Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters the Sequel – Emotional Factor, Willpower and Childish Things

Over the last few chapters, I have been exploring the physical factors behind my weight gain to 330lbs. In particular Candida Albicans and how its overgrowth in your gut can undermine your best efforts to get rid of the culprits in your diet causing you to overeat. Such as sugars.

You can find last week’s post and all the previous chapters in this file:

This week a look at our emotional attachment to food and how we can flex our willpower muscles to overcome this frequent excuse to dive into a tub of ice-cream!

My life, despite all the changes due to moving around so much was within a stable family environment, I was not deprived of love, food or attention. But things did not go according to plan in my 20s and emotionally I was hit very hard. But, that is not unusual and having worked with both men and women as a nutritional therapist, I was hard pushed to find a perfect childhood, relationship, marriage, body image, work environment amongst them.

If someone says that they have a perfect marriage, it usually means that they have reached, through hard work, compromise, commitment and love, a state of contentment, friendship, shared laughter and respect.

We all have things in our lives that broke us, or tried to, that brought us to the brink of giving up. But they are usually balanced by all the good things we have encountered in our private lives and careers.

We have a choice, one that I had to make in my late 20s, that I could not let what had happened to define me. However, as I discovered it was easier said than done. Clearly by the time I was in my early 40s, I was still hanging on to the scars and the pain and reaching out for food to comfort me. It was only when I took a long hard look at my experiences, that I realised the only person that I was hurting was myself. The culprit was totally unaware of the damage he had caused and was happily ruining someone else’s life (as I later found out).

It was time to take back the power and to no longer allow the past to dictate my actions in the future. Including, handing power to a bunch of crystals that infused the foods that I ate.

Learning to flex the willpower muscles.

This leads me on to my struggles and the question ‘How will I find the willpower?’ With over 150 lbs. (11 st, 68 kg) to lose and an uncontrollable craving for sweets and bread, I knew that I was my own worst enemy. Nobody stood over me and force-fed me; the chocolate bars did not throw themselves off the sweet counter into my pocket and the fridge door never opened by itself.

I had already begun to address the physical issues and had put in place an eating programme that excluded as much sugar as possible. But I also needed to be sure that I would not drift back towards it at the slightest setback.

Willpower implies choice. Obviously, many of my cravings were a result of Candida, but, even so, that condition did not make me eat Chinese takeaways nearly every night, nor did it make me raid the fridge for bacon and eggs at midnight.

We are not born with willpower. As babies, if we want something, we do everything we can to get it: scream, cry, and throw tantrums. If you have young children, break a bar of chocolate into squares and put it in front of them, tell them not to eat the chocolate, then leave the room.

What do you suppose they will do?

Yes, they will eat the chocolate!

Why? Because they have not yet learned about the consequences of their actions.

They do not know how you are going to react when you come back and find the chocolate has been eaten. They may be a little nervous if they have experienced your displeasure before, but if it was not in direct relation to this particular event, they may not even give it a second thought.

You would think that, as an overweight adult, you would be well aware of the consequences of eating a bar of chocolate. Wrong! – Because as adults we have justification down to a fine art. How many of you justify your overeating with some of the following reasons?

Reasons for NOT losing weight

  • I have just had an argument with my mother/lover/friend/boss and I need to eat something sweet.
  • My relationship has just broken up. I’m so unhappy, I need chocolate.
  • I have had a hard day at the office, so I deserve a drink or two.

    Everyone lets their hair down on a Saturday night.

  • I was taught to clear my plate.
  • We have always had dessert.
  • I have been good and I deserve a treat.

    I’m middle-aged, so extra weight is normal.

  • My husband/wife/lover loves me whatever weight I am.
  • My personality would change if I lost weight.
  • One chocolate bar won’t hurt.
  • My glands don’t work properly.
  • It’s hereditary.
  • People like me the way I am.

We have all used these excuses, particularly when on a diet. I worked eleven or twelve hours a day in my old job, travelled a thousand miles a week, lived in three homes and managed 150 or so people. However, you could not keep me out of the fridge at night!

It appears that I had willpower in some parts of my life but not all, and I am sure that, if you examine your life, you will find the same. I know women who have given up smoking and drinking as soon as they got pregnant, but once the baby is born, they go back to both immediately. I know clients who give up sweets and chocolate for Lent every year and do not miss them a bit. As soon as Lent is over, they go back to their bar of chocolate (or more) a day.

Why? This is about absolute necessity! A ‘must have’ attitude to the way you approach the important events in your life. For example, the overwhelming desire of a pregnant woman is to give birth to a healthy baby. She knows the risks involved in smoking and drinking and applies them to her baby’s health. Even though she may not always find it easy, she manages not to smoke or drink for nine months. This is the willpower you must find to get you through your weight reduction program.

Make a list of why it is absolutely necessary for you to lose weight. My list used to read something like the following.

