Dedication vs. Willpower

“When the will is ready the feet are light.” 
–  Proverb

When I was trying to lose 100 pounds, or when I had lost the weight and was trying to keep it off, I can’t tell you how many times someone told me “I just don’t have the willpower that you do.” There was something negative about that statement to me. Not just the negative self-talk where the person was saying “I Can’t” without even trying, but also the implication that willpower is something you have to struggle for.

What is the difference between dedication and willpower?


Recently Michael gave me a compliment about my pregnancy. He said he admired my “dedication.” He said he was impressed with how dedicated I have been at eating well for me and the baby, still working out, not slacking on my gym schedule (but also taking days here and there when I did need rest). My comment was that overall I was really happy with my pregnancy and I felt like I had done things “right” for ME. My diet didn’t change all that much, just ate a little bit more. The one thing I regretted was not cutting out the sugar. I voiced my concern about giving my kid a sweet tooth before he’s even here…but I just didn’t have the willpower to completely cut out sugar from diet.

Again, that word. Willpower. It feels so negative. “I didn’t have the willpower to cut out sugar” = I am weak and dependent and addicted to sugar. That’s what I think when I hear myself saying that. Then I feel deflated and think, why am I so weak? Why CAN’T I cut out sugar from diet entirely?? What’s wrong with me.

“Using willpower is exhausting: I had to put myself in the mindset of “I’m gonna do this.” Which is a hard mindset to get into. But now that it’s a habit, it feels natural. I don’t use any willpower on it, and I have willpower leftover for dealing with other occurrences and forming more habits. I’m less exhausted when I use less willpower and rely on habits I’ve built instead. Who doesn’t want to be less exhausted? (source)”

It really is. The concept of willpower is overwhelming and exhausting and feels unattainable. It feels very “all or nothing” to me. Sure, when I was trying to lose 100 pounds I did have an all or nothing attitude about my diet because I had to. I was trying to overcome my food addictions that had lead me to weigh over 250 pounds. I couldn’t eat trigger foods (pizza, ice cream, candy) at ALL because once I started, I couldn’t stop. BUT once some time had passed and I had focus and dedication and was seeing results…it was a lot easier to make exceptions once in awhile because I COULD control it. I knew that having some pizza would not mean I’d eat the entire thing. I had formed a new habit and I was dedicated to my new lifestyle. THAT made it easy.

Some tips:

Stop making excuses – saying “I don’t have the willpower” is a cop-out. Sorry, but it is. Okay, so maybe you don’t have the willpower to try something different in order to lose weight, but do you have the dedication to yourself to at least try? Dedication sounds so much more positive to me.


Make it a habit – Instead of looking at weight loss goals as a willpower thing (or lack of willpower thing) I found it easier to think of losing weight as a good habit I was forming. Exercise is part of my routine now. It’s a habit. It’s scheduled on my calendar like everything else in my life and I don’t even think about it. That makes it easy. “Oh, it’s Tuesday– a gym day.” Just like going to work Monday through Friday, or doing grocery shopping every Sunday…whatever it is, it’s part of my routine and schedule now and it’s so much easier just doing it then NOT doing it.

Check in with your goal – I liked to have a spreadsheet with my weekly weigh ins when I was losing weight. It was a visual thing for me, I could track it and see patterns and it was nice seeing those numbers go down.

Make sure that goal is realistic – setting out to lose 100 pounds in 6 months is just setting yourself up for failure. Trust me. You’ll feel overwhelmed and desperate and honestly, losing that much weight in such a short time isn’t the healthiest thing either. Making smaller goals not only gets you to the finish line in  a healthy way but it also gives you something to celebrate when you reach each landmark. Maybe once you lose 25 you get a pedicure, when you lose 50 you buy yourself some new clothes. Whatever it is that helps you stay focused on the end game will make it easier to make small sacrifices when times are tough and you REALLY really want to eat five donuts. 😉

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Psychology of Weight Loss

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
–  Henry Ford

And of course, even doing some of those things above, you’ll stall out. Plateaus happen. We get discouraged. We stop seeing results. Then it’s time to change things up. Maybe running at the same speed and incline on the treadmill week in and week out isn’t getting you the same results. So try intervals. Run outside. Try something else to shake things up.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Break Your Bad Workout Habits

Married to My Workout

Weight Loss Plateaus

How to Stay Motivated


I feel like taking “willpower” out of the equation alleviates some of the pressure. Instead of feeling like one slip-up means absolute failure, changing your thinking to “I am dedicated to losing this weight and tomorrow is a new day to try again” makes us more likely to be successful in reaching that goal. None of us are perfect. There will be slip-ups. But they don’t have to send us back to the starting line every single time.

