Does this sound familiar? You decide you’re fed up with your weight and today is the day you’re going to finally do something about it.
You get on Amazon and you order all the books or products from the diet of the moment. You go to the store; you purchase every green vegetable you can see and a three-month supply of chicken breasts. You are super excited about doing this for real this time.
Things are going really well for a couple of weeks. You’re super motivated and doing everything right. You laugh in the face of temptation. You’re killing it.
And then week three hits and you wake up and think about eating eggs and salad and chicken again and you feel like screaming. This food that once excited and motivated you is now going to be the death of you. Pretty soon, you’re ordering pizza and you’re swearing that this was never going to work anyway, and you don’t even care.
Do you eat your feelings?
Now, some people don’t eat food when they feel feelings. They just feel them. And maybe they pout, or cry, or yell or go for a run. This article is not for them.
This article is for those of you who eat when you feel feelings.
You eat to escape or avoid feelings. If you eat when you feel feelings, the food you typically reach for is probably not broccoli. We feel bored and frustrated with our “diet food” and we eat the pizza that we think is going to solve it for us.
But what comes after that pizza eating? When we’re working toward the goal of losing weight it is often thoughts like, “I can never stick to anything.”
It’s not the pizza that signals our doom. It’s the quitting that follows.
Why do we quit?
What’s happening in this situation and what we can do when we find ourselves headed for the temporary relief of quitting? What changed to drive us to want the pizza instead of eggs, salad and chicken? It’s the same food you’ve been eating, just a different day.
It wasn’t the food that went from exciting to boring overnight. It isn’t that some foods are just boring, and some foods are exciting. The pizza you think is exciting food to someone else might be basic, disgusting, or even sickening.
It isn’t even that eating the same thing for a number of days in a row is boring. My son ate Eggo waffles every single day for breakfast for an entire year, and he loved every minute of it. He was so excited for breakfast every day.
What changed is your THOUGHTS about the food. And with those changing thoughts, your FEELINGS about the food changed.
Your thoughts create motivation or frustration
At first, you were thinking things like: “I can do this,” “This is what my body needs,” or “I love how I feel when I eat this food.” Because you were thinking those things, you felt motivated and determined.
I find with many of my clients that, as time goes on, those thoughts change. You start thinking things like: “This is hard,” “This sucks,” or “I wish I could eat whatever I want.” Those thoughts create feelings like frustration and discouragement.
When you are feeling motivated, what do you do? What do you eat?
Now, I want you to think about when you’re feeling frustrated and discouraged. What do you do then? What do you eat?
When I’m feeling motivated, I eat food that fuels me and it’s an easy choice. When I’m feeling frustrated and discouraged, I want sugar, soda, and spoonfuls of peanut butter. Those are the foods that give me a dopamine hit and a little lift. I get some relief for a minute.
But food doesn’t fix or create feelings.
The truth about motivation and willpower
Food doesn’t create motivation and it’s not something that can be happened upon and then lost. We have to create the feeling of motivation on purpose with our thinking. We choose motivation.
When we feel like quitting it often has to do with our willpower. Willpower is just us resisting our desire for things. There’s a reason people often refer to willpower as “white-knuckling it.”
It is fighting an urge or want. It’s pushing against what we want, but “can’t” have. That’s why willpower is a limited resource. Willpower runs out because it’s exhausting to push, fight and resist.
And once the willpower runs out, you’re left with all those feelings of desire you’ve been resisting.
Imagine that desire is like an intruder getting into your room. You’re holding the door shut with all your might as they try to push their way in. You can hold them off, but not forever.
We spend a lot of our time trying to resist and wish away our desire, not realizing that desire is not a dangerous intruder on the other side of the door, but really, more like a toddler, desperately wanting our attention so it can move along.
Desire is a feeling created by our own thinking. It’s not the brownies or Dr. Pepper or donuts creating desire. Desire is not something to fear or fight against and it’s not something we have to act on or do anything about. You can desire brownies and not eat one. You can desire Coke and not drink it.
You choose what to believe
When we believe the discomfort is coming from the food or the diet program, the only option for relief that we see is quitting. Quitting means relief from having to resist desire.
But it isn’t the quitting that creates the relief. It’s the change in our thinking.
We don’t need relief if we aren’t resisting and piling on guilt with our thoughts in the first place. We don’t need a break if we aren’t believing that we can’t, shouldn’t, and aren’t supposed to.
When you believe YOU are always choosing — every moment, every bite — you get to feel the truth. You have the power!
What are you believing when you feel motivated?
How can you create that for yourself on purpose?
What are you believing about what you can and can’t eat and why?
What is believing that creating for you?
Where do you notice you are fighting (using willpower), instead of allowing the desire to be there and just not do anything about it?
Why are you choosing the fight?
How is it harder to keep quitting and starting over than to keep going?
If you’re going to be uncomfortable, which version do you want to choose for yourself?
If you are ready to start your permanent weight loss journey, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.