Editor’s note: This post by Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program participant Charlene Rayburn is a beautiful description of the meaningful differences between using willpower and trusting your inner wisdom to manage your eating.
When I was dieting, I would rev myself up with determination and willpower to “stay on the plan.” I held the “skinny me” image in my mind as an imaginary muse. Frankly, my muse seemed way too far away to inspire me, and the hype left me exhausted, so my will never lasted for very long.
Today, I simply remind myself to pay attention. I say simply because it really is that simple (though admittedly not always easy).
When I pay attention, my inner wisdom guides me to balanced eating and well-being. It tells me when I need fuel and that a variety of foods help me feel my best.
When I pay attention, I really taste the food I’m eating; in fact, I savor it. Eating is immediately gratifying because I’m more satisfied with the experience of my meal while I’m eating. I feel satisfied afterward the meal because eating was a mindful, pleasurable experience. I feel comfortable and content because I ate the right amount for my body’s needs.
My body also tells me what form of movement will feel good, even luxurious. It guides me to what activities will help me feel better when I’m done exercising than I did when I started. It also tells me how to avoid pushing myself too hard. This inner wisdom rewards me with more stamina, flexibility, and strength.
It’s all about what I say to myself!
The real difference between willpower and inner wisdom is the way I talk to myself.
- I must not eat that. I must resist. I must stay on the plan.
- I must be self-disciplined.
- I must stick to the outlined exercise plan, even if it hurts or leaves me feeling weak.
- I must push through. No pain, no gain.
- Why can’t I do what I said I was going to do?
- What is wrong with me?
- What sounds delicious to eat? What does my body need?
- What would be the most delicious way to move my body today? What does my body need?
- What is one step can I take that will move me closer to my intention for my well-being?
- I choose to be kind to myself. What would be a wonderful way to treat myself to self-care today?
- Knowing that I am intelligent and capable, what do I choose in this moment? Perfection isn’t necessary.
- I trust my inner wisdom. No one else knows me like I do.
Willpower meant trying to make someone else’s “right” choice and self-shaming and self-blaming when I made the “wrong” choice.
Inner wisdom is simply trusting myself to make the right choice for me.
Knowing that we instinctively move away from unpleasant things, and toward things that give us pleasure, it’s easy to see which of my self-talk patterns is more helpful and effective.
This article has been updated from a previous version.
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