-Ann Kearney Cook
You can do it!
Join me in my office as I consult with Sharon (name changed for privacy), a 32-year old unmarried woman with a history of depression and binge eating. When we first met, Sharon reported that while she’d had solid control of her eating habits for five years, over the last several months she experienced a major relapse.
“I don’t know what has happened to me. When I am eating I feel completely out of control. It’s like I have to continue binge-eating more and more until I experience physical pain. Only then am I able to stop eating.”
When I asked her if there had been any major changes in her life over the last year, she shared that she’d received a promotion at work, which was great, but that, “In this new position I have to act overly happy and positive all the time. It’s not my nature to be ‘Suzy Sunshine,’ so I’m exhausted by the end of each day.”
She also shared that she skipped meals at work and binged in the evening. Then she withdrew from others over the weekend because she was absolutely exhausted.
After empathizing with how out of control she felt and how scary that must be, I shared that managing your energy throughout the day increases willpower — and is essential for overcoming overeating.
Willpower, like a muscle, can be fatigued over the course of the day.
Your capacity to make good decisions decreases when your willpower is depleted. Willpower is limited and whittled away by exhaustion and the everyday demands of life.
Examples of activities that can deplete willpower include:
- Demanding work projects
- Excessive chores
- Trying to act happy when you really are depressed
- Resisting food present in your environment when you’re not actually hungry
- Unpleasant tasks
- Unhealthy relationships
Once willpower is depleted, you are at greater risk for self-destructive behaviors such as binge eating, over drinking, and losing your temper.
Sharon and I then worked together to create five strategies for managing her energy throughout the day.
- She decided that every two hours at work she would read something brief and empowering. Then she would stretch, and watch a funny video on YouTube, or perhaps she would meditate or pray.
- She agreed to drink lots of water during the day to stay hydrated and energetic.
- She selected and paid for a meal service that would bring her three healthy meals a day. She committed to stop skipping meals.
- She made plans to get together with friends one night each weekend to do something fun.
- She returned to attending church on a regular basis.
- She made a concerted effort to get out in nature more.
These strategies replenished her energy throughout the day so her willpower was not depleted in the evening.
Acting in this manner helped her maintain energy all day. With a new capacity to manage her energy, Sharon had more willpower to make healthy choices about food and other areas of her life.