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Willpower is unreliable at best

I’m a very visual person. I picture things in my head that illustrate for me something that I want to accomplish or an important concept. It becomes very tangible for me. I use that visual – whatever it is – to help remind me of important principles when I come up against challenges.

So picture this: there are two tables in front of you. One is modest-sized and has lots of fruits and vegetables on it, lean protein sources, some good-for-you convenience foods, healthy fats, whole grains and a few treats. The foods on this table are all here because I put them here. They must meet two important criteria or they get booted.

The foods on my table must be:

  1. healthy
  2. I must absolutely LOVE them, as in, can’t-wait-to-eat-them-super-excited-every-time-they-show-up-on-my-plate kind of love.

That’s it. It’s very simple.

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The other table is HUGE! It looks like a ginormous buffet table from my worst nightmare restaurant (Old Country Buffet? Yeah, that’s a good visual).

On that table is everything else: fatty meats loaded with saturated fat, boatloads of processed foods, grains and grain products that have been stripped of nearly all of their nutritive value, sugary foods (mainly sweets, but lots of products have sugar in them) and most restaurant food.

See why it’s such a big table?

Besides the fact that this is a very powerful visual for me – it clearly defines for me what I eat vs. all possible food choices – it illustrates an incredibly important principle that has guided my body transformation. It’s also how I have maintained my 120-lb weight loss for more than 6 years.

tablesettingI choose which table any given food goes on. I place it there myself. Intentionally.

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tormented me for years. I thought I should be able to control my desire for it. And it’s a bad idea to eliminate foods from your diet entirely, right?

We’re going to talk much more about why I don’t think “moderation” works, but for now let’s go back to the concept of the threshold.

Unhealthy food does not cross my threshold. Remember?

There’s a really important reason for that. It’s because willpower is unreliable at best. It will fail you nearly every time. It may work for a short period of time, but typically it requires a great deal of mental energy NOT to do something that you really, really want to do. In my case, eat Ben & Jerry’s.

So rather than have it in my house and try to moderate my intake, I don’t let it cross my threshold. In my mind, Ben & Jerry’s – and a whole lotta other foods that trigger overeating – are on that other table.

The only way that I came to terms with this idea is to shift my thinking away from a desire to eat Ben & Jerry’s because it tastes so good and toward a greater desire to want to live a long, healthy life. The foods on my table support that goal.

Consciously deciding which foods will make the cut to be on my table is incredibly empowering. I am not a slave to the call of Ben & Jerry’s or Cinnabon or Meat Lover’s Pizza. They simply do not make the cut. They do not meet my (very high) standards of being both healthy and delicious.

You may be surprised to learn that there are lots of healthy foods that don’t make the cut either. There are lots of veggies I don’t eat because I just don’t like them. So what? There are plenty of really healthy things I enjoy eating, so keep your kale. If you like it, it can be on your table (and you can have mine).

Losing weight is hard, but when you realize that you’re in charge, not the food, it gets a whole lot easier. And you’re so worth it!

Let’s go get it!

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