“I have no willpower around carbs.”
“It’s sweets! I absolutely cannot have them in the house!”
“I was good all week and then I ruined it all this weekend at a friend’s birthday party.”
I hear these things all the time when I’m talking to new clients.
People (naturally) assume that their overeating is the result of some combination of irresistible food and a chronic lack of willpower on their part.
But the truth is that there’s so much more going on under the surface.
Here are five reasons (that have nothing to do with willpower) that are much more likely at the root of your unhealthy patterns with food:
You’re using food to manage feelings
Boredom, loneliness, hurt, anger. Food is always there to make you feel better, right?
I often say that we’re trying to put a food-shaped peg into a feeling-shaped hole.
It doesn’t really work so we keep eating and eating but never really scratching that itch.
You’ve developed habits
Your brain naturally forms new neural pathways around any behavior you repeat often enough. This is how habits are formed.
When you’ve spent most of your life eating certain amounts at certain times with certain people while doing certain things, these patterns become habits.
Those habits cause you to eat – not because your body needs fuel – but because this is just what you’ve always done.
You’re under too much stress
When we’re under chronic stress OR when we’re just not properly processing the stress in our lives, our body produces a ton of cortisol (your body’s main stress hormone). Cortisol increases appetite and leads directly to overeating.
You’re eating mindlessly
If you’re multitasking (not paying attention while eating), your brain will have a hard time catching the subtle signals your body is sending about when it’s satisfied.
This almost always leads to overeating because it’s not until you’ve either eaten everything on the plate, or you’re uncomfortably full, that you stop.
You’ve been dieting
Dieting doesn’t do a great job of keeping weight off long-term, but it does do one thing really well; dieting trains you to stop listening to your body!
Ignore your hunger! Ignore your cravings! That’s what dieting teaches us.
But, when we get good at ignoring our body, we also lose the ability to know when we’re truly hungry, satisfied or full which leads directly to overeating.
Any of those sound familiar?
This is why people joke that I’m “the Nutritionist who never talks about food.” LOL
It’s why, in my popular 8-week Change Your Brain – Change Your Body program I don’t say a word about carbs, protein, calories or (ugh) willpower! Rather, we go deeper under the surface and start exploring (and rewiring) the real reasons we’re overeating and turning to food.
Because it’s not about the food…not really.
It’s about all the other stuff. The feelings, the stress, the habits, the mindless eating, the hormones, and the fact that, after decades of dieting, we’ve forgotten how to actually listen to what our bodies really need.
The less you can worry about willpower, and the more you can start looking a little deeper into your relationship with food, the faster you’ll start seeing real, long-lasting shifts.