Deep thoughts on will power.

It’s bagel day!  I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to bike, as it looked like it was threatening rain.  However, we went anyway.  Here is my bike all locked up at the bagel place.

In the past, we didn’t really lock up our bikes at this place very often, but now I am so paranoid after mine got stolen that I want to lock it up in our garage!  Of course, we all know the lock didn’t stop the thieves before….

Anyhoo, I had a sunflower bagel.  So good!  I love bagels with nuts and seeds and things in (and on) them.

We were actually having an interesting discussion today at breakfast about losing weight and will power.  Did any of you catch that show on the other night on ABC about the brain stimulator for weight loss?

In a nutshell, it is a procedure for people who are obese and have failed at all other attempts at weight loss, including gastric bypass surgery.  The woman on the show had the stimulator implanted and it followed her progress over the course of a year while they tried to control her appetite and fullness sensations.  She said that all her cravings were gone and she did not obsess about food anymore.  However, she did not lose any weight in a  year.  What I found most interesting is that she went into a metabolism study chamber for a week and during that time, lost 10 pounds.  Was this because she was taken out of her food environment and was unable to snack and such as before?

So many people say “Just stop eating so much” when talking to obese people.  It’s not really just a matter of stopping eating.  The more and more I ponder upon this, I feel like it is the body/brain actually pushing us to eat, even when we aren’t hungry.   (I think this is a totally different thing than the emotional eater who is trying to bury some past trauma.)  The results of this are just manifesting now in society because of the easy availability of food, and poor nutritious quality food at that.  It’s not a normal thing, more like an illness or disease process – and certainly not always mental or just being lazy.

And yet, it can be conquered without heroics or medical intervention.  If I take myself for example – I struggled for so long with weight and just couldn’t keep it off, and now  I have lost and kept off over 100 pounds for 2 years.

There are still those days where I feel driven to eat – absolutely driven, even if I am not hungry.  It’s not really emotional, either.  The thoughts pop up while I am working, or watching TV, or while biking.  That’s just not what genetically ‘normal weight’ people are like.  It takes an enormous amount of control to not chow my way through a box of cereal or use a spoon in the nut butter jar.  Sometimes I give in.    I wonder why is it that I have control over this impulse (at least for now) that not a lot of people have.   And how long will I have it?  Will it just get to be too tiring after a while, like it does for the majority of people who lose weight?  The vigilance can really be tiring at times as it is 24/7/365.

(BTW – I am not asking these questions as an egotistical way for you to say “Yes, you can do it.”  Just bringing myself up for example.)

When I hurt my back and was on the Vicodin and Flexeril, I had no appetite and absolutely no desire for food.  Something about those medications squashed whatever portion of my brain it is that drives me to eat.  As soon as I went off of those and back to plain old ibuprofen, my appetite came back.  If there was a pill or something to take to make that feeling go away, I wonder if I would take it.

If you have a chance to sit and watch the whole show, all the video clips are on this site.  There is another interesting story of a sleep eater as well.  That has to be even worse, I think.

You know, I think I am going to just let you all chew on this instead of posting more eats  for the day LOL!

Question:  What are your thoughts on will power, and is it different for morbidly obese people?

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20 thoughts on “Deep thoughts on will power.

  1. Lisa

    I think will power is part of it. I changed my way of looking at food and had to ask myself “Do I REALLY want to eat that?” The answer was usually “No.” So I didn’t. Relearning how to eat healthy changed my life. I learned serving sizes and portion control and eating whole foods instead of junk.

    On the flip side…After I lost 110 pounds on my own, I gained 15 back because of medication I was taking. 15 pounds in 10 months. I had not changed my exercise or eating habits. It was 100% the medication–and as soon as I stopped, I started losing weight. I’m about 4 pounds away from goal and it really opened my eyes to the concept of “other factors” like medications and how they change chemistry.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..It’s Time for Cycling Season! =-.

  2. John

    Part of it’s willpower for sure. I found for myself though it wasn’t and still isn’t as simple as saying “I won’t have this”. I had to mentally work at building myself up to this before it took hold. I also had to work on the nutrition and exercise. Even now 8+ months later I’m like you with some days just being unable to control my need to eat. Even when I’ve already blown over my calories for the day and know I shouldn’t eat anything I still have days where I barely or can’t stop eating!

