Willpower –  (Code for “You still aren’t good enough.”)

“Willpower” isn’t a word I ever use.

If there is one word that I would like to abolish in the diet/weight loss industry, it’s the notion of “willpower.” Why is good health always tied together with this word? The word is thrown about like either we have it or we don’t. It’s an all or nothing term. It’s used to shame ourselves and others. When did shaming someone ever lead to their ultimate happiness and positive self-esteem?

Most people who struggle with weight have loads of willpower. We get up, take care of our families, have jobs, care for others, volunteer, pay our bills. We’re very responsible and really, we are just like everyone else.

No one is born wanting a weight problem.

Okay, so if I don’t like the word “willpower” should I use other words or terms? Self Discipline, Tenacity, Determination, Resolve, Commitment, Dedication?

I know people who are thin and struggle with food the way I know people who are obese who struggle with food. Self-loathing has no size. Neither does self-judgement. Or the judgement of others. Or Control issues. Or depression, perfectionism, shame, and a host of other difficulties.

A huge portion of us have been “shamed” into believing that somehow if we had enough “willpower” we could be thin, even though there is a wealth of information that says otherwise, including but not limited to hormones, genetics, family history, personal history, cultural bias and the failure rates of all diets.

Many people consistently lose weight. If they don’t maintain the loss, is it even accurate to suggest that willpower played a role?

Diets are born from the unwritten beliefs that some of us should suffer, never eat certain items, never feel a happy relationship to food in order to be disciplined and thin. It makes zero sense to believe that one should never eat anything with sugar or fat or tasty or enjoyable again? (Or that we should feel orgasmic when eating vegetables to show that we are the superior disciplined person.)

Please don’t think I’m suggesting that we should all give up and not care about our health, I’m not. But I am suggesting that health is a layered complicated situation in life that goes beyond the size of our stomachs. And reducing anyone to telling them to get some more willpower is well…unhelpful.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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