset that it’s best to deny your body what it needs. Maybe you are busy meeting everyone else’s needs except for your own.You fail to listen to your hunger, your body’s signal that you need fuel, from food. 
And then you’re ravenous. You’re looking for a quick fix to revive yourself, to get your blood sugar back up.  Impulsive, rapid food intake. No thoughts. Just grab the food. And eat.
Been there?  I’m sure.  We all have. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how much nutrition information you have.  It’s too late once you reach this point. We can’t begin to approach eating mindfully, with intent, when we have reached this state. But the tendency I see is to continue the cycle by denying hunger the following day.  Maybe you want to make up for the overeating from the day before. Or you just don’t trust that listening to your body could really work. So you under eat the next day—maybe intentionally, maybe not, and fall into the same trap.  Don’t you see that clinging to the idea that tomorrow you can have more willpower fails you?

If you want to have the willpower to be in control of your eating, you have to honor your body.  And that requires you to listen to, and respect your hunger. 
Allow yourself to eat when you are hungry—but don’t wait until your hunger has gone too far. This also allows you to not eat when you are not hungry -- the over eating that occurs because of emotional triggers, or to self soothe, or simply out of boredom or routine.

Please share your insights about your own experiences working through this issue! Thanks!


  1. My normal pattern of eating over the past 15yrs. has been a roller coaster of depriving myself and then binging later on. So this post rang true for me. I've been working on eating regularly (as Lori recommends) throughout the day and it takes a concious effort since it isn't a normal behavior for me. I thought I'd share this story with you because it was a great accomplishment for me... The other night I had a horrible fight with my boyfriend. I went into work the next day extremely depressed. I decided I was wasn't going to eat anything that day because I had lost my appetite, and I didn't care about myself. I thought this will be good, maybe I'll lose some weight. BUT then a couple hours later I thought what would Lori say about this. She would say I need to take care of myself even if I don't want to or don't feel I deserve it. So... I ate a little that day. Not as much as I normally do, but I didn't skip meals. At the end of the workday I thought to myself, I'd really like to not do anything after work and go home and mindlessly eat infront of the TV so I wouldn't have to think about the problems with my boyfriend. Once again, I thought about everthing Lori has said and I knew if I went home and did that I'd feel even worse than I already did. So I am proud to say I got through the day, and the following days (which haven't been easy) not depriving myself of food or overindulging to mask my emotions. The funny thing is, being on track with my eating during this difficult time actually gave me strength and confidence to deal with the problems with my boyfriend.

  2. Imagine that--thought you had to use the EDz and you got by without it! My words have little impact until you apply them, take the risk, and experience your potential and your strength in getting through challenging times. Way to go! Keep your post handy so that you can refer to it again when you may be struggling.

  3. I can certainly relate to arriving home ravenous and digging into a bag of something to "fill up" quickly and finding myself consuming most, if not all, of it! I never realized this might be about true hunger. I am seeing the benefit of having an afternoon snack that can get me through the 6 p.m. end of my work day, not leaving me so hungry I can't even wait to cook dinner. I was under the impression I needed to limit my net carbs in terms of snacks (from health insurance having nutritionist call me!), but Lori had me start to permit an afternoon snack higher in carbs, and this has helped a lot. I feel more full and less likely to nibble before dinner!

  4. Yes, even dietitians over eat on chips when they fail to follow their own advice! You are not alone.