Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh

17. How do I improve my willpower?

August 08, 2021 Terri Pugh Episode 17
Intuitive Eating & Body Positivity with Terri Pugh
17. How do I improve my willpower?
Show Notes Transcript

How many times have you thought you had no willpower and asked yourself why you can't 'just do it' when it comes to dieting. Why can't you have as much willpower as everyone else in your diet club? Why haven't you got enough willpower to stop yourself eating the food in the cupboard? 

'I have good intentions but don't have enough willpower to eat properly. How can I improve my willpower?' was my listener question for this week. It's so big that I made the answer the whole podcast episode.

Join our weekly group coaching sessions:

Join the conversation in the Facebook group:

Follow on Instagram: or @IAmTerriPugh 

Follow on Twitter:

Get updates straight into your inbox each week:

Drop me an email: [email protected] 


Please note, this podcast is intended to be general information for entertainment purposes only. Any figures quoted are correct at the time of recording. As always, please seek the support of a registered professional before making changes to your diet or lifestyle⁠, or if you feel that you are affected by any of the topics discussed.


Related Topics:

Intuitive Eating, HAES, Health At Every Size, Body Positivity, Body Confidence, Body Positive, Anti Diet, Non Diet, Diet Culture, Food Freedom, Fat Acceptance, Fat Liberation, Self Care, Weight Loss, Eating Disorder, Eating Disorder Recovery, Disordered Eating, Nutritional Therapy, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Cambridge Diet, Cambridge Plan, 121 Diet, Lighter Life, Noom, Coaching, Healing, Health, Wellness

Welcome to the Intuitive Eating And Body Positivity Podcast. I'm Terri, and I'll be talking about all things Intuitive Eating, Body positivity and Health At Every Size, and shaking of weight stigma, diet culture and food rules so that we can all have a better relationship with food and our bodies.


I've had a haircut today. Feel on top of the world, because that's what a haircut does, isn't it? Oh, don't you love that feeling? You have a chop. Your hair feels brand new. It's not. It's just lost a couple of inches. But, yeah, I love having a haircut. It makes me feel great.


We've had a week of birthdays and things in our house, so that's good. I love a birthday. I really, really love a birthday. I was talking to somebody at work the other day, and she was "I don't really care about birthdays". Oh, I love them. I love the presents. I love the celebration. I love, that's giving presents and receiving, obviously, but I love giving people presents, and we always go out for meals and things.


Yeah, really good. Really, really good. We went out for a meal to Zizzi in the evening, and for those who are not UK based, I don't know if Zizzi is actually international, but this is a pizza pasta type place. Usually I would go in having pizza. That is it. That's what I'm having. I am having pizza. But, you know what, this week I just fancied lasagne. That's what I wanted.


I wanted a really nice lasagne so that's what I had. Started with a garlic bread. A garlic bread with cheese and caramelised onion on top. That's always massive at Zizzi as well. So I shared that with my daughter. Then I had the lasagne and I had some rosemary chips alongside it. And then I had a salted caramel Sunday after. That comes with mascapone usually, yum. Only this week it didn't have mascapone on top.


Just didn't have it, the whole thing was missing from the dish. Gutted. That's one of the selling points for me. I say "this week" all the time, like I go there on a weekly basis, but what I mean is I went this week. Anyway, good eating, good, good, good eating.


I came home, was absolutely stuffed, but actually not uncomfortably stuffed, but just "I've had a big amount of food and I am super satisfied" type stuff. Came home, sat on the sofa for a bit and I was like, "nope, nope. I'm going to bed". It wiped me out. Yeah, yeah, big, big meal that wiped me out. That gave me a good night's sleep and then I woke up starving.


What is that about? Do you ever have that? You go out for a big meal and then the next morning you wake up and you're starving hungry, like you haven't eaten for days. Ordinarily, I don't wake up hungry, but after a big meal, I do. I wake up and I am ready to raid the cupboards.


Then there was also the cake. Now I like making birthday cakes in our house, and I said to my son, "What cake do you want?" Now, bearing in mind he's an older teenager. "What cake do you fancy? What do you want me to make you?". "I want a caterpillar cake", he says.


Which is basically a Swiss roll covered in chocolate and decorated with a face and feet and things like that. Well, I can do a Swiss roll that's easy enough. Decorating, not my forte. So I said, "but I can't make that for you". "But that's what I want". So sure enough, my 17 year old had a caterpillar cake for his birthday.