  3. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    Very interesting observations. I do think there’s a physical or metabolic switch for some of us that either pushes us to eat when we’re not hungry or sends some sort of false signal of hunger to our brains. I used to worry that I’d never be a “normal” eater, but something I’ve noticed is that some of the people I consider “normal” eaters actually do overeat from time to time or they’ll remark about being particularly hungry all day. They either roll with it or find a distraction, and they go back to their normal way of eating. Kind of like I’m doing (and you’re doing). So this may be as close to normal as we’re going to get. 🙂
    .-= Cammy@TippyToeDiet´s last blog ..7 Quick and Easy Ways to Shed Weight–Instantly =-.

  4. Pubsgal

    Okay. I’m going to write too much now.

    Dang. There goes one thought I had when listening to the book “The End of Overeating” by Dr. David Kessler. I thought that if the proper parts of the brain could be turned off, that would do the trick. I guess there still needs to be some retraining about how to eat, whether one has the desire for food or not.

    That book made me wonder about willpower also. I think there are so many other factors involved. I never would have considered myself a person with a lot of willpower, at least when it came to food. As I listened to all the scientific research about how highly palatable food conditions the brain, I couldn’t help but keep wondering: yes, but how did *I* break that conditioning? What made it work this time? I think in my case, disease (type 2 diabetes) was driving the overweight, along with mental conditioning. So maybe diagnosis provided the mental shock needed to switch my brain somehow. I think there’s some truth to his assertion that having a non-negotiable stance and being mindful of the more dire negative consequences can really help with the “food detox” period. In my mind, treating the disease was non-negotiable: I *had* following a food plan developed with a nutritionist and “retrain” myself to eat properly. A prescribed amount of exercise was Dr.’s (and diabetes educator) orders; they emphasized (and I was able to see through testing) that it’s as important a factor as medicine. Metformin helps bridge the gap between what I can control though diet and exercise and the way my body is “broken”.

    Even so, I know what you mean. Some days I get the urge to go bonkers on food that I know won’t spike my blood sugar, like nuts, and it’s hard to control. Other days, not so much. Sometimes it’s because I’ve had more exercise…I suspect that sometimes it’s stress…sometimes, it’s just because. Then there’s other times, when I’m not hungry and keep eating, like if I haven’t had a lot of vegetables that day and I feel compelled to them, because they’re good for me. Or if I know it’s going to be a long time until my next available food. And then there are other times, when I feel hunger pangs, and my blood glucose levels are high enough to let me know that no, I don’t need food – what’s up with that?!?!

    I think that once we find a way of eating that works for us and “train” in it until it becomes automatic, we can experiment a bit with tweaks to the structure. We can have a bit of chocolate, or a cupcake now and then, without our having a total relapse. But I don’t think we can ever go back to not having some vigilance, at least that’s the message I got from the book and that I get from people I view as successful maintainers, like you & Debby & Lynn.
    .-= Pubsgal´s last blog ..Weekly Update- 9-9-10 whoops- a day late! =-.

  5. roxie

    I think that we (being the obese or formally obese) tend to give naturally thin people credit for having more “willpower” and perceive ourselves as weak. Could it be that the naturally thin don’t experience the same drive for food that we do? Why do they get extra credit for squashing an urge that might not even exist?

    I think that we (those obese or formally obese) wire our brains to crave that unholy trinity of fat/sugar/whatever that Kessler talks about. By rewarding whatever urges drive us, we train and rewire our brains and bodies to crave that combination.

    I primarily used food to calm my anxiety – to numb out and so the urge to eat peaked whenever I was stressed, which was often. And then I never chose to calm myself with carrot sticks and celery, it was always something that was not healthy. Had such foods not been available or been less available, would I have learned another coping mechanism or strategy? Perhaps.

    I’ve now learned some eating strategies – really some life strategies that makes it so that I don’t have to rely on willpower alone. I can control some of the drivers at the source and so I don’t have to completely rely upon my willpower to see me through. There are going to be days when I eat more and days when I eat less and I am hopeful that over time, I will maintain this balance – this, say it with me, lifestyle.
    .-= roxie´s last blog ..No Regrets =-.

  6. Vee

    I’ve been morbidly obese for a long while now, and am on my way back down. There are times that I have willpower, and times that I don’t. I’ve never found a pattern in my eating, even with journals and diaries and so much tracking. When I get upset, sometimes I eat, sometimes I don’t. When I’m happy/overjoyed, sometimes I want to eat and sometimes I don’t.

    I’ve never understood willpower and how people will look at someone huge like me and say “just eat less”. Bite me, people! YOU stop smoking that cigarette! You stop hitting your kid!

    You get the gist.

    Ooops. Sorry. What was the question again?

