The Real Truth About Willpower

How many times have you blamed an unhealthy food choice on lack of willpower? How many times have you felt bad about not having willpower around food? But what exactly is willpower? Willpower is defined as the ability to control yourself, and the strong determination that allows you to do something difficult. Weight loss or healthy eating shortcomings are often blamed on willpower, or a lack thereof, but the truth is, willpower is simply not a strategy that works for weight loss! With a little strategizing, you can put willpower in its place and form new habits that work for you! Set yourself up for success by following these real life solutions:

  • Don’t bring unhealthy “trigger” foods into your house. Grocery shop with a list and stick to it! If a craving strikes and you don’t have the item at home, you most likely won’t go out and get it. If you do go out and get it, stick to a small portion or single serve package when available. This way, you won’t be as tempted to overeat the treat.
  • Never grocery shop while hungry! Shopping while hungry increases the likelihood that you will purchase sugary or fatty snack foods. This not only sets you and your family up for unhealthy snacking at home, but also gouges your wallet! If you are starving when you arrive at the store, buy a quick healthy snack, like a banana or greek yogurt, and eat it before you begin shopping.
  • Know yourself. If you just can’t walk by the bakery without going in for a sweet treat, or drive by McDonald’s without stopping for fries, then take a different route. Knowing these triggers and how you react to them can help you plan ahead and avoid having to unnecessarily and unsuccessfully call on that willpower!
  • Don’t deny yourself all the time – this can lead to bingeing.  Allow yourself your favorite treats, in moderation, when you really want them, and savor every bite. A good rule to follow is the 80/20 rule. Healthy and nutritious foods make up 80% of your day, while the remaining 20% is spent on your favorite treats. Allowing yourself moderate amounts of those treats, without guilt, can eliminate bingeing and keep you satisfied.
  • Don’t skip meals to save up for eating out or special events. Many people mistakenly think if they skip meals or snacks, they can splurge at special events. The problem is, they are so ravenous by the time the event occurs, that they have absolutely no willpower and consume much more than they would have normally. More likely than not, they would have consumed fewer calories overall by eating their regular meals and snacks, and enjoying food in moderation at the event. You can keep your meals and snacks light, by enjoying broth based soup, a vegetable salad, or a 100 calorie snack, but don’t skip them altogether.
  • Ask for support. If you’re trying to eat healthy or cut out sweets, ask your partner or family to get on board. They can help cut down on temptations by not bringing unhealthy foods into the house, and can reduce feelings of deprivation by practicing healthy eating with you. Plus, they will get healthier too! It’s a win – win situation!

Don’t rely on willpower alone. Create a plan! I compare relying on willpower to reasoning with a small child. Distraction often works best! It is not necessary to continually test your willpower by dangling trigger foods before your eyes. Plan ahead, know yourself, indulge within reason, and keep yourself nourished throughout the day. Continue to support yourself with these strategies and involve your partner and family whenever possible. This way, you are using your willpower to your benefit by setting yourself up for success!

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