How To Have Self Control With Food Without Relying On Willpower

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How to have self control with food … why of course JUST DO IT! Right?

Wrong. I’m sure you’ve heard of Just Do It, you know, Nike, Michael Jordan, etc etc. 

Strangely enough, it’s this type of thinking which causes people to misunderstand their food struggles.

Have you ever stopped dieting or eating healthy and then mentally labeled yourself as “lazy”?

This is one of biggest problem I see as an Eating Disorder Therapist in San Jose Bay Area …

The fact is, many people do not know how to have self control with food.

True, there are good strategies on how to have self control with food such as:

  1. Drink Water. Thirst is often confused with hunger or food cravings. …
  2. Eat More Protein. Eating more protein may reduce your appetite and keep you from overeating. 
  3. Distance Yourself From the Craving.
  4. Plan Your Meals.
  5. Avoid Getting Extremely Hungry. 
  6. Fight Stress. 
  7. Take Spinach Extract. 
  8. Practice Mindful Eating.

But notice something, don’t all these strategies require willpower?

Willpower is important, don’t get me wrong.

However, to think willpower = food control is making things too simple. 

How To Have Self Control With Food … It’s more than just willpower. Let’s start from the beginning

Our society has associated willpower with success. 

  • If you are successful at work, you must have HIGH willpower.
  • On the otherhand, if you are unsuccessful at work you must have LOW willpower.

And these labels apply to your health too.

If you fail at food, if you are obese, if you are anxious around food …

Well, guess what?

Your willpower must be low. 

You can see below how people erroneously blame themselves for willpower, when there are many other factors at play – such as deprivation.

binge eating cycle
  • Like if you fail to eat the right type of foods in the whole 30 then your willpower is low.
  • If you try the ‘no sugar, no carb’ diet and fail it’s because your willpower is low.

And if your willpower is low then YOU must be a failure.

The problem stems from the incorrect view of willpower. When thinking about how to have self control with food, it’s vitally important we step back and take a different perspective.

Let me give you a quick analogy, okay?

Our society views willpower like air.

Are you breathing right now? Yes. Of course. There is basically an infinite supply of air around you.

Just like you always have enough air around you …

People mistakenly think you always have enough willpower, too.

I know for me personally, I have deeply embedded beliefs that if I am not being productive (like typing up these blog articles) then I am being lazy, bad and should be ashamed of myself.

Back in the day I would emotionally eat and smoke marijuana, every day. I would then mentally label myself as a failure.

Why Do I Emotionally Eat? Ask Yourself This Question To Discover Why! San Jose Eating Disorder

But truth be told, willpower runs out!

Willpower isn’t like air; willpower is more like a battery that runs out by 12pm!

A lot of people reading this really deeply believe that their willpower failures are evidence they personally are lazy.

Is this you? Email me or comment.

Willpower is much more like my old laptop’s battery.

Here’s a quick story about my old laptop.

I’m sure you remember those old laptops, when the battery would run out every 60 minutes?

I swear, my laptop was even worse.

I would take it fully charged to go study at the library. And then I would I
would sit down and turn on my laptop.

I’d get everything set up but then my computer would start dimming automatically.

Confused, I would remember … My battery only lasted 20 minutes!!!

And the same thing is true with willpower. It only lasts a few hours and then it’s gone!

So imagine being at the library when your computer dies…

Would you then blame yourself?

Would you call yourself lazy, unmotivated, stupid, etc? No! Of course not.

You’d say …


I need a charger!

Okay let’s get into the solution here. The reason I dug into willpower was to really shift your thinking …

Because the true solution, just isn’t sexy as stereo-typically perceived, but I want to change that.

How to have self control with food … from willpower to selfcare

God, selfcare, really?

“I don’t have time for self care!!!”

But here however, is one practical exercise that can help you shift out thinking you don’t have enough time for self care:

Just think real quick …

How much time do you spend binge or emotionally eating?

To be clear, I’m talking any form of binging, including stress eating.

  • eating
  • drinking
  • shopping
  • social media
  • television

Come up with how much time you spend. I’ll wait 🙂

Because the next mentality (or #Enlightenment as I like to say) hopefully will shift you big time.

What if binge behavior was a form of self-care?

What if all the time you spend binge eating, that was your brain and body shutting down from all the willpower you just exerted?

Do you see how your body and brain are FORCING you to binge eat in order to take care of yourself?

All that willpower you keep exerting with giving yourself a break …

It catches up to you.

Some wise person once said this to this effect:

  1. Thoughts lead to feelings,
  2. Feelings to actions,
  3. Actions to habits,
  4. Habits into lifestyle,
  5. Lifestyle into character.

So the way forward into a healthy life is not through willpower. This is a critical part of the entire Intuitive Eating movement.

Because willpower often times leads to a dead battery!

Because there will always be those times when you fail.

There will always be those times when you come home completely exhausted and your willpower battery is dead.

What then?

If you’re relying on willpower, your toast.

But by doing something else entirely …

Something that is fun, something that you want to do, something that is easy …

Finding stress relief techniques that keep your battery full!

Self care is how you have self control with food

You can successfully do 1 tiny behavior. Just one tiny behavior to take care of yourself better.

If you can do 1 self-care strategy, then you can do another. This is how to learn to be relaxed and calm down when stressed.

What does this mean?

You change one lil’ tiny easy behavior at a time.

So it’s progress, not perfection.

Like just take any old random habit. Like water. Say you start drinking water for a week, every morning.

Do this new habit at the same time each day and then make sure you feel good afterwards (even if it’s just a flash of pride).

Instead of beating yourself for not having enough willpower, just be consistent with your new habits.

You’ll find that as you embrace self-care, your binge and out of control behavior goes down.

Let me know how starting a small self care habit goes.

About the Author

Hi there I'm Jared and this website is dedicated to Awareness. Welcome to Eating Enlightenment :)


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