How To Control Your Eating Without Using Willpower

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Controlling your eating is pretty easy for you, isn’t it? But once or twice a week, you find yourself raiding the pantry, eating from boredom or stress. If you could get control of your eating, you know you’d lose weight, but you just don’t seem to have the willpower. Well, I have good news, because on today’s episode of the Get Your GOAL podcast, I’m sharing exactly how to control your eating without using willpower.

I am a woman who has engaged in all kinds of eating behaviors over the course of my lifetime. From way overeating, to way undereating, to comfort or boredom or stress eating. I’ve done the extreme restriction thing, and I’ve also done the “F it, I’m eating a bag of Cheetos for dinner” thing.

And I’ve come through all of it to land here, in a place where food is now an easy, pleasurable part of my life, with none of the guilt of “diet thinking” holding me back.

This process – the two simple mindset steps that I’m diving into today – is work that I personally have done to go from feeling like I was constantly at the mercy of my unexplainable and uncontrollable eating urges to living a life of total diet freedom.

And the best part? I didn’t use willpower to get here and I don’t have to rely on willpower to stay here, either, because what I have is self trust.

You, my friend, can feel this way about food, too. Listen now to find out how!

Transcript

Controlling your eating is pretty easy for you, isn’t it? Right up until it’s not. But once or twice a week (okay… sometimes more than that), you find yourself raiding the pantry, eating from boredom or looking for comfort or trying to soothe away the stress of the day. If you could get control of your eating, you know you’d lose weight, but you just don’t seem to have the willpower. Well, I have good news, my friend, because on today’s episode, I’m sharing exactly how to control your eating without using willpower. Hello, hello, my ambitious GOALfriend, and welcome to the podcast! Today’s topic is a juicy one, and before we even get into it, I’ll offer a quick reminder that if you feel like you need professional, personal attention for your eating behaviors, I whole-heartedly encourage you to seek it out. This podcast is always intended as general information for a general audience, and I’m a life coach, not a specialist. I am, however, a woman who has engaged in all kinds of eating behaviors over the course of my lifetime. From way overeating, to way undereating, to comfort or boredom or stress eating. I’ve done the extreme restriction thing, and I’ve also done the “F it, I’m eating a bag of Cheetos for dinner” thing. And I’ve come through all of it to land here, in a place where food is now an easy, pleasurable part of my life, with none of the guilt of “diet thinking” holding me back. Most of the things I eat could be considered healthy, but not all of them. About 99% of the time, I eat an amount that feels exactly right inside my body, but every now and again, I still overeat, and once in a very great while, I still undereat. But I literally never second-guess my food choices, and I literally never feel guilty about what I’ve eaten or not eaten. And right now, you might be skeptical that this could even be a thing, that there could possibly be a way to feel this relaxed about food. If you are anything like I used to be, you probably feel a little bit (or maybe a lotta bit) out of control when it comes to eating. You’re making a lot of choices on the fly, based on what you’re hungry for in the moment, and you hate to be tied down to a decision you made three days ago, because what if dinner time rolls around and that isn’t what sounds good anymore? And this is fine, for the most part. Except, you also sometimes find yourself snacking kind of mindlessly in the middle of the afternoon, which leads you to not be as hungry for dinner, so you keep snacking, and then you don’t end up eating a proper meal, which leaves you vaguely unsatisfied, so you have another snack right before bedtime, and then, out of nowhere it seems, you’re hundreds of calories over what you meant to eat. Or you totally have a normal dinner, and you’re actually pretty full, but as soon as you sit down on the couch to watch tv, the chips in the pantry are calling your name. And then, even if you count them out, you’re still past the target you were trying to hit. Or, you’ve been good all day with a nice, sensible breakfast, a well-balanced lunch, and a beautiful dinner that included plenty of protein. But when everybody else in the house goes to bed, you dive into the cookies or the chocolate as though you haven’t eaten in a week. Mostly, on those days, you don’t even track, but you do make