I don't know if you saw it on my Instagram or not, but I put candles in it and everything. He was having a birthday cake. That's what he wanted. So that's what he got. I had a piece and it was pretty good, and that was it, I just had a piece. Now, going back couple of years or more, I would have wanted the entire thing. I probably will have snuck some of it while people weren't looking, but now I had one piece and I was perfectly satisfied and I didn't need anymore, which is amazing.


That is the joy of Intuitive Eating people. You lose this massive binge thing that you've got going on. Even if you don't realise you've got it going on, when you see the changes coming through and you think, "oh, actually, I would have behaved very differently around that food before today", the little light bulb moments happen and it's super satisfying.


I hope your week's been as good. I hope it's been a fun week. I hope you've done some nice things or I hope you rested if that's what you needed. I just hope you've had a great week.


OK, I usually have a topic lined up and then the last few weeks I've been asking for listener questions, with a view to having a listener question at the end of the podcast. But this week I had a question come in and it's way too big for me to answer in just a few sentences at the end of the podcast episode, so I'm going to make this one the whole episode. You'll see why as I start talking about it.


So here's the question: "I have good intentions, but I don't have enough willpower to eat properly. How can I improve my willpower?"


How many of you now are nodding along like, "I need to improve my willpower?" Yep, yep, I hear you. I feel your pain. That takes me right back to when I was deep in diet clubs. How many times have you heard "just do it. You've just got to do it."


When I was at Slimming World I thought I should just be able to do it. I should just have the willpower to just do it. Why can't I do this diet? Why is it so easy for everybody else and not me? Why am I the one struggling? It can only be willpower, right? That's my problem.


You go to group and there will be girls getting weighed and, you know, you sit around and you do the old sharing of losses and gains and things. There will be girls announcing these big weight losses and I'd be sat there trickling along. Tiny, tiny bits each week, or plateauing completely.


And there'd be girls who would infuriate me because they would be drinking and eating at the weekend. They would not be on plan. They would say that they were well behaved through the week ("well behaved") and then at the weekend, they would just like "to hell with it" and then they'd come in on Tuesday morning with a big fat loss. Haha, big fat loss, no pun intended.


But they would not be sticking to plan 100% and they would still be losing weight, so that would lead me to just think I just need to do it and why can't I do it? Then the consultant would come around and she would start talking to me, and I'd feel like I had to explain myself. Like I had to apologise for the poor job that I'd done that week. And you know that everybody in the room is going, "well, you say you've stuck to plan, but you couldn't have, could you because if you had stuck to plan, you'd have lost weight".


And then you get the whole room giving advice. Do this. Do that. Don't do this. Don't do that. Swap this for that. Oh, here's how to handle all your syns or your points, whatever diet you do in, you know. Oh, well, you could try doing this. You could try saving them up. You could try spacing them out across the week. Oh no. You have to have the right amount each day. Do have them all. Otherwise you're not eating enough. Don't have them all. Save yourself some calories. But whatever, just do it.


And it makes you feel like you're not trying, and it makes you look to the rest of the room like you're just not bothered. What the actually boils down to is. I never believed that I had an unhealthy relationship with food. I just thought I needed more willpower. I needed to just do it.


I was sure that I couldn't be trusted around food. That was my problem. I didn't have the willpower to leave that food alone. I would eat too much because I want to, because I didn't have enough willpower to not eat it. The thing is, the truth of the matter is, that this problem that you think you've got isn't really about willpower. You subjected yourself to so much restriction over the years, that is where the problem lies. You have dieted over and over again for years and years.


You have things that stem from childhood. Things like you've been limited to the things that you can help yourself to, or the number of things that you've been given that you can eat in a day or a week. Or you've grown up being told that foods are bad for you, foods are good for you. That lives with you because it's ingrained in you from an age where everything is forming and you're learning.


Or maybe you're avoiding foods because you don't think that they're good for you. Enter keto. Or you've put yourself on time restrictions. You can't eat after a certain time of day, you can't eat until a certain time of day. You're just not buying things because you don't think you can be trusted around them, so if you don't buy foods that you can't be trusted around then that's no problem. You just won't eat it then.


And even the thought of restriction can create this problem. I was actually talking about this in our group coaching session this week. Just the actual thought of restriction happening can create problems. So if you think there's not going to be any food available or you're going to go on a diet, you'd better eat everything today or you're going to go a long period of time without access to food. So you better stock up and eat.


Now, there's lots of reasons and lots of situations in which this restriction can happen, and you've done that for years and years and years and so now that's ingrained in you. And that's not a blame thing. That's not me saying you've done this to yourself, because that is not what it is. This is all the messages around you. Diet culture, beauty standards, all telling you that you need to restrict something or another to make yourself better in some way.


