Do you wake up in the morning fully determined to stick with your diet only to find yourself giving in to cravings by the afternoon? It could be that you are relying on willpower to lose weight. When you do this, you pick a fight with your body that you cannot win. Willpower is not a long-term strategy for weight loss, but there is a way to use it to your advantage. I explain, in this post.
Willpower and Weight Loss – Summary
- Willpower is fragile. It is easily lost through everyday things like low blood sugar and stress.
- You can lessen the need for willpower by eating in a way that stabilizes your blood sugar.
- By Adding blood-sugar stabilizing foods as you Subtract junk food, you feel in control of cravings.
- Willpower is ineffective as a long-term weight loss strategy but can be used as an aid to get past short-term hurdles.
The Problem with Willpower & How You Can Use It to Lose Weight [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Why willpower isn’t an effective long-term strategy.
- Ways to stabilize your blood sugar in order to avoid cravings.
- Additional resources for long-term weight loss!
The Problem with Willpower
For many of us, when we decide to lose weight we immediately put a bunch of controls in place. We control what we eat, how much we eat, and when we eat. These are not necessarily bad things because reaching a goal requires change.
However, if you don’t listen to your body, you end up trying to force it to change through sheer willpower. That is a battle that you cannot win because willpower is fragile, and your body has hunger and cravings on its side.
Willpower feels empowering, but it is easily lost through common things like low blood sugar and stress. For instance, if you try to flip a switch and go directly from eating refined foods like bread, pasta, and desserts to a squeaky clean diet or a prolonged fast, your blood sugar level will be unstable.
When it dips, your body will release hunger hormones, making it very hard to resist the temptation to grab something quick to eat. Stress will also wipe out willpower. So, if you get frustrated at work or stressed over your to-do list, your plan for healthy eating can fly out the window.
Overcoming the Need for Willpower
The way to get past the need for willpower is to eat in a way that stabilizes your blood sugar. When you do this, you work with your body, and when your body is happy, you feel in control of cravings, even during stressful times.
The best way to get yourself to this place is by using a strategy that I call add as you subtract. In other words, add blood sugar-stabilizing foods as you remove the junk food from your diet.
Junk foods are any foods that are refined and digest quickly. We call them many different things like empty calories or refined carbs, but regardless of what label we put on them, these foods have been processed and no longer contain the slow-digesting nutrients that existed in the plant that they came from.
Examples include things like the 3Cs: cookies, cakes, and candies, as well as refined cereals, pasta, sandwich bread, and sweetened drinks. Because the fiber and nutrients have been milled out of these items, it takes very little time for your digestive system to breakdown them down.
The result is a flood of sugar into your bloodstream that must be brought down by insulin. And, this starts you on the path of blood sugar spikes and drops that drive your cravings (and drive you crazy).
Strategy: Add as You Subtract
Quick-digesting junk foods make it hard to lose weight and need to be removed from your diet so that you can make progress toward your goal. But, it is hard to break free from them using willpower alone because of how they affect you. The trick is to add blood-sugar stabilizing foods as you subtract the junk food.
The best foods for this result are healthy fats and proteins along with non-starchy vegetables. Whole foods that contain healthy fats and proteins, like raw nuts and seeds, avocados, eggs, and high-quality meats and dairy products, cause a nice steady rise and fall of your blood sugar.
Non-starchy vegetables, like salad greens, broccoli, and asparagus, have a similar blood sugar controlling effect because they break down slowly.
When you are ready to change your diet, think add as you subtract. The calm and stable environment you create inside your body will support you as you transition away from refined carbs, making you less reliant on willpower.
If you’re not quite sure how to add the right foods as you’re subtracting the wrong ones, you can use my free 0,1,2,3 strategy to get you on the right path. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much time at all before you feel more in control of your eating. However, even when you get to this stage, temptations remain.
How to Use Willpower to Lose Weight
We live in a world with 24/7 access to food, and while willpower is woefully ineffective as a long-term weight-loss strategy, you don’t have to completely give up on it as a weight loss tool in your toolbox. You just need to look at it as an aid to help you get past short-term hurdles.
Here is how you can use willpower to your advantage at the grocery store, at home, and at a restaurant.
At the Grocery Store
Grocery stores are filled with temptations, but shopping can be done fairly quickly, so you are only in the store for a short time. You can use willpower as you shop to avoid putting junk food in your cart or, better yet, use it to avoid going down the cookie and potato chip aisles altogether. The best way to prevent a willpower battle is not to bring tempting foods into your house.
Of course, some of us live with others that want junk food. If this is you, you can still use willpower to your advantage. One way to do this is to keep things sealed. For instance, don’t open a bag of potato chips thinking that you will have just one. An unopened bag is much easier to resist than an open one.
The same goes for the junk food drawer in your kitchen. Use willpower to avoid checking what is inside it. If you see something tempting, you’ll want to eat it. However, if you keep the drawer closed, your brain will move on to something else.
At a Restaurant
Willpower can also be used when you go out to eat. Look up the restaurants’ menu online before you go and choose what you’d like to eat. It is easier to pick wisely when you are not surrounded by the restaurant’s aroma and energy.
When you get seated, resist the urge to open the menu because you’ve already made the best choice. You can also say no thank you to the pre-meal breadbasket. This will require short-term willpower, but when your meal comes, you’ll forget all about it.
The takeaway is that willpower alone will not get you all the way to your goal. However, you can use it to stay on track, and you can lessen your reliance on it when you add as you subtract, meaning you add blood sugar-stabilizing foods as you subtract the junk food. If you need a place to start, I encourage you to download my 0,1,2,3 strategy.
This strategy is already in use by 10s of 1000s of people as a way to gently transition into healthy eating. It is free for you to download and comes with a series of videos that walk you through how to get the most out of the strategy. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week!
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.