some sort of note that it was “bad day” or that you were “way over.” You’ve read dozens of books about changing your habits and you keep telling yourself that you just need to make yourself stop eating when you’ve reached your calorie target for the day. You’ve set reminders on your phone, you’ve tried brushing your teeth right after dinner, you’ve asked your spouse to stop eating snacks in front of you, you’ve tried not having tempting foods in the house at all, and you’ve even started going to bed super early to just avoid the “witching hour.” But you don’t stop eating when you said you would. And you don’t know why. I know why. And this - the two steps that I’m about to describe for you - is work that I personally have done to go from feeling like I was constantly at the mercy of my unexplainable and uncontrollable eating urges to living a life of total diet freedom. And the best part? I didn’t use willpower to get here and I don’t have to rely on willpower to stay here, either, because what I have is self trust. So let’s dig in. Here’s exactly what to do to get control of your eating without using willpower, and by building self trust instead. Step One is to Plan Before, and Step Two is to Understand After. Step One: Plan Before Right now, if you’re planning ahead at all, there’s a really good chance that you’re planning your day or your week unrealistically, telling yourself you’ll totally stay within your calories. You’ll totally eat only the healthiest foods. Oh, and of course it’ll be easy. You won’t struggle at all with your choices, or your portion sizes, or eating when you didn’t mean to. You pack yourself little Ziploc baggies of carrots and apple slices and tell yourself that it’s all going to work out perfectly, and you’ll start losing two pounds a week, and before you know it, you’ll be one of those thin girls who make it look so easy because you are in control. My friend, this is not planning ahead. This is wishful thinking. And I swear I’m not throwing shade! We all do this. I cannot tell you how many Mondays I started my week with so-called “plans” like this, but I assure you that there were many, many, many Thursdays that saw me throwing away the rotting fruits and vegetables that I had quote-unquote planned to eat but didn’t. And the very few weeks that I did follow my plan, it was only through sheer willpower. So, here’s how I broke the cycle of trying to rely on willpower, and instead built up self trust: I slowed down my busy, busy brain and focused on two things – historical data and the likely future. Historical data was easy to find in my calorie tracker. Well, that’s not exactly true. Historical data was recorded in my calorie tracker, but it wasn’t easy to find, because my brain wanted to brush a lot of the numbers aside. “Oh, well, that was just a bad day, that doesn’t count.” Or, “Well, I didn’t track everything that day, so there’s nothing there for me to look at.” It took some serious effort to actually *see* the data, but once I did, I had a much better idea of how to plan the likely future, which is the second area of focus. And, speaking of things my brain didn’t want to look at, the likely future (as opposed to the wishful thinking future) was super hard for me, and might be for you, too. This is why I have an entire Masterclass and workshop, including a fill-in-the-blanks workbook, inside the Get Your GOAL group devoted to teaching just this step of planning ahead. Your brain’s default is to lump and to categorize and to smooth over edges and to throw out outliers. This is why it’s hard to see the data in your tracker, or to plan your likely future, which is to say, to imagine yourself moving step by step through your entire day. That already sounds tedious, doesn’t it? I know! But it’s worth the effort. Truly seeing yourself – what you’ve already done in the recent past, and what you’re likely to do in the somewhat immediate future – builds self trust in a way that willpower will never do. Willpower will always feel tenuous and slippery, but self trust is grounded and unshakeable. When you’re done with Step One: Plan Before, you’ll have a solid foundation and you’ll know exactly what you’re asking yourself to do. No more pie-in-the-sky expectations of perfection, but a lovingly realistic view of how you intend to eat. Which leads us to… Step Two: Understand After My friend, all the planning ahead in the world won’t stop you from sometimes eating out of control. I really want to normalize this for you, so you can move through the guilt and the shame and the judgment faster, because those emotions don’t build self trust. But they do drive behaviors like telling yourself that “tomorrow’s a new day” while you’re desperately stuffing your thoughts and feelings down and trying to pretend like it didn’t happen. Or spending days silently beating yourself up and judging yourself for your behavior. Or drawing conclusions about your morality or your character, and telling yourself that you’re bad or lazy or not good enough or not disciplined enough. Personally, I was a stuffer. I called myself Cleopatra because I was the Queen of Denial. My theory was that things you can’t see won’t hurt you, so close your eyes and don’t look. Overeating… who, me? