One of the most toxic myths in the world of health (and indeed self-help) is that of the wonder of willpower. We have put it on a pedestal, given it superhero status and pray at its altar every time we want to make any significant change.
If you are using willpower to fight a losing battle with your sugar cravings, then read on. I am about to take that willpower off its pedestal and replace it with a mental tool that is far more helpful.
The problem with willpower is that it is chronically overused. It is the only resource most people call upon when they want to avoid their sugar fix (or start running, or learn the piano etc etc). Its mechanism is one of overpowering one part of the conscious mind with another. The hope here is that the overpowering part is stronger and more persistent than the part being conquered.
This is not true. The reason that sugar cravings feel so overpowering is that we ourselves have created neural pathways in our brains that order us to give in to the craving. Pathways which are incredibly powerful. But here’s the thing: We create these neural pathways through nothing more complicated than repetition.
Every time you respond to an external stimulus in a particular way, your brain (which is constantly looking for shortcuts) says ‘Oh, this must be the right thing to do’. Your brain does not care that your cravings drive you to binge eat, lower your self esteem and make you miserable. It just assumes what you do again and again must be good for you. Being a shortcut machine, it doesn’t want to have to work out what to do each time the cravings invade your head.
Beyond the temporary inspirational high of the new regime (when we are fuelled by fantasies stuffed full of a perfect future us), conscious willpower is no match for this inbuilt shortcut-loving mechanism we all possess.
So what can we replace willpower with?
The answer might surprise you.
Here it is: you find any means possible to persuade yourself to start taking a different action instead of giving in to the craving. Then you rinse and repeat. You distract, divert, and fool your cravings. Then your rinse and repeat. You tell them “Just five minutes”. Then you rinse and repeat. You feed them alternatives that satisfy that need for sweetness while giving your mind something else to think about.
These strategies, which I created and call Cravings Busters, work because unlike genuine physiological needs like thirst, all cravings will pass even if you don’t give in to them. By repeating a different action every time you get a sugar craving, eventually your brain will learn that this is the new shortcut. It becomes the automatic response. It becomes easy to do the right thing.
Curious. Playful. Innovative.
If you would like to try out two Cravings Busters, go to http://www.theshiftinside.com/whatif/ to access two instructional videos. Harriet Morris is a coach, Amazon author and video blogger. She can help you sit down for peace talks with their inner sabotage self, whilst tying its shoelaces under the table! It is about getting curious, not critical, about your eating issues. We shelve perfectionism in favour of real-world empowerment through practical strategies. Harriet spent nearly 3 decades as a food rebel, until her 40th birthday, when she decided to reclaim her life. She shed weight and dismantled her compulsive eating & sugar addiction using the power of her mind and positively channelling her (previously out-of-control) emotions. Unexpected bonuses: more energy & motivation, 80% less moodiness & virtually non-existant PMT.