I had a great question on Friday from Dr. Norma Harris, a long-time friend and MBSR Teacher. (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)
“So what’s the difference between Willpower and Choice?”
The AIM Eating response would go something like this:
When there’s something you WANT to have or do — eating a cookie, for example — and it conflicts with what you think you SHOULD DO, but you resist and don’t do it even in the face of great longing or desire, that’s WILLPOWER. Yes, it seems noble, but it takes effort, it feels hard, it causes stress, and when it occurs many times a day, day after day, it gets more and more difficult. Sometimes, it even feels coercive and we may feel resentful — “shoulds” have a way of doing that!
On the other hand, when there’s something you WANT, and you PAUSE, reflect on HOW MUCH you want it, WHY you want it (are you hungry, for instance, or maybe you’re anxious about something), and on HOW YOU’LL FEEL LATER (both physically and emotionally), that desire often grows weaker and may disappear altogether.
When you ask yourself again if you really want it, the answer may actually be no. When you don’t do it then, it’s CHOICE. Sometimes the desire doesn’t weaken, and in that case, it’s OK to CHOOSE to eat the cookie — with full enjoyment and without guilt (more about that another time). Either way, CHOICE feels good, it feels powerful, and it feels validating. That’s because the motivation is entirely from within and free of guilt. And, perhaps best of all, THE POWER TO CHOOSE GROWS STRONGER WITH PRACTICE. Over time, our choices begin to match our our Physical Needs more and more closely. Along the way, our weight gets closer and closer to our natural, genetic setpoint. That’s Attunement, and it feels great!