Willpower and Your Weight Loss Goals

by Lara Zakaria, RPh HHC

Willpower is not some mythical force that we either have or don’t have. Willpower is our decision to use higher-mind thinking instead of lazing around in the clutches of our primal mind. – A. B. Curtiss

Is willpower the one force standing between you and your ability to achieve your weight loss goals, get in great shape, or change your diet? The answer is no.

When people fail to stick to their fitness or weight loss goals, they often blame their lack of willpower. But this practice isn’t useful. For anyone discussing his or her health, relying on the idea of willpower is counterproductive.

Willpower in general refers to our personal determination to maintain motivation in the face of mounting temptation. In other words, it’s the force we use to help us stick to our long term goals rather than falling for immediate gratification.

We often use this determination to keep us from reaching for a candy bar from the vending machine when we’re hungry, or to make sure we get to the gym after work even when we’re tired. But if you were to take steps to prevent these temptations in the first place, like balancing your blood sugar or scheduling the gym before work, then you would remove the obstacle, and you wouldn’t even need willpower.

To successfully meet your dietary goals, you have to stop focusing on willpower and instead delve deeper and focus on reprogramming your routine and remove temptation.

When we work on the deeper habits and attitudes, and we adjust our surroundings and support systems, then we can make changes that are independent of willpower. By journaling, working with a mentor, health coach, or nutritionist, you can start to deconstruct your temptations and personal obstacles and start to make lifestyle modifications that make a big impact!

Check out these examples of habits that shift the focus away from willpower:

• Avoid the temptation to pick up fast food after a long day at work by planning ahead. Bring snacks, pack lunch and/or dinner.
• Schedule your workouts into your day, instead of going when you have time. Committing to a workout partner, class, trainer or even to walking your dog gives you an external support system to keep accountable.
• If you’re experiencing strong cravings investigate why: often these cravings can be a sign of metabolic issues like adrenal fatigue or insulin resistance. No amount of willpower can fight physiological problems. Instead they need to be addressed and supported.
• Start your day with a balanced breakfast of unprocessed carbs, protein and healthy fat to avoid the sugar crash that accompanies high carb alternatives like cereal, donuts or coffee.
• Remove temptation from site. Clean out your cupboards at home and work. If you can’t toss it all, at least place it in bins out of your vision.

Simple lifestyle modifications can set you up for success rather than leave you relying on willpower. Yes, of course it’s important to have resolve and commit to your new lifestyle and eating plan. However, willpower should be a last resort tool, not your first line of defense.
Need help making healthy habits stick? I can help! Contact me to find out how a consultation can help get you on track.

Check out my upcoming digestion workshop at Yoga in the Heights!

Good Digestion: The foundation for Health
Sunday, 2/22 1-2pm
Workshop + free 20 min private consultation
Addressing the common misconception of western medicine and understanding the body’s function as a whole. Health begins with a healthy gut, good digestion, abundant bacteria and proper elimination are at the root of many illnesses. We’ll address how allergies, hormonal imbalance, reflux, high cholesterol, acne, dermatitis and many others are problems rooted in improper digestion.