ATB BB series 14: Will Power & Diets

Anorexia / Bulimia is greatly undermined when described as just an "Eating Disorder". It is not just a person wanting to be thinner because they have some fantasy (for eg: When I am thin, I will be .......), for some people it runs deeper. The outward manifestation is physical perfection or a desire to control an unpredictable external world. Internally it swirls in a pool of unresolved emotions ranging from control, anger to denial. It is a pattern of thinking where eating (or not eating) gets associated with strong emotions. 

Anorexics & Bulimics are not the only people plagued with emotional eating issues. A lot of otherwise healthy people use food as a drug.  A drug to relax, to de-stress, to fill up time with, to enjoy, as a substitute for love and attention. While most of us are able to stick to our eating resolutions when things are flowing smoothly, a stressful event throws us off balance and we revert to our older eating habits - seeking comfort in food. We then lose sight of our health goals & feel even more worse about it. 

While dealing with all the swirling emotions around food cannot be done all in the space of one post, I want to touch upon what I feel is the most common cause of Emotional Eating: Lack of Will Power.

Willpower is a finite resource, a muscle that can only lift so much. Like any other muscle it can be trained to become stronger, but there is only so much it can extend to. After a point it gives in, especially if you are feeling in the dumps. There have been studies done in psychology that illustrate this. 

In one experiment a group of students were made to feel unwanted and bad about themselves. Another group, were made to feel just the opposite i.e. very good about themselves. Each group was shown into a room with a plate of cookies / treats. Needless to say it was found that the group with confidence were able to exercise willpower and eat the cookies in moderation. However, the insecure group, the ‘ego depleted’, gorged and showed very little willpower. 

People who feel bad about themselves or excluded from the social group are less likely to exercise their "will." Attachment to group contributes to our ability to moderate emotions & desires.Thus the more obese a person becomes and the more alienated they feel from society which devalues the obese, the less likely they are able to alter their diet. Especially from carbohydrate-rich additive foods. 
Yup, This is Me!

Serotonin is the "feel-good" hormone. In people who feel bad about themselves, the more serotonin the brain needs to make them feel better. Carbohydrates fuel the production of serotonin, hence the craving for sweet comfort food in those who are feeling low.

So what does this mean for you when you are attempting to change behavior? 
The world that we live in today can be a conflicting mix of mundane routine & chaotic change that can throw a lot of us off base. We feel bored, depressed, sad & look at that cheesecake to cheer us up.
Instead build behaviors that make you feel better without resorting to food. It could be as simple as

  • listening to music
  • catching up friends
  • pursuing your hobbies - reading etc
  • stress management techniques such as meditation. 
One important point is to move your modus operandi from one of lack to one of abundance. I find that this change in mind-set can drive stress down a lot for most of us.

For those of you wondering, I have been following this lifestyle of eating pretty comfortably for the last 1 & 1/2 yrs. I now wear a US size 4 in clothes, down from the 18 I used to wear 18 months ago. This lifestyle change is easy and my advice to you is to channel your own inner motivation to do this. An external motivator will only do so much and you will feel worse when you don't get results. 


  1. Do you also exercise along with the diet ?

    1. A do have a walk a bit thanks to my travel routine. But nothing extraordinary

  2. Whoa you look so pretty ! Where have you been? Missed your blogging <3

    1. Thanks Shalini! I've been hovering online, but I needed a break from beauty blogging. Thanks for missing me! I do plan to post regularly now :)

  3. Hi

    I am a silent reader of your blog since a long time. Missed your posts! Good to have you back...


  4. You look fantastic!!! And I am so glad you are back.. Yours was the first Indian beauty blog that I started reading and I missed it.


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