For EBONY.com: Erika Nicole Kendall on finding the willpower to rebuke the foods that are destroying your diet
One of the biggest challenges to healthy living, I’ve learned, is developing the ability to say “No.”
It sounds easy enough, right? It feels like everyone around us can easily turn down things they know they shouldn’t have. We ask ourselves, “My friend can say no without flinching; why can’t I?” and, before we know it, we’re filled with a sense of self-loathing, wondering why we can’t get it together like others. Of course I know what it’s like – I’ve been there before and, in some ways, am still there now.
The weird thing about self-control, what we’ve come to know as “will power,” is the belief that everyone is born with the same ability to say no. It’s always propped up as being something like a tool in a dusty drawer somewhere that you have to simply whip out and use.
I can speak from personal experience when I tell you, it ain’t that easy.
When you’re admitting to yourself that you struggle to say “No, I don’t want to eat any more of this food,” you’re not “making excuses” – you’re admitting that something presents a real challenge for you, and that’s okay. In fact, Dr. David A. Kessler, author of the amazing book The End of Overeating, would not only understand you, but agree with you.
When you’ve spent so much of your life saying “yes,” those first few “no”s are difficult and painful, thanks to a term known as “incentive salience.” In the book, it is described as “the desire, activated by cues, for something that predicts reward. It’s a learned association – we learn to want a food or some other substance we once liked. We may not even like that food (though we often do). But it’s the wanting, not the liking, that drives us to do the work necessary to obtain that food.”
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’d realize that we’re not struggling to turn down the broccoli. We’re not struggling to turn down the turnips. It’s usually the sweet stuff – the soda pops, the juices, the comfort foods, the sugary-fatty-salties of the world – that’s got us feeling sad and angry about our ability to say no. It’s usually something that we have some kind of emotional connection to – the memories associated with it make us feel good and draw us to it, or the actual consumption of it serves as some form of stress relief. Either way, consuming it makes us feel better. Those feelings are a part of that cycle – they’re self-reinforcing.
The trick to will power, is… [click here to read more]
Talk to me about your no. What makes it a challenge for you? What has made it easier for you in your journey? What kinds of foods do you find yourself struggling to turn down? Let’s hear it!