    Vee at
    .-= Vee´s last blog ..Argh! Im behind! =-.

  7. Shelley B

    It’s hard, no two ways about it. Sometimes I think people use willpower as an excuse to eat – that they don’t have it. No, they just aren’t using it. Shoot, I didn’t use mine for years and years!

    I don’t know, I feel bad for someone who is desperate enough to lose weight to undergo brain surgery.
    .-= Shelley B´s last blog ..Wednesday Workout Update =-.

  8. Ishmael

    Oh boy, a lot of that rings true, especially the observation from one commenter that “normal” people do sometimes overeat or feel hungry all day, but they just roll with it better. I have a cousin who, when we were little, never thought about food. It just wasn’t on her radar at all — even when she got hungry, her mom had to call her in to eat, or remind her to stop playing and eat. Then she ate heartily, but when the plate was clear, she moved right on. I was the one always looking for food, always ready to eat, who always knew when the next meal or snack was coming. As we grew older, she developed a bit of a weight problem once out of high school (she played a ton of sports in high school, but stopped in college). But she never had the kind of weight problem I had. It’s funny, because I think she inherited the family tendency to gain weight easily/quickly, but it didn’t manifest until her lifestyle radically changed. And even then, she only gained a certain amount of weight, probably because she never had the food OCD that I do. So..genetics, yes, they play a huge role, but so do your individual habits.
    .-= Ishmael´s last blog ..Working =-.

  9. Dawn

    For me, the eating more can be triggered by different things. Most of the comments rang true with me too. Sometimes I have a desire to eat from exercising a lot. I know now on Sunday Mike and I both find ourselves wanting to eat more after our long walk. So I think that is a normal reaction, we seem to want carbs too we’ve noticed. But then there’s those times where I’m driven to eat from anxiety like Roxie. At different times I’ve used healthy foods, stuffing grapes or clementines in my face one after another but then of course there are times I just seem to graze on different things trying to ease the anxiety and it will go on for hours. It’s definitely related to emotions usually too. I’ve found myself at work reading blogs and something will hit me and bam I’m in the candy bowl. I’m not sure how to fix myself when it happens but I have noticed it happens less than it use to.

    Thanks so much for posting this. Reading about you and all the commenters made me realize I’m not alone with this and many former obese people have the same issues as I do.

  10. Lynn Haraldson-Bering

    Wow, Lori, that’s like pondering the beginnings of the universe. There are so many possibilities and combination of factors for each individual. I didn’t keep weight off in the past because I hadn’t learned or accepted that the way I eat MUST be different than before. Forever and ever. I credit (and I’m not being funny) my stubbornness for being able to maintain. Tell me that 95 percent of people who lose weight will gain it back and I’ll tell you “Not me.” It’s almost like an obsession for me to keep my weight off. So maybe it takes a bit of obsessiveness to succeed AND, as you have talked about before, being aware 24/7/365 of your food environment, impulses, etc.

    I need to write a blog today, but I think I’ll just send folks over here instead! Great post.

  11. Joanne

    Very interesting, Lori.
    I think even “normal weight” people have those days when they crave foods. It’s the bodies mode of communicating nutritional needs. As for over doing it, there seems to be that “shut off” mechanism that some people have and some don’t.

    In regards to my own experience, when I am doing something that I really enjoy and feel in total control of, I have no appetite. It takes a conscious effort to fuel my body or all of a sudden I’ll think “Oh Wow! You’re hungry!”.
    When I’m at work, a more stressful situation and not always in control, I watch the clock for my next snack time. When’s Lunch!???

    Will power? Brain chemicals? Desire to succeed or be healthy? who knows.
    .-= Joanne´s last blog ..CEimB- Baked Felafel Sandwiches =-.

  12. Leah

    Very interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot along these lines today, especially after reading a post wherein someone listed “reasons why I am fat” and most of them had emotional ties.

    I’ve often wondered how some people get up one day, start a diet program and just start losing the weight. I didn’t do that. I have had to work through all kinds of emotional stuff that I kind of le be my excuse for not caring about my weight.

    Then you were one of the ones who agreed that for some of us the drive to eat, even when we know we’re not hungry, is like a disease and we need to treat it as such. That was a lightbulb moment for me when I realized the desire may never go away, so instead of waiting for that day I need to learn now how to handle the uncontrollable feelings when they arrive.

