Dieting? Why willpower fails us

Do you start a ‘diet’ with the best intentions but sooner or later give in to the piece of chocolate or the whole bar? Have you ever wondered why your willpower is never enough? Why does willpower ultimately fail us when it comes to dieting?

Is dieting, ‘mind over matter’?

Psychology does tell us it is about ‘mind over matter’. The approach of cognitive behavioural and mindfulness therapies is that if you sort out the mind then everything else follows. For anyone of us who has tried to follow a diet and failed, we must think something is really wrong with our abilities – that we are:

  • weak, not strong
  • flawed, not able
  • somehow incapable of doing what "everyone else" can do

Is it possible that ‘mind over matter’ is not working ... and can never work?

What is missing?

Let’s consider that what is missing here is the part our body plays in informing our thoughts.

Try a simple exercise – as you sit reading this:

  • Close your eyes and think a negative thought about yourself
  • After a few seconds change your position in the chair
  • Relax the way you hold your shoulders

You may notice that it is impossible to hold the thought as you change your position.

You have just experienced that how we are in our bodies actually affects the thoughts we have.

"You are constantly choosing your thoughts by the way you move your body. Change the angle, rhythm or posture and so too, do the thoughts change."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings and Revelations, p 580

Now where does this take us?

For most of our lives we work our bodies pretty hard – school and studying long hours, sports and exercise, career, families and responsibilities. Most lives are stressful and busy. Our bodies reflect this constant drive of stress and activity – sore shoulders, neck and back, a knotted stomach ...

Now pause for a moment and feel whether it is possible that THIS body might prompt different thinking than a body that is relaxed and carefully tended and cherished?

One immediate difference is that choices made ‘just to get by’ will have a very different quality to choices made with attention given to how we are feeling and an intention to treat our body with gentleness and tenderness.

If we can feel the possibility that the state of our physical well-being may affect the way we think, it is then equally possible that if we build a different quality in our bodies we may have different thoughts.


If we are able to have different thoughts we may be able to make better choices for ourselves. Is this the missing link for why willpower fails us?

When we start noticing how our body feels and start treating it more carefully, then our thoughts change – it is no longer a question of willpower with food, but of awareness and connection to our physical body.

How do we make a deeper connection to ourselves and change the way we think?

We expect our body to perform like a top model sports car (or at least the functional family vehicle) and some of us may treat it that way – we put petrol in, we wash it, we drive it, we take it to the repairer if it needs fixing. But something is missing!

We actually inhabit our bodies – we are not machines. The human body actually requires more than calorie input, exercise output ...

If we want change ...

If we want to change the way we think about ourselves and food, we need to change our relationship with our bodies. We need to build a certain quality in the body – not with food, but by our state of being.

One such quality that can support a new way of thinking and being with our body is gentleness.

Where do we start?

  • A first step is to discover what ‘gentleness’ really means. One way of doing this is to try the Gentle Breath Meditation®. This simple technique can bring an awareness of what gentleness feels like to the body and mind and, practiced daily, can give a foundation to everything else that you do. It takes very little time (5 to 15 minutes a day) but has enormous benefits.

  • Another step is to take one thing that you do every day and see if you can do it with gentleness ... like:

    • filling a glass of water
    • making a cup of tea
    • opening and closing doors
    • cleaning your teeth

and being gentle as you do it, then seeing if doing it this way changes how you do it. You may become aware that when you take a seat in your car, at your desk, on the train or on a bus, that this can be done gently.

We don’t change our thinking immediately but we may become more aware of how little regard we have had for what we truly need in our lives.

In the space that gentleness brings there will be a greater quality in our body and this can allow a greater freedom of thought and it will become clear why dieting and willpower have failed us, but ... with gentleness ... dieting can become a willpower free zone.

From there we can ask:

What is missing in our diet?

... A quality of gentleness we can live from day to day, in connection with ourselves.

Filed under

ConnectionBody awarenessGentlenessGentle breathDietsChocolate

  • By Alison Greig, BA LLB(Hons), LLM(Hons, Grad Dip Psych, EPA Recognised

    Alison is a writer, life coach and a passionate advocate for true freedom of expression. Her legal and philosophical interests include regulation of cyber-abuse and cyber-crime, health care, freedom of religion and human rights.