Step 2 ~ Be Aware of Diet Mentality Traits and Thinking

FORGET WILLPOWER: Susan Z. Yanovski, M.D. has said, “While no doctor would expect a patient to “will” blood pressure to normal levels, physicians frequently expect their overweight patient to “will” their weight loss by restricting their food”

We’ve all heard it “all you need is will power and little self-control.”

In a 1993 Gallup Poll, the most common obstacle cited to losing weight by women was willpower. Willpower can be defined as an attempt to counter natural desires and replace them with proscriptive rules. It also implies the ability to do unpleasant tasks that are not essential. The desire for sweets is natural, normal, and quite pleasant! Any diet that tells you that you can’t have sweets is going against your natural desire. The diet becomes a set of rigid rules, and these kinds of rules can only trigger rebellion.

WILLPOWER DOES NOT BELONG IN INTUITIVE EATING. As you become an Intuitive Eater, you will found that listening to your personal signals will reinforce your natural instincts, rather than countering them. You will have no one else’s rules to follow or to rebel against.

FORGET BEING OBEDIENT: A well-meaning suggestion by a spouse or significant other such as: “Honey, you should have the broiled chicken…” or “You shouldn’t eat those fries…” can set off your inner child. I refer to this is a the 2-yr-old tantrum. In this type of food combat, your only arsenal to fight back becomes a double order of fries. You’ve most likely experienced this with the “forget-you” attitude attached.


In physics, resistance always occurs as a reaction to force. We see this principle in action in society— riots often erupt when the force of authority becomes too great. Similarly, the simple act of being told what to do (even if it’s something you want to do), can trigger a rebellious chain reaction. Just like “terrible two-year-olds” or teenagers who revolt to prove they are independent, dieters can initiate rebellious eating in response to the act of dieting, with its set of rigid rules. And so, it’s not surprising to hear from our clients that breaking the rules of a diet makes them feel just like they did when they were defiant teens. But take heart, rebellion is a normal act of self-preservation— protecting your space, or personal boundaries. Think of a personal boundary as a tall brick fence surrounding you, with only one gate. Only you can open that gate, if you choose. Therefore, no one is allowed inside, unless you invite the person in. Within your fence reside private feelings, thoughts, and biological signals. People who assume they know what you need and tell you what to do are picking the lock to your gate, or invading your boundaries. Remember, nobody can be the expert of “you.” Only you know your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. No one could possibly know what’s inside, unless you tell him, by inviting him in. (Tribole, Evelyn ; Resch, Elyse (2012-08-07). Intuitive Eating, 3rd Edition (p. 53). St. Martin’s Press. Kindle Edition.)

Who can possibly know when you are hungry or how much food it will take to satisfy you? I surely don’t know this….but YOU do! You are the only one who knows what textures and tastes you desire. Sadly, in the world of dieting, your personal boundaries are crossed at many levels. Every time you start a new diet, you are told what not to eat, what to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it. All of these decisions are personal choices and if we all knew how to respect the individual and their body signals, we’d leave these personal choices to the individual. I do not eat like my husband because I am not my husband. We have different food likes and dislikes, therefore I do not tell him what to eat nor does he tell me what to eat. Sometimes food guidance needs to come from elsewhere as you learn what a truly balanced diet looks like, but you should ultimately be responsible for the when, what, and how much of eating.

Boundaries are invaded when you are told by a diet doctor or a diet plan what not to eat, what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it. When this occurs, it’s normal to feel powerless and the longer you follow the food restrictions, the greater the assault to your autonomy. Eventually the powerless feeling will bring about a major rebellion where you are eating more ~ in an effort to regain your control and to protect your own boundaries. Then, because of the rebellion you begin to feel even more powerless. Now you have an “inner food fight” on your hands. This leads you to believe that you lack control and will power. Finally you start on the seemingly never ending guilt trip of self-doubt and shame. What began as a psychologically healthy endeavor, ends in disaster. A healthy relationship with food and your body has been sabotaged, in an attempt to protect your personal boundaries. The wonderful thing about Intuitive Eating is that there is no need to rebel because you are the one in charge!

Boundary invasion also occurs when someone makes comments about your weight or how you should look. And once again, you will most likely rebel by overeating. It’s a way of once again saying, “forget you”, and “you have no right to tell me what to weigh.” When we are in charge of all the choices, the desire to overeat eventually disappears. We may find that we need to have uncomfortable conversations with those around us so that they can better support our efforts but these conversations are worth having and will ultimately lead you to a place of total control with boundaries that are being respected by those closest to you.

FORGET ABOUT FAILURE: Chronic dieters walk the earth feeling like failures regardless of their standing in society. Chronic dieters talk about their experiences with food with a feeling of shame and they doubt that they will ever be able to feel successful when it comes to food. The dieting mentality that our society holds on to reinforces feelings of success or failure and you CANNOT fail at Intuitive Eating. Why? Because it’s a learning process every step of the way. What you used to believe was a setback will now be seen as progress and then you’ll find it easier to get back on track.

Now is the time to DITCH THE RULES….every dieting rule you know has the potential to sabotage your goal of being an Intuitive Eater….

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