Willpower vs. Body Wisdom
I admit it. I am subject to the same tendencies as everyone. Yesterday I ate half a block of goat cheese. Why didn’t I stop when I knew it was enough? Because I didn’t employ my strategy for stopping. Willpower by itself is rarely enough unless you are from India and have been meditating since you were 2. Gandhi and Eknath Easwaren seemed to have more willpower than the average person, but they also had powerful motivation and probably some deeper insight that fed their willpower. For the rest of us, relying on willpower probably won’t work. In order to get control of your eating habits there must be an upstream, in the stream and downstream approach. I call this the Stream strategy.
The upstream part of the strategy is all about preparation. If you stock your kitchen full of healthy foods and learn how to prepare easy and healthy recipes then you are more likely to eat those foods. If you spend time daily doing self awareness exercises like meditation and yoga then you are taking an upstream approach to be able to fend off the demons. Another upstream approach I identify with comes from Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. The less you are stuck in the please, perfect and perform mindset the more likely you will be able to embody a management style that is not command and control. Just like businesses, this style does not work in the long term. Command and control is a lot like using willpower. To summarize, the upstream strategy is all about practicing and preparing. The unique way that will work best for you can be determined with an Ayurvedic consultation, but here are some suggestions:
- Have fresh fruits and veggies available for snacks so you don’t starve and choose foods that don’t serve you.
- Role play different distractions that you can use when you are tempted.
- Remove unhealthy snack foods from your kitchen. If you have them for other people in your house then put a lock on a cabinet that only they have a key to.
- Learn how to prepare simple and delicious veggie centric recipes
- Find the pattern of when you look to the kitchen for emotional support. Maybe it is after work or when you are bored.
- Take time daily to do self awareness exercises so that you can listen to your body.
In the Stream
While willpower is the most common strategy employed, when you are in the stream of eating a meal that will lead to guilt, it can be part of your strategy, but is best if it is not your entire strategy. Many of the in the stream strategies will depend on a commitment to the upstream approaches so that you will have adequate preparation to be able to employ the distractions and realizations that can help shift you out of old habits. Like all of these recommendations it is not a one size fits all scenario, and so the stream strategy that you develop by yourself or with support will be unique to you, but here are some suggestions:
- Slow down when you are eating, chew your food and really focus on the taste.
- Take a few breaths before you start eating to see, smell, touch and listen to your food. A meal that is delicious to all the senses is easy to enjoy.
- Don’t multitask. You can talk with friends, but no music, computer, phone etc.
The downstream approach is all about managing how you feel after you have eaten. For many of us our first response after a meal or a treat is guilt. Choose not to engage with the guilt and develop downstream strategies to let go of the guilt. The guilt arises because we think that we could do better, but we forget that failure is not an outcome, it is a tool. Use your experience to look at your strategy. Do you need more practice with self awareness, do you need healthier snack options, do you need to spend less time with certain friends, and do you need to exercise after work. Augment your strategy so that it works for you. Use your failure as a tool to make positive changes towards your desired outcome, instead of using it to perpetuate a false story about your self-worth. Without it you would not have any objective evidence in order to use to make changes.
The Stream System
If you want help and support in making friends with your body and food, then consider that willpower is not the answer. If you are ready stop the cycle of dieting, deprivation, self-sabotage, guilt, and disappointed, then it is time to develop your unique stream strategy. Develop a strategy if:
- Willpower wears you out and doesn’t control your eating habits
- Self control puts you in a box and doesn’t allow you to enjoy certain foods because of how you will feel after
- Overeating to the point of discomfort leads to guilt and grogginess
- Emotional eating is harming your self-worth
- Trusting your hunger signals is a challenge
- Bloating and poor digestion are a weekly occurrence
- Strict diets have not worked for you in the past.
What You’ll Learn
Ayurveda has many ways that it can encourage your unique stream strategy. Through an Ayurvedic consultation you can learn:
- Strategies for your bodies unique needs
- Ayurvedic tools for a strong and balanced digestion
- Habit change strategies to completely subvert self sabotage
- Easy exercises to help your body relax and enjoy the food in a new way
- Attunement with your body’s intelligence and cues to stop self destructive eating patterns
- Mindful eating principles that reduce binging