Self Control

  • It’s easy to get lost when you don’t understand
  • Many self destructive things happened while I searched for self control
  • When I tried a new approach I lost weight

All through high school and university I wondered where my self control went; what started as being 10 pounds overweight had quickly become a steady 30 and I just couldn’t seem to shift it. My inability to lose weight didn’t make any sense. I’d always been someone who made sacrifices, exercised willpower and went to extremes to meet any goal I set my mind to.

In elementary school I’d:

  • Run miles and miles to train with my cross country team and then I’d go home and run again because training hard made races easy
  • Stay up all night studying for a test because studying hard made tests easy
  • Move along peacefully if anyone treated me unfairly because letting go of hard situations made getting along with everybody easy

Oh, the Places You'll GoDuring the 10 years I was overweight I’d often look back at my life before Grade 9 and see this shining example of self control. And I would miss who I used to be – all the things I wasn’t anymore.

So I set off on what turned out to be a 10 year journey to discover where my self control went.

I wondered where I’d left it or why it went away. I was sure if self control was part of who I was before, I could lure it back into my life.

Oh, the Places You Go when you don’t understand

As Dr. Seuss said:

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

Oh, the Places You Go by Dr. Seuss

The shame I felt about what I thought was my lack of self control lead to secrecy. And secrecy lead to bad decision after bad decision, like dominoes placed down a hill.

When you keep things secret you never get a chance to run ideas by anyone else and get input from people outside the center of your storm. You never get to check yourself. Then it’s easy to run in the wrong direction.

I was sure self control was how to lose weight

All sorts of self destructive things happened over the 10 years I searched for self control. But I want to stay on track by sharing what I learned about self control.

To begin, here’s the definition of self control:
self-denial: the act of denying yourself; controlling your impulses.


What made me want to write about self control was an article I was reading in Medical News Today called: Decoding Food Purchasing Behaviours. I came across this paragraph that reminded me of myself over the 10 years I was trying to lose weight:

The study examined people with “high self control,” as defined by healthy practices such as regular exercise and infrequent consumption of fast food or late-night snacks. The self-controllers bought less junk food like sugary cola and potato chips. Yet they offset this benefit with greater quantity of “healthy foods” like yogurt and cereal, leading to greater overall consumption of calories and sugar.

This paragraph is a great example of how deeply misunderstood the role self control plays in losing weight.

The way I reached and have maintained a healthy weight for more than 18 years had NOTHING to do with self control.

When I dropped the idea of self control I lost weight

It’s so frustrating how much self control is pushed on people trying to lose weight and how guilty it makes us feel. It sends the wrong message. It builds big barriers and holds us back, far away from our potential.

Eating and exercise are two activities that have the greatest influence on our weight.

But reaching your goals through eating and exercise is not about self control.

Making tiny, positive changes to how you eat and exercise

Helps you form habits

That support you reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

Reaching your weight-loss goals are about slowly building healthy habits that become your normal.

Self control has nothing to do with your normal.

Self control is all about denying yourself.

Now I know, trying to lose weight by exercising self control actually prevents you from losing weight and keeping it off. Who wants to go through life denying themselves!? A successful life is a lot more fun than that!

You can reach your goals without self control

Thinking back on it, it’s not like one day I woke up and just ran miles and miles. It’s not like one evening I decided to burn the midnight oil and study all night. I worked up to longer work outs (for the purpose of racing – not losing weight) and longer periods of studying, over time.

I didn’t just flip a switch.

That long and painful 10 year search I went on, looking for my self control down streets that were not marked, where some windows were lighted, but mostly were darked … was actually a journey chasing a lost cause because I didn’t understand how to lose weight.

I didn’t need to find self control; making sacrifices, exercising willpower and taking extreme measures weren’t necessary. What I needed to do was build healthy eating and exercise habits. I needed to slowly make small, healthy changes.

Please note: Unfortunately at the time I had no idea what healthy eating and healthy exercise truly looked like – another set back. But once I understood, I began to adapt what I was doing. To my surprise tiny changes began to add up quickly and feel good! Each small improvement is empowering.

Stop striving for self control and start to build habits. This approach will help you reach any goal, in any area of your life.

Start today! Work up or down towards more moderate and healthy eating and exercise routines. Do you usually have 5 cookies for a snack? How about eating four and a half? Do you usually run 7 miles a day? How about doing six and a half? You’ll hardly notice the difference but these small steps closer to your goals carve out healthy habits so that the changes you make are lasting.

Closer by Tegan and Sara



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Sharing what I learned makes the 10 years I STRUGGLED worth it

Have you ever made a tiny change and built on it? What was it? Reading more? Watching less tv? Having a bit of fun with fashion rather than throwing on the same old t-shirt?