“If you just had more willpower, you would see the results you say you want.”
(Trigger warning: This blog post discusses topics such as diet culture and disordered eating.)
Does this sound familiar? I’m willing to bet that you’ve been told this or told yourself this at some point in your life. It has been the basis of our culture around dieting ever since it began. If nothing else, I want you to know that it is completely untrue.
To make this more clear, let’s first unpack what the word willpower actually means.
Willpower is the ability to control or restrain one’s emotions, impulses, or actions. Sure, this is something we do each and every day to live and be accepted in a fully functioning society. But why is it being used as the backbone of diet culture?
We have been taught for ages that we need to 1. Fix ourselves, and 2. Buy products in order to do so. This culture began and continues on as a way of making money through a method of making us feel negatively toward ourselves. As a $78 billion dollar industry, they are certainly doing what they set out to do.
It is a continuous cycle that is not on the blame of any one individual person, especially not you or your “willpower”. And it is a part of mainstream culture that is difficult to fall out of, but not impossible.
So, how do we get away from this way of life and improve our relationship with our body?
Seek out support. Finding help from qualified health professionals with experience in disordered eating and diet culture is crucial in creating long term change and not feeling alone in the process. This can be anything from a therapist to a nutritionist; ideally, both.
Turn inward. Learning the process of intuitive eating can be slow and emotional. So, let’s start with simple things. Take note of how you feel, both physically and mentally, when you are hungry and when you are full. These feelings look different on everyone and it’s important to get to know yourself and how your body reacts to nourishing yourself. It may seem overly simple, but it is significant starting the process of strengthening the relationship you have with yourself and with food. This creates lifetime change in distancing yourself from diet culture traps.
Remind yourself you deserve nourishment. It can be so easy to be made to feel that you need to eat less, avoid certain foods, and demonize calories with the effect diet culture has on our society. Something that may feel difficult, but is so essential, is to simply remind yourself that you and your body deserves to be fed, to be nourished, to be provided with energy. We should never be made to feel any other way.
Limit harmful exposure. Simply put, we need to take away the sources of our pain. Whether that is discussions with people in your life or accounts on social media, lowering your exposure to misinformation can help you regain your independence from harmful diet culture. Instead, begin to read, listen to, and surround yourself with those supporting sustainable, realistic, and intuitive philosophies around food.
This very topic is why I went into the field of nutrition; to be one less individual promoting harmful practices, and to work toward truly helping people. To gain more insight, please read through my past posts on intuitive and sustainable eating practices.