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In Charge or In Control: Which Are You?

By Michelle May, M.D.
Mindful Eating vs Restrictive Eating

Click image to open the full graphic!

In charge. In control.

What do you think when you hear these two phrases?

They seem to mean the same thing, don’t they?

Well, they don’t. In fact, they are very different, and in this post, I’m going to explain why.

A subtle but real difference!

People who are new to Am I Hungry? mindful eating programs are sometimes puzzled when they see the title of the first chapter of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. The title is “In Charge, Not In Control.”

But aren’t they the same? What’s the difference between being “in charge” and being “in control”?

There’s no question that this is a confusing concept. It may be subtle at first, but as you practice mindful eating, the differences will become more obvious and meaningful to you.

While “in charge” and “in control” are often used interchangeably, here’s a closer look at their definitions to help you understand why I want to help you learn to be in charge instead of striving to maintain control:

Control: To exercise restraint; dominate; command; hold in check; curb; regulation; domination… well, you get the picture.

In Charge: a position of leadership or supervision; having responsibility for.

Do you see the difference now?

To me, in control conjures up an image of power (as in willpower) and resistance. When it comes to food, we call this restrictive eating.

The problem is that willpower is a finite resource! You have limited stores of willpower that get used up throughout the day when you go to work, study, parent your children, interact with other flawed humans, and engage in other challenging activities.

If you also require willpower (more accurately, won’t power) to manage your eating decisions, you may find yourself struggling by the end of the day. When your willpower runs out, you’ll probably find yourself feeling out of control! (I probably don’t need to define that for you since we’ve all been there!)

Since being in charge is about leadership and responsibility, it is based on conscious decision-making. There is no predetermined way to respond, so in the present moment, you pause to assess the situation and decide what the most appropriate action is at that time. When it comes to food, we call this mindful eating.

Being in charge is a more flexible approach that makes it possible to eat what you love while keeping your well-being in mind.

Try it for yourself!

The next time you feel like eating, rather than trying to use your control and willpower to follow a list of rules, pause to notice your physical sensations (including hunger), your thoughts, and your feelings without judgment. With this information, you are in charge of choosing what you’ll do next.

For other examples of the differences when you are making decisions using mindful eating and restrictive eating, download this cool graphic: Mindful Eating vs. Restrictive Eating!

It sounds simple, right? I admit it isn’t always easy though! To learn more about how this applies to eating, be sure to get this free download of Chapter 1 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: In Charge, Not In Control. In it, you’ll learn how to use the structure of the Mindful Eating Cycle to guide you through the hundreds of decisions you make about eating every day!

Now that you understand the differences between being in control and being in charge, I hope you’re able to begin using this knowledge to help you become more aware of whether your relationship to food (and perhaps other areas of your life) are about commanding, restraining, and dominating, or about taking responsibility and leadership!

(This article was updated from a previous version.)

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more you might find helpful:

The power of the pause: Body-Mind-Heart scan

Listen to your body: Hunger doesn’t follow a clock

How to deconstruct overeating

 

 

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About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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