As I developed Cravings Master, I thought a great deal about what it meant to reach self-mastery in nutrition and become a master of food choice.

I saw that the dictionary defined “self-mastery” as “self-control.” But this definition didn’t sit right with me.

Then, I started to think about two different ways a person could take control and be a master: One way is through force and domination, while the other is through skill and enthusiasm.

The first type of control and mastery is the old-fashioned model of getting things done, which requires a master to control slaves. It’s a system of dominance and submission, where a person or group is in a position of authority and directs those beneath them.

This type of mastery enforces respect and compliance through fear, manipulation or social status. Commitment to the “master” doesn’t come from love and aspiration, but from fear of what will happen if the subordinates don’t comply.

The other type of control and mastery can be seen in a musician that, guided by her spirit, masters her instrument through years of dedication. She has tremendous self-control, but it comes from her desire to create beautiful music and years of working on her craft.

She inspires others through her love and passion, lifting them up to find their own music. And, through her earned mastery, she earns from everyone a position of authority and respect.

Do you see how these two types of masters differ drastically?

In nutrition, we normally try to be the first type of master, where we try to control ourselves through force and punishment. We use willpower and other strategies to make ourselves behave, and then criticize ourselves when we don’t. We try to control our bodies as if they were inferior subordinates that should submit.

Then it turns into an internal power struggle where we can control ourselves around food sometimes, but other times we feel as if we were slaves to food.

True self-mastery comes from being the second type of master.

We can’t use force to make ourselves eat better. We have to develop a passion for health and healthy eating. And we need to develop the knowledge and skills required to be healthy eaters, including knowledge about our individual bodies and skills to self-assess. We need to practice self-awareness and self-love.

If we slip up in our nutrition, it simply means we need to build more skill. For example, we may need to practice emotional coping techniques so we’re less prone to emotional eating.

We also need to work with our bodies as partners and stop trying to control them as if we were superior. It isn’t hierarchy. It’s collaboration. It isn’t mind over body. It’s mind with body.

Healthcare providers aren’t our ‘masters’ either. They don’t command us on how to eat but are teachers that give us lessons to help us improve our self-care technique.

Becoming a master of food choice isn’t about forcing ourselves to act or crave differently. It’s about learning, practicing and working with ourselves. It’s also about changing our mentalities to operate within a different definition of mastery.

With time, we develop a relaxed state of self-control, where cravings have lost their pull and food no longer overpowers us. We empower ourselves as we shift into a paradigm of mastery where slavery doesn’t exist.

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