  • I do not want to die young.
  • I want the nose-bleeds to stop.
  • I hate the way I look.
  • I do not feel sexy or feminine.
  • I feel middle-aged.
  • I am ashamed to take my clothes off in front of my husband.
  • I cannot fit into economy airline seats, so we have to travel by sea.
  • On long-haul flights the tray table cannot be lowered and I am offered seat-belt extensions.
  • I cannot drive for very long, because it is too uncomfortable.
  • I can only manage a ten-minute walk instead of going hill-walking.
  • Children laugh at me in the street.
  • People ask me when the baby is due.
  • People keep saying not to worry; I have a lovely face.
  • My shoe size has gone up to a size nine, with a very wide fitting.
  • My ankles have disappeared.
  • I can no longer shave my legs higher than the knee or behind my thighs.
  • Bras do not fit properly: I have to buy a 48-C to fit my back, but the cups are far too big.
  • I hate shop assistants coming into the changing room when I am trying on clothes.
  • I am tired of cracking jokes about my weight.
  • I can’t take a bath, because I cannot get out again.
  • I cannot take a shower in my father-in-law’s house, because the doorway is too narrow, even if
  • I try to squeeze in sideways.
  • My joints and muscles are always painful.
  • My knee and hip hurt when I push myself out of the car.
  • I can no longer dance.

How many absolutely essential reasons to lose weight can you put on your own checklist? 

If you really give it some thought, and drag out all those niggling irritations about your size that have accumulated over the years, I am sure you will be writing a book yourself.

However, this is not the end of the exercise. If you simply sit and think about all these miserable feelings, you will probably head for the nearest tub of ice cream. Write down all your reasons and then take what you consider to be the most important three and look at them in detail.

For me this was very easy.

  • I did not want to die young.
  • I did not want any more nosebleeds as a result of high blood pressure.
  • I would have quite liked to feel slim and healthy again.

Every time I was tempted to break my program I reminded myself of these three things.

Of course, being less than perfect, sometimes I broke the program. Somehow though, it became less hard. The more weight I lost, the better I felt, and the easier it seemed.

However, after losing 40 to 60 lbs. (18 to 27 kg), I started to slip back again. This was because my original list of reasons was no longer absolute enough. I had improved my health to the extent that I wasn’t going to kick the bucket immediately, my nosebleeds had stopped and, while I did not feel entirely slim and sexy, I was getting there.

At this point it was necessary to revisit the list and find three more that were now a priority.  I still felt middle-aged, still had aching joints and muscles, and was still asked when the baby was due.

Now it was time for the third round. At the end of three years, having lost 112 lbs. (8 st, 51 kg), I realised that I had polished off most of the reasons on my original list.

Thankfully by then I had some new reasons to continue to lose the weight.

  • I now have clients who look to me as a role model. If they are to succeed they need to see that I can lose weight and keep it off.
  • I have written several books on how to lose weight and health with more to come. I have to practice what I preach.
  • I still need to exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Even walking a couple of fast miles a day would not be possible if I weighed too much.
  • I enjoy being able to walk into M&S and pick up clothes I like off the rack. No more out size shops
  • When we have our friends around for a party we always end up dancing – I can keep going for a couple of hours – how much I would miss sitting on the side lines.
  • In the summer I can now wear a swimming costume and swim a kilometre a day without sinking!
  • I want to live as long and as healthily as possible to enjoy everything that I currently have in my life.
  • I want to be mentally alert and physically active when I am elderly

This is how I have kept myself going. However, my list will not be the same as yours.

You can supply your own individual reasons for losing weight. You do, however, have to revisit them on a regular basis and decide which are no longer valid and which are now top of the list.

Our childhood often influences the way we reward ourselves in adulthood

  • Many of the rewards we give ourselves are a throwback to our childhood. Our parents’ approval was important, which is why we tend to adopt many of their rules and attitudes about life.
  • When they told us we were a good girl or boy, and gave us some sweets as a treat or reward, we felt loved and cherished.
  • Treats were also used if we were sick or unhappy: a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!

The trouble is, we still want that feeling as adults and, life being what it is, we often believe that the only way to recapture that emotion is by eating chocolate or sweets as we used to. Apart from which, in this constantly changing world, food and sweet things are particularly predictable and very comforting.

This is a problem I have with many slimming organisations that elevate certain foods to reward status that have little or no nutritional contribution to your daily requirements.

They imply that you have been a good little girl or boy and deserve to have a little treat so that you don’t feel deprived.

Sorry, but we are grown-ups and we need to create a new reward system. Our long term health is at stake here! Here is one of my most prized rewards. When I reached 18 stone I managed to get into a bath for the first time in 10 years! I still get a kick now, 20 years later, getting in and out unaided!

Your task is to create a whole list of activities, events, purchases, gifts to yourself and others to celebrate the progress you make along the way. The only proviso is that they are not food related in any way.

For example activities that were uncomfortable for me at 24 stone included trips to the cinema, fitting into an airline seat to go on holiday, buying clothes from M&S, getting into normal width shoes, dancing with my husband, going on the big wheel at the funfair.

