Is Willpower, like the Hokey Pokey, really what it’s all about?

Revelation for the week:

When you eat foods that leave you feeling healthy and satisfied, it takes no willpower at all to avoid foods that will slowly kill you.

Let me explain how I have come to this…

Last night, I was invited out to dinner with a group of friends at a new, local pizza joint.  It was like a landmine… wings drenched in sugar ladden, chemical filled sauces, huge pies of white flour, insulin-spike-inducing crust sprinkled with pounds of cheese and the smallest dashes of actually edible vegetables.  And beer – so much beer.

Three weeks ago, the way I described that food would have been very, very different.  But the above description is what I saw when I looked at that table full of food that all my friends were happily eating last night.  Words matter – especially the words you use to describe your personal experiences and observations. So why have my words changed?

In the past when I have tried to diet, I would have gone to that dinner, vowing to order a salad, I might have even succeeded in doing so, but then one of my friends would have offered me a slice and I would have scarfed it down in 2.5 because my 1200 calorie diet would have me so starved I couldn’t think.  Or I might have ordered 2 slices and told myself, “Tomorrow, I will run 2 extra miles, that will make up for the pizza.”, but then probably been too tired to tack those miles onto my work out.  I might have even declined the invitation and stayed home, which is just as unhealthy as eating the pizza.  Either way, I would have told myself, “You just don’t have the willpower to sit at the table and not eat that pizza or drink that beer.”  (… especially considering I showed a 3 lb weight gain on Friday, in the past I would have used that as a reason to not follow my plan.)

But last night, when I was invited to dinner, I told my friends I would love to join them, but I would not be eating.  I made myself a tasty paleo dinner before I left the house, and sat at the table while they ate their food and I was NOT sad I wasn’t eating the pizza.  I did NOT miss the pizza.  I did NOT feel deprived.  Let me be crystal clear – it took no amount of my willpower to not eat the pizza.

I am not some crazy, super-human.  What has changed are my words.  I know that pizza might taste good on my tongue for the 30 seconds it takes me to chew it, but I also know it will make me feel sick for hours (or even days) later.  I read a post by another paleo eater (somewhere, forgive me I cannot remember who) that said:

I have learned the difference between real food and edible products.

That simple thought is what allows my to walk past the bakery at Whole Foods and not even feel like looking.  It keeps me from wandering down isles in the grocery store where I know there are nothing but shelves of food that I will regret eating.  It is a life altering thought, if you let it be.  But, I am only able to listen to these rational thoughts because, through the Paleo lifestyle, I am working to change the way my body processes Leptin.  It has nothing to do with my willpower.

Will power is always mentioned in conversations about weight loss, like it is something you can master if you just control your environment/ get the offending foods out of your house.  However, even if you follow a low calorie diet, you will still find yourself in social situations like I did and the odds are, if you are eating a diet high in grains and sugar, your body will be screaming hungry and tell you to eat that pizza over and over again.  This isn’t because you are weak or your willpower is flawed; it is because of your hormones.  Hormones will always defeat willpower; the survival of our species depends on it.  I’ve learned a thing or two about grains, lepitin and why your hormones are really in control of your cravings from the Wellness Mama.  Read about this vicious cycle that you are putting yourself through and how to stop it.

Once you calm your hormones, you will be able to think rationally about food.  You will be able to look at food and make choices based on your knowledge of what is good and not based on your body’s complex chemical reactions (that, in my opinion, you don’t have a prayer of controlling.)

If you are thinking of trying the Paleo diet, I recommend reading this post by Nerd Fitness blogger Steve.  A great, easy read that will be able to direct you to even more in depth information if you want it.  This is the original post that got me interested in Paleo over 6 months ago.  Obviously, it took me a while to take the plunge, but it has been well worth it.  Steve’s challenge at the end of the article is to JUST TRY IT, for 30 days.  When you consider all of the other diet plans and gimicks you have probably tried over a lifetime, what do you really have to lose?  At worst, you might have to learn a little more about cooking for yourself and not notice any difference.  At best, you might learn what I learned this week:

When you eat foods that leave you feeling healthy and satisfied, it takes no willpower at all to avoid foods that will slowly kill you.

Do you think you’ll try Paleo?  Are you trying it now?  What has been your experience?

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