Why Willpower Alone Cannot Stop Overeating

Overeating plagues us. Most people think that the solution to overeating is to go on a diet. A diet is just a set of rules. Sadly, there is no diet that is going to be effective for the majority of us because the battle with weight has very little to do with what we eat and more to do with why and how much we eat. Most diets fail because sheer willpower is not enough. Yet, when the diet fails and it inevitably will for various reasons, we tend to beat ourselves up and feel a tremendous amount of shame. The reality is that we have a limited amount of willpower when it comes to addictive substances like food. Often, clients will tell me that they know what to eat and what not to eat. Diets are shoved down our throats wherever we turn at this point, so it is hard to avoid knowing which foods are considered “good” and “bad”. So, if you know what to eat, what stops you over and over? Most people have created behavior patterns with food that are so ingrained, they can eat before they even have a single conscious thought. It is no longer an intellectual decision. There is a disconnect between our intellect or rational thought and emotions. I recently heard an example of an animal like a horse representing our emotions. The horse, much like our emotions, can be unpredictable. Our rational thought is like a rider, who can use skills to guide the horse, but the horse is a powerful animal, much like our emotions. Often our skills become overpowered if the emotion is strong enough. Willpower and diets do not account for the emotional connection we have with food. This is why most diets don’t work and leave us feeling like a failure. By addressing the emotional connection with food instead of focusing on a set of food rules, you can be successful in your battle with overeating.

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Weber State University and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Utah. She has been working in the mental health field since 2001.


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