So be dedicated to your goal. Dedicated to yourself. Ditch the willpower and focus on being determined instead.

What do you think? Is willpower an easy concept for you? Or does something else help keep you motivated to lose weight?


Weight Loss is Humbling

weight scale red apple and measuring tape

What I find fascinating is how quickly the body gets used to something. When I took a break from calorie counting and tracking during September I was definitely eating more food than normal and not paying attention to portion sizes. While I wasn’t bingeing, I certainly wasn’t moderating anything. The scale reflected that when we got back from our honeymoon.

When we got back I weighed in and immediately got back to tracking my calories and getting back to my normal workout routine (fitness 5 days a week with 2 rest days). I wasn’t beating myself up over gaining some weight because I needed the break. While my healthy lifestyle is definitely my “norm” and it’s comfortable and usually fairly easy to maintain, people need a break once in awhile.

So back to the beginning of this post…my body got used to eating more. When I got back into calorie counting my body was yelling at me. “I’M HUNGRY!!!! FEED ME!!!!” It a feeling I hadn’t really experienced in awhile because I’d been so used to what I was doing for 8 years!

That hunger when you first make that adjustment is difficult. I’d forgotten just how difficult. The grumbling of the stomach, the ache, the sadness and frustration in knowing that I couldn’t eat EVERYTHING I wanted…it’s a brutal reality until you get used to it. The hunger goes away after a little bit. I remember now what that feeling was like when I FIRST started to lose my weight. It was a few weeks of insatiable, uncomfortable, almost painful hunger. I was starving. But I got through it. I drank a lot of water (and diet soda) to fill myself up. I tried eating healthy snacks to curb the hunger in between meals.

A few weeks later, my body adjusted. Making an adjustment from eating 5,000+ calories a day to 2,000 is a huge change. Give it time for your body to get used to it. I keep reminding myself of that this time around. Give it time. A few more days and this horrible hunger will subside.

I had one “slip up” when we got back. I was doing pretty well with my calories. I had a few days where I was a little bit over but not by much. The day I had a slip up was a conscious choice, so I don’t know that I can really call it that. I made the choice to splurge. It was our three week anniversary (haha!) and we went out to the movies for a date (we saw Gone Girl, which was great and I had worried they’d ruin the movie because the book was so great) and Michael got popcorn. I wasn’t going to have any but it smelled so good I ended up eating a bunch of it. Sigh.

Then we got dinner at Popeye’s (besides In-n-Out it’s the only fast food I like) because one opened near our place! We had to try it! I didn’t go crazy and wasn’t really over my calories too badly but it certainly wasn’t HEALTHY food!


We also shared a bottle of champagne left over from the wedding. 😀


(Dancing in the kitchen!) Movie theater popcorn, fast food and champagne…dinner of champions? Maybe not. It was good though!


I was back at the fitness routine and I was also back at the Warrior Room…ouch! After almost a month off from it and three weeks of no weight lifting, I hurt pretty badly after that. Ouch ouch. But I’m back…and going consistently twice a week to the WR.


I tracked my calories–every bite, nibble, snack, everything–and got back to the gym. I didn’t weigh myself again for about three weeks. I wanted to give it a little time to kick in and I also knew that I was nearing the time of the month where I’d “gain” several pounds due to PMS bloat. I didn’t need to see that on the scale. Sadly, I did weigh in and see that the original number on the scale hadn’t accurately reflected the honeymoon weight. I should have taken in to account that weight gain often shows up on the scale the FOLLOWING week.

It was discouraging. I had more weight to lose than I originally thought. It was frustrating and deflating and definitely humbling. I’d been maintaining my weight for so long, I forgot just how hard it is to lose weight. It was time to get even more serious. So this is what I’m doing now:

Measuring my portions (just eye-balling it doesn’t work when you need to LOSE)
Trying to create a calorie deficit every day 
Eating more whole foods (lots of fruits and veggies)

And I’m going back to weighing myself once a week. I was discouraged to see a GAIN after getting back on track. Clearly I’d gained more than I thought I had. I’m humbled and ready to take this seriously.

Stay tuned.