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have a baggie of carrot sticks and apple slices and I’m a good girl and gosh, I have no idea at all why I can’t lose weight. But, I’ll start again on Monday and I’m sure it’ll all be fine. Asking myself to open my eyes and truly look at my behavior felt impossible. Right up until it didn’t. Because, you want to know something funny? Pretending like something didn’t happen takes willpower, and that shit is almost impossible to keep going forever. So, here’s how I broke through my habit of trying to fool myself, and instead built up my self trust: I learned how my busy, busy brain works and started gently asking myself some very specific, non-judgmental questions. Okay, so check this out. Your behavior is actually never a mystery, and you are never out of control. Every time you “find yourself” behaving in a way you didn’t intend, it’s because you’re avoiding an uncomfortable feeling. Literally, every time. And honestly, when I learned that fact, I had the biggest sigh of relief. Instead of treating myself like a dangerous wild animal who needed to be trapped in a cage and constantly monitored, I could instead see myself like a little bird flying free, who can be observed and understood. And by observed, of course what I mean is that I could whip out my handy dandy journal and gently ask myself, from a place of genuine curiosity instead of judgment, “What exactly was I thinking when I was eating those cookies?” When you first try this tactic, let me give you a little warning, you’re likely to butt up against a big wall of “I don’t know.” This is completely normal, it’s just your brain, still trying to avoid that uncomfortable feeling. That’s why this is one of the topics I coach on so frequently inside the Get Your GOAL membership, where we have several weekly coaching calls. It is not impossible to do this work alone – you can. But also, it’s not as easy as having a certified life coach help you out. Partly because I’m not afraid of any emotion, but mostly because I’ve done this work myself. I know what’s waiting for you on the other side of your extremely temporary but very uncomfortable feelings – freedom. Picture yourself waking up in the morning and knowing – either loosely or specifically – what you’re going to eat today. Imagine yourself not wondering for one second if you’re going to be able to follow through on your intentions, because of course you will. And if you don’t, you know exactly what to do. There’s no food you’re afraid to have in the house. No restaurant you can’t go to. No parties you’re worried about attending. It feels like going to work at a job you love and are extremely good at. It’s not that everything goes smoothly all the time, it’s that you completely trust yourself to figure out anything that comes your way. You, my friend, can feel this way about food. And if you want full access to the video learning with Masterclasses and workshops I talked about here, as well as weekly group coaching with other ambitious menopausal women grappling with the same things you are? Well, then, you belong in the Get Your GOAL group. There’s a link somewhere around this podcast for you to learn more and join us today. Thank you so much for listening – I’ll talk to you again soon!

Listen to the full episode here, and be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

Originally aired July 4, 2024
Controlling your eating is pretty easy for you, isn’t it? But once or twice a week, you find yourself raiding the pantry, eating from boredom or stress. If you could get control of your eating, you know you’d lose weight, but you just don’t seem to have the willpower. Well, I have good news, because on today’s episode of the Get Your GOAL podcast, I’m sharing exactly how to control your eating without using willpower.

Meet Your Host

Mindset expert and certified life coach Pahla B knows a thing or two about changing your mind to change your weight and your life. She’s the creator of The 5-0 Method, Amazon-best selling author of the book “Mind Over Menopause,” and former yo-yo dieter who has cracked the code on lifelong weight maintenance. Join Pahla B each week for the personal insights, transformative mindset shifts, and science-backed body advice that can help you lose all the weight you want and keep it off forever.