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Willpower And Food

By Sumitra Judith Burton.  Something sweet is happening along my path of mindfulness with eating.

Using the Living Inquiries or other tools to help unravel an addiction with food is tricky in the sense that it’s not possible to totally abstain from eating. My relationship with food and eating for emotional comfort has provided some great teachings over my lifetime. I would do well using willpower for a while with a new diet, with the new intentions and restrictions, and then somewhere along the line I would give up as it became impossible to stay restricted over the long haul. Many times I lost weight, and then later gained it all back.

Recently I was noticing this failure of mine to use willpower to manage my eating. With willpower I can feel a contraction in my gut as I steel my will to power through with something, to force compliance of this naughty and weak self that can’t seem to accomplish the simplest things sometimes.

What came to me then is so lovely – an intention to investigate using, instead of willpower, a sense of “willingness” – to simply ask myself with respect and compassion, “What am I willing to do in this moment?”

I am truly amazed at the difference I feel, talking to myself in this kind and gentle way, opening to sweet possibilities. Willingness offers choices in each moment rather than the strict adherence to certain rules. Each moment brings new possibilities.

I’m noticing a willingness to consider things like, “How will I feel in half an hour if I eat this?” and wanting to feel light and strong. There is a sense of spaciousness with willingness that seems missing with willpower. Instead of holding myself stiffly within set boundaries, there is open space in which to create a new and gentler pathway.

In this way, “will” is still being engaged, but in a much gentler and more respectful way, which allows speaking to myself with loving kindness, such as when I slip and overeat, “It’s okay – no problem. Perfection is not required….” With “willingness” there is room to breathe, and smile.

The Living Inquiries process is allowing me to feel kindness towards myself, to quiet the judgmental thinking. It may take a bit longer to dissolve the compulsive behavior – using willingness rather than willpower – as there are many thought patterns, emotions and sensations to inquire into; but in the long run I am hopeful the results will be lasting.

In the meantime, the process itself is heartening, as I gradually learn to love myself.

2 comments

  1. Domenica says:

    Wonderful ! Sumitra… Slowing it down enough to ask the question, this is a powerful practice. Such a loving and gentle way, compassion for the whole being. Something that I will be mindful of, to ask myself.

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