How many times do you tell yourself, “If only I had more will power, I’d lose weight?” But have you ever thought to question, “Is that really true? Is more will power the key to success?

Most women struggling with weight issues will swear on a stack of bibles that they lack the will power necessary to eat less and get thinner. That’s why the $60B++/yr diet industry machine has become so fat. But before we talk about why will power doesn’t necessarily determine success, let me ask you this question:

Were You Taught that You Could Be Trusted Around Food?

The experiences that you have throughout your life will determine what you think and feel about yourself. Some experiences are direct in that you are the one having them. And other learning experiences come from you watching other people interact around you.

  • Have you been raised to think of yourself as powerless around food?
  • Did the adults in your life dictate what you could and couldn’t eat. 
  • Were you put on a diet at an early age and discovered that it’s not easy to try to stay away from foods you love?
  • Did you find yourself sneaking that extra cookie, or slice of cake when you thought nobody was looking?
  • Did you have an Aunt Tillie or someone else in your fam who was obese and the butt of everyone’s joke?
  • Were mealtimes more like surviving on a battleground, competing to see who could get the most food and eat it the fastest?

If you can relate to some or any of these examples, when you think about those kinds of experiences, they might make you feel  shameful, embarrassed, guilty, or angry and generate a lot of stress in your body.

Having this mixed bag of emotions surrounding these memories creates mixed associations around food and negative feelings about your body.

Perhaps you find yourself eating out of stress to ease those uncomfortable feelings.

My Experience of Learning How to Nurture Myself to Re-balance my Rocky Relationship with Food

From the time I was 11 years old, my relationship with food became twisted and confused. I had learned how to use it to pacify my emotions and make the pain go away. Many experiences of being caught in lies and “cheating” on my diet to support my junk food habit, made it clear to me that I was bad and I lacked will power and self-control. To fix the problem, and be “good”, I just had to fight my desire to eat the food. I had to get tougher, pull myself up by the bootstraps and treat myself like a naughty child who was always in need of discipline.

By the time I was a teenager, I learned to motivate myself by trash-talking my body and taking the tone of a drill sargeant, reminding myself that I was already as fat as a house and if I ate that ice cream, I would only get fatter.

In my 20’s, I thought that I was outsmarting myself when I made the decision to stop buying the kinds of foods that had that hypnotic food frenzy effect on me. Sometimes it worked. Other times it failed miserably and I found my spoon hitting the bottom of yet another Ben & Jerry’s container of Mint Oreo Cookie ice cream.

Then after over 20 years of crazed dieting, I learned that it wasn’t the food that was the problem, it was the way that I had learned how to talk to myself. I learned that having will power doesn’t necessarily ensure success.

Will Power: Short Term Motivation

In her book, Adventures In EFT, author Sylvia Hartmann talks about the role of will power in relationship to goal setting. She explains that will power is only meant to function on a short term basis, such as a mother running to rescue her child from danger. An adrenal rush would give the mother the strength to lift up a car to free the child, but if that amount of energy were required to be sustained for any length of time, it would be impossible. It’s the same with will power for sticking to a weight control plan and motivating you to do something a part of you feels resistant to do.

Hartmann says, “for almost everyone in every society, having a “lot of willpower” to run roughshod over one’s personal inclinations, emotions, intuitions, fears and insecurities is some kind of perverse badge of honor.”

It’s easy to talk yourself into something and use tricks and mental rewards to reach a short term goal like hurling yourself out of bed in the morning, but that kind of grin ‘n bear it, “I don’t really want to do it”, mental-push energy demand can’t be endured for long. If you want to get up and out of bed easily and effortlessly, you have to be excited about getting to where you need to go. You have to have something to look forward to, a goal that makes it easy to get up. In order to create change without resistance, it’s necessary to create a sense of flow and ease.

This is why most diets don’t work. With all the restriction and don’ts, you end up feeling like a prisoner, always wanting what you can’t have. It’s a constant fight and struggle to maintain your will power to stay away from fattening foods. But if you learned that you could trust yourself, listen to your body, feel safe surrounded by the foods you love and know that you won’t necessarily overeat, your relationship with food and your body would be based on a foundation of love and trust.

How Do You Want Your Motivation To Be Served Up?

Let me ask you– What makes you feel better about yourself? Do you prefer to get your slice of motivation by someone who barks at you and talks down to you or do you feel more inclined to believe in yourself when someone you love speaks to you with tenderness and respect?

Now imagine how things would start to change if you started speaking to yourself in that same gentle and caring way? Wouldn’t that degree of support make you feel unstoppable? It sure does it for me.

I’ve got to tell you. By making the choice to transform my nasty inner critic’s grinding, whiny voice and change it to my Nana’s softspoken, gentle voice, I am able to be so much nicer to myself than I’ve ever been.

Who do you know, either alive or deceased whose voice could inspire the best in you? Give it some thought and see what comes up. Then leave a comment and share your story.