Add in to that social pressure. Maybe your friends are eating or drinking something. Maybe they're not eating and drinking something. They're following this fancy new diet and you're pressurised into doing it.


Maybe alcohol gets the better of you as it does most of us. It lowers your inhibitions, it lowers your resolve, and when you have a drink you eat more. That's a very, very natural thing to happen.


Gathering's happen. Social events happen. There's food and drink available. Stress. If you're an emotional eater. There's lots of reasons why you don't stick to these plans that you put in place or you don't think that you have the willpower that you think that you need.


You do have willpower, but you have it for a limited amount of time. When you first start a diet or a new plan or a new amount of reduced calories that you're giving yourself, when you first start that you have got all the willpower in the world. You are good to go, you are not eating this, you are not drinking that, you're going to do this every day, you're not going to do that anymore. And you're good to go.


But after time, that willpower dwindles because your body is designed to fight back. Your body is designed to protect you. It doesn't know the difference between diet and famine, and your body is trying to protect you. So the longer you're restricting, the longer you're not having things that your body needs to function correctly, the more it's going to kick back and try and protect you and try and help you store energy and nutrients for another time of famine. So no, if you don't have long term willpower, that is actually perfect.


That's what you want, because your body should be fighting to protect you. But I know that with this comes a whole range of emotions. Guilt because you think that you should be doing better. Shame because you might have to admit to other people that you haven't been able to do something that is so easy for other people, or just shame for yourself because you feel like you should be able to do something that other people find easy. Fear because you lose control, and that's a scary thing. And disgust is often one that comes up. Actual shame and disgust in yourself for the way you're behaving. And then upset and worry. About how you're going to claw it back and how disappointed you are in yourself.


And you're back to square one, searching for that solution to the problem that you thought you had when you first started your diet. But, you know, when you release all these restrictions, you in turn release the need for willpower.


When you stop dieting, when you stop restricting, when you start to eat more intuitively, you don't need willpower anymore. Because you're not trying to stop yourself eating things, you're just trying to tune in and see what you need to eat, what your body wants to eat, that willpower isn't an issue anymore. Your body will tell you what it needs when you practise it and you tune in, you'll be able to understand what your body is telling you.


As an intuitive eater, there is really no logic to what you're feeling at any given time, really. That's what I think anyway. I'll be looking for something to eat. What do I actually fancy? What do I want right now? And it might be something sweet or it might not be. I've got a really sweet tooth. I like chocolate and ice cream and puddings and things like that, but sometimes I'm like, oh, you know what? I do want something sweet, but I don't want those things. What I want is..... Mango.


That's what I had today. I was looking in the shop for something for my lunch,. And I picked up a pasta thing. I was looking at it. It was a meal deal. So I was looking for the bits to make up this meal deal. I'd got my main, I'd got my drink, so I was like, "what should I have alongside this?".


Usually it would be something like a bar of chocolate but there were these pots of mango and that is what I wanted. I didn't know why. I couldn't justify it. If somebody asked me, why do you want that mango, I couldn't have told them. But that is what I wanted, and when I ate it, it was the best thing in the world.


So if you let go and you start listening to what your body is telling you it wants, not only will you eat a wider range of foods probably, but you'll be more satisfied by them when you eat them as well.


When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, and you allow all foods in, you don't need that willpower. You don't need to rely on willpower. You don't need to just do it. And when I say unconditional permission to eat, that's not a "go on, eat everything in your path". It's more about knowing that you can have whatever you want to eat in the moment without restriction, without fear of what's going to happen after you've eaten it, without guilt, without shame, without the upset.


You can trust your body. I know that's a big fear when it comes to that unconditional permission to eat. There is a big fear that you will start eating and you will never stop, but you can trust your body to tell you when it's had enough.


And healthy doesn't need to be a concern either. It's easy to think if I just have unconditional permission to eat, I won't eat healthy food. But let's look at that. Let's break down healthy food.


All food is healthy when it's combined with a good balance of other foods. So let's take vegetables as an example. If you only eat vegetables and nothing else, you would be unhealthy because you would have some vitamins and minerals in there yes, but what you wouldn't have is enough iron, enough protein, enough carbohydrates, enough of all the things that your body needs to function correctly. You would just be having the vegetables, and the things in the vegetables, and that is not enough to keep you healthy. So a food there that looks like it should be healthy, if you eat loads of it, if you don't have a balance of other foods to go with that, it's not healthy.