    First the first time in my life I can understand why some people can’t/won’t quit drinking or doing a certain drug or even living a careless lifestyle with whatever vice they have that they know isn’t the best for them. I don’t ever struggle with wanting a drink or a cigarette, but almost daily I struggle with want to munch when I’m not hungry. I’ve no idea why, because I know thin people who don’t have this problem at all.

    Anyway, this is a bit of a disjointed comment, but you hit a nail on the head for me today. It’s a thought I’ll be pondering to be sure. I guess we all have our “thorns in the flesh” that we battle, and for most of us following your blog it’s weight. I’ll finish by saying that I don’t think major interventions, like the brain surgery thing are the answer. I think learning to deal with our struggles and realizing we’re not alone in them is the best answer. This leads me to other thinking about pills to take away reality, but I’ll stop for today.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this and for getting us thinking.
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..Labor Day =-.

  13. Mabelle @ Eat, Move and Live

    I think you hit the nail right on the head on your statement that: “…it is the body/brain actually pushing us to eat, even when we aren’t hungry.” I have felt like this for many, many years. In the past, I’ve “self-diagnosed” myself as a binge eater and on those moments when I’ve felt I could not stop eating, I feel that it is in fact my brain whom does not allow me to stop…even when the food is not even satisfying.

    I’ve read a lot about this topic and I agree with medical research that is all about brain chemicals that are “off balance” and triggers us to overeat more than the normal person. Sometimes I want to drop everything and just become a food/nutrition scientist that studies all this. 🙂
    .-= Mabelle @ Eat, Move and Live´s last blog ..Thumbs up for Breakfast =-.

  14. Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin

    Wow great topic. I completely agree with you that there is definitely something that triggers obese people to eat and obsess about food, even when they are not hungry. I didn’t even realize until recently that its NOT normal to always be thinking about and obsessing about food. Even after losing 80+ pounds I still am in a cycle where food and eating is constantly on my mind and I don’t know how to overcome it besides to shift my focus towards exercise and healthy food rather than junk!
    .-= Beth @ Beth’s Journey to Thin´s last blog ..Creeper at the Gym =-.

  15. Loretta

    Great post!!! I think it’s harder simply because we use food for so many things when we are obese. We use it to medicate, comfort, supply nutrition etc. It reaches so many of our senses. It takes a greater deal of work, I think for “us” to break those habits because we have had them for so long. (We didn’t get this way in a day).

    I am giving you a blog award, please stop by my blog to pick it up 🙂
    .-= Loretta´s last blog ..Wow- I got a Blog Award =-.

  16. debby

    Oh, that drives me nuts. You write such a good post that I want to think about it, and then I forget to come back and write down my thoughts.

    Well, I think there are some things we can do to decrease the impulse to eat (decrease sugar/fat/salt combos, and processed foods.) And for me, exercising seems to be a signal to my brain that I want to eat well.

  17. Jody - Fit at 52

    Lori, I recorded that show & hope to watch it tonight so I guess I would have had more to say if I had already watched it….

    Like you, I have those days where I just want to eat whether I am hungry or not & I know the difference & practice mindful eating. Not emotional either…. I actually have a post started on tis & started it on a day I just wanted to eat but I was not hungry & had just had a mini meal like 20 minutes previous. I think the whole thing is way more complex than we know or think BUT if we all dig deep for that thing that works for us, then I think we can do it. We are not perfect so there will be times but I say keep trying!!!

    Is your ride this weekend? I wish I had any money to support all the great causes of the bloggers… broker than broke over here… but with you in spirit!!!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Cupcakes- Cookies- Lessons Learned &amp Happy Bday! =-.

  18. Susan

    Sort of on topic is something Brendan Brazier mentioned in his talk last week. He was talking about how so many of us are obese, and yet have the same symptoms as those who are malnourished in impoverished nations. He said that when our body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it creates a chemical response in our brain telling us to eat. So even though I just ate a big plate of nachos, my brain is still telling me to eat a couple hours later because it didn’t get the micronutrients it needs out of the meal. I thought that was really interesting and have since been trying to eat really nutritious foods to see how it affects my hunger levels (which have been kind of out of whack lately).
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..La Dolce Vita =-.

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  20. Meg @LivingInLuling

    Will power is a strange thing to me. For most parts of my life, if I want something, I work and work unil I get it. And usually I make it happen. But with my weight, I wanted to be thin for years and never did anything about it. Now that I’ve work so hard to get here, I have to allow myself an occasional day to eat crap. It can’t possibly be b/c I’m weak. I’ve proven I’m not.
    .-= Meg @LivingInLuling´s last blog ..Whats My NameWinner =-.

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