In our culture, we celebrate success. And success means doing whatever it takes to get results.
So, we celebrate people who push themselves, who constantly strive to achieve, who work hard to beat their competitors. We celebrate people who work around the clock, who don’t sleep, who force themselves to keep going. We celebrate people who seem to have a never-ending supply of willpower and who consistently use it.
In fact, all of us — not just the ultra-successful — have become so accustomed to using willpower to get things done that we hardly even notice we’re doing it. It’s just a way of life.
The problem with pushing yourself and using willpower to accomplish anything is that it creates resistance. And resistance must be neutralized. As Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states, “What goes up must come down.” If you work really hard, you have to relax. If you stay up all night, you have to sleep. If you go all day without food, eventually you have to eat.
Resistance is not a feel-good state. So when you feel resistant, you do things to counterbalance it, to make yourself feel better. And this is exactly why dieting doesn’t work: dieting is all about resistance.
You resist eating. You resist certain foods. You resist your body. You have to eliminate, to lose, to quit. You say things like, “I have to,” “I need to,” or “I should.” You must do everything all at once and in a very short amount of time. All of this puts tremendous pressure on you and makes you feel intensely resistant.
The resistance dieting creates feels terrible, but we keep doing it because we’re so conditioned to believe that any kind of success involves pain and that we need to be able to “take it.”
But because dieting creates such massive resistance, it’s the very thing you don’t want to do if you’re trying to lose weight. When you feel resistant, what you’ve trained yourself to do to make yourself feel better is eat. So the way you’re trying to solve your problem is just creating more of the problem.
And when you go on a diet and “fail,” you don’t see that the approach is the problem, because this is the way we always solve problems: by gutting it out and fighting our way to success. So when a diet doesn’t work, it’s not because of the diet — it’s because of you. You didn’t have enough willpower to stick with it, and you are the failure.
Then it becomes a vicious cycle. You go on a diet. Dieting makes you miserable. You eat to make yourself feel better. You fail. You eat because you feel like a failure. And you start all over again.
Repeating this cycle is destructive because every time you do it, your confidence erodes. When you do this for years at a time, your self-esteem ultimately dwindles to the point that you feel like you can’t accomplish anything if you can’t even lose weight. And once you start latching on to the idea that losing weight is next to impossible, it’s hard to accept that extreme measures like throwing everything out of your kitchen and not eating for a week aren’t what you should do.
The right approach is this: feel relaxed instead of resistant. Be kind to yourself instead of critical of yourself. Appreciate the body you have instead of trying to beat it into the one you want. Learn to enjoy eating instead of using food to make yourself feel better.
It seems counterintuitive to relax when you’re trying to achieve a goal. After all, if you’ve given it everything you’ve got all these years and still haven’t achieved it, why would you be successful now when you aren’t even trying?
In the simplest terms, taking the pressure off yourself and being relaxed just feels good. And when you feel good, you are capable of seeing more clearly, making better decisions, and finding creative solutions than you are when you are stressed and unhappy.
The truth is that we create more problems than we solve by introducing so much resistance. You don’t “need” to do anything, and you don’t “have” to do anything. The only thing you should do is allow yourself to feel hopeful and excited, because your goal is so much easier to achieve than you think it is.
And that’s the point. Once you make it easy to achieve, you will.