If you look at pizza, that's a good example, that's a food that we always deem to be unhealthy. "I had a whole pizza". That's a sentence that comes with a whole undertone of negativity. But look at that pizza and look what's in it. Let's make up an example, pizza.


So I'm going to have a pizza and on it I'm going to have peppers, onions, sweetcorn and chicken. OK, now let's look at that in more depth. I've got the base, which has got some carbs in it. I've got a tomato sauce, probably as the base on the pizza. Tomatoes, good, and whatever else they put in there, I don't know, some herbs and stuff. Then on top of that, I've got some cheese, which is dairy full of good stuff, calcium vital. And then on top of that, I've got the veggies and I've got the chicken.


So the ved is going to give me some vitamins and minerals. The chicken's going to give me some good lean protein. So I've got covered my vitamins and minerals, my carbs, my fats, my protein, because the fat is in the cheese probably, the protein, I've got it all covered. That's a pretty sound meal. So now tell me why I need to have willpower against pizza?


Now also, my intention was to eat the whole pizza, of course. But because I'm now listening to my body, I usually don't actually end up eating the whole pizza because I'm satisfied after a few slices. And then maybe it just goes in the fridge and I'll have some for my lunch the next day or something. But listening to my body has meant that I've eaten some of what I wanted, which is satisfying. I've got a good range of food groups and things there. I've eaten till I'm satisfied.


I don't feel restricted because that pizza's going back in the fridge and I'll eat it when I want it. If that's an hour later, then I'm going to eat it an hour later. If that's the next day, I'll eat it the next day. But I'm not restricting the amount of pizza that I can eat.


That willpower that I have spent so many years fighting for and fighting to find, I actually don't need it. So when you're listening to your body you don't need that willpower, you don't need to just do it.


I will caveat this with a little note that says, I think sometimes you do have to just do it though. I'm not undoing anything I've said so far to you, but there are things that maybe you do just have to do it.


I have a regular conversation with a friend of mine about water. I am terrible for drinking water. She is terrible for drinking water. She won't mind me saying that. Unless I have a bottle of ice cold water on my desk, a bottomless bottle of water that's on my desk at hand for me, I am too lazy to make myself drink the right amount of water in a day, and water is important.


This isn't one of those things. It's not a crazy diet culture thing. Water is good for you, and a couple of litres at least a day is good for you. Now I'm aware that I don't drink enough water, but I'm aware that that's my own laziness. I can't be bothered to get up and fill my glass up. If I've got a small bottle of water on my desk, I can't be bothered to get up and refill that water.


So that is an occasion where actually I do need to just do it. I need to get up off my backside, stop being lazy, and go and get some water. That's not me fighting for willpower, though. Do you see the different situations?


Some things, yeah, you do have to just do it. When it comes to finding willpower for food and willpower for continuing to restrict, you do not need that in your life.


So can you see why that listener question didn't get tacked onto the end of the episode this week? That was something that needed a way lengthier explanation.


So I hope that makes sense and I hope it's put a different spin on to willpower for you. And I hope now you're not so hard on yourself about not having willpower.


I love a conversation about these things. I can talk about this stuff for hours. Not that I'm going to make you talk to me about it for hours, but I can if you want to. We get into some great conversation about things in the group coaching session each week.


I know what it's like when you listen to a podcast, because there's a couple of podcasts that I listen to, and I'm listening and I want to be in the conversation. I want to chat to the person who's talking to me. I want to say, "oh, yeah, good point" and "I feel this" and "I think that". You can have that if you come and join us in the weekly coaching sessions.


If you've been thinking about it and you've not quite decided yet, well, then do it, just give it a go. My membership comes with a seven day refund policy. So if you join the membership, you've got seven days in order to try it. And then if you don't like it, if it's not for you, you can just cancel and I'll refund your first month.


So it's actually risk free. So why don't you try it? Why don't you come along, join one of the coaching sessions and see if it's for you? It's a really friendly space and there's a private chat group which you can get involved in through the week while you're waiting for the next session.


The link for more information is That link's in the show notes. You don't have to remember it.


That's it. So I've got a bar of chocolate with my name on it in the fridge. I have got a bar of Cadbury Orange, which tastes just like Cadbury's chocolate with orange in it. I was going to say it tastes just like Terry's chocolate orange. It doesn't, but it is really not far off and it is blooming lovely.


So I'm off to hit the sofa, eat my bar of chocolate, and do my online food shop, which is arriving in the morning. Until next week, take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself, and remember you are awesome. Bye.