Achieving those goals became the rewards in themselves.

So create your list, small rewards for your weekly progress:

  • For each 14 lbs.
  • For a new dress size, for reducing your blood pressure to normal,
  • To coming off pills for life …

It won’t necessarily come easily but give it time. Share your list with your support team and I am sure that they will be delighted to join you for your outings and celebrate with you as you make progress.

©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

A little bit about me nutritionally.

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with over twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

 Thanks for dropping in today and if you have any questions please use the comments or if your prefer you are more than welcome to email me on

Please note that due to ongoing issues with facebook about posting from my blog (not conforming to community standards), I have removed the Facebook share button as a temporary measure so that you do not get an error message.  Going forward I will be only sharing my weekly round up to Facebook (hoping that it gets through).

I am joining a growing number of our blogging friends on MeWe and I invite you take a look… a different approach to users.

I would be very grateful if you could share where you can.. many thanks Sally.



42 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters the Sequel – Emotional Factor, Willpower and Childish Things

  1. Reblogged this on Retired? No one told me! and commented:
    Great ideas to help you with your healthy eating and some straight talking from Sally… Nothing worthwhile in life is easy…Think about writing a novel….That bit is easy but what comes after …editing and rewrites etc etc BUT we do it…Healthy eating and or weight loss is just the same so Let’s go and do it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I do hear other people saying the sorts of things about food, that you have written above, and, in the past, I know I have found it a bit astonishing that some people eat when they are stressed. I feel sick when I am stressed and struggle to eat at all, giving myself low blood pressure and sometimes becoming faint. It is a function of us all being different and having different coping mechanisms. I must thing about it some more.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Size Matters the Sequel – Emotional Factor, Willpower and Childish Things | Campbells World

  4. Great post. I think for me the turning point was when somebody I really liked kept telling me what a beautiful face I had. Somehow, I knew it was meant to be a complement but it seriously hurt me. I wanted him to see my body. I realize my body wasn’t appealing.

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    Liked by 1 person

  5. Will power is such a strange thing, isn’t it? I have it for not over eating or eating the wrong things and discovered when I did ‘dry January’ I also have it for not drinking too much (something I was becoming concerned about as it was every night) but somehow I have none when it comes to sitting down to write the book (s) I should be working on. At least I know chocolate won’t help! 🙂


  6. This is an excellent post Sally, rich with hard-earned wisdom. Why do we do the things we do and how do we teach ourselves impulse control. I found it affirming to read your point that not allowing the past to define us is easier said than done. The the idea is never give up, regardless of setbacks and moments of despair.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, Sally, hugs. I was wondering if, in your years as a nutritionist and health champion, you’ve come across people who have lost weight and then have the problem of skin that just hangs. I believe in slow and little over a long period of time, is this the right way to think? xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to face that problem too Adele losing 11 stone in 18 months.. I walked everyday and I also kept well hydrated as well as used a good quality moisturiser. It helps to also swim as that tones up all the body including the real problem area which is the stomach. I still have a problem which has never gone away around the lower belly but so do millions of mums who have lost the baby weight. It is a big problem for those who don’t go slowly as you say, and also don’t exercise from the beginning, usually because they are still too heavy. I used to say to clients that 2lbs a week is 104lbs in a year, and is a weigh loss the body can manage to adapt too without eating into muscle.. That muscle is very important in toning the body after weight loss and needs to be protected and then worked on. I began using hand weights from the start for upper body and I worked from a manual back then, but now there are very helpful Youtube videos on how to target specific areas safely… hope that answers your question… hugs xxx


      • It does thank you, Sally. Would two tins of baked beans work as hand weights? And swimming sounds good as we can both benefit from that. I had a school friend who lost a lot of weight but she was left with folds of skin, she was waiting for surgery on the NHS. I love your yearly mantra going to remember that one. Hugs Sally. xxx

        Liked by 1 person

      • A tin of beans is a good place to start Adele and it can be done when watching television. As can leg raises. If you can swim three time a week for 30 minutes even leisurely and work up from that to more intensive, it will also help underarm, hips, waist, legs, shoulders as well as the tummy muscles…hugsx

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round up – Social Media Woes, Jazz, Gardening, Italian Recipes, Nutritional cooking, Flash Fiction and Books Galore | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  9. Hi Sally, hugs to you, too. You did an incredible job of listing all the why’s and why not’s of the emotional struggle to lose weight to become healthier and all of the other emotional states of mind that make life for overweight women and men unhappy with low self-esteem, and the dangers that come with obesity. Absolutely perfect in every way. Fantastic! Thank you for sharing. This is a must reblog!


  10. Reblogged this on K. D. Dowdall and commented:
    This post from Sally, who is an extremely knowledgeable Nutritionist, shares critical information about the emotional side of losing weight. It is this very complex set of emotions that often derail so many women and men from staying on a healthy eating, exercise program, and self-esteem dilemma. Learning the emotional roadblocks is key to success.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Healthy Eating…SmartWatch… | Retired? No one told me!

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