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?


New Year’s Resolutions To Skip

New Year's Resolutions

It’s that time of year! New Year’s Resolutions. A fresh start. A time to plan the new year and make goals. If you’re new to the blog, check out these two posts:

21 Days to a New Life

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Here are some common New Year’s Resolutions and better alternatives:

The Fast/Juice Cleanse

I see “detox diets” all over the blog world, magazines and social media in January. I know several people that do this every January. If it works for them, kudos. Of course the people I know doing the detox cleanses are already pretty fit. I understand the desire to detox after the holiday bingeing! But it’s not always safe.

First, it’s not healthy to suddenly stop eating for a period of time. It can mess up metabolism and cause more issues than it fixes. Second, it would be quite a shock to go from eating 3000+ calories a day to 500. I envision nausea, headaches, stomachaches, and a whole mess of other issues. It’s a fad diet and fad diets aren’t long-term solutions.

My suggestion is to analyze your current diet and make small changes to improve your diet. Find ways to eat more fruits and vegetables. Skip dessert for awhile. Stop drinking beer. There are a million HEALTHIER ways to “detox” and start eating a healthier diet. Read this post I wrote on Why All or Nothing Doesn’t Work For Me. Moderation is better than strict denial.

“I’m going to lose weight!”

This is probably the #1 New Year’s Resolution and for good reason. Obesity rates are increasing to astronomical numbers year after year. Losing weight is a noble goal and a healthy goal. Losing 100 pounds prevented me from developing diabetes (I was pre-diabetic), lowered my blood pressure to a normal number, and fixed the joint and back pain I had from carrying around too much weight. These are all good things!

The reason I say don’t make this your goal, is because it’s not specific. My suggestion for anyone wanting to lose weight is to make a goal, break it down into baby-steps and make sure they are ATTAINABLE. Don’t set yourself up for failure before you even start.

A better goal would be “I will try and lose 5 pounds each month this year.” Or “I will try and lose 1 pound a week in January.” When I decided to lose 100 pounds, I made a smaller goal first. 100 pounds was a huge number in my head and overwhelmed me. Instead, I set out to lose 25 pounds. When I reached that goal, I changed it to 50 and so on. Taking it in smaller chunks helped me to be successful!


“I’m going to the gym every day!”

Again, a noble goal but unrealistic. I don’t even go to the gym every day! Rest days are an important part of fitness and too many people skip this part. It leads to plateaus, over-use injuries, burnout and failure. Instead, start small.

I’ve seen it over and over again. Friends on social media posting that their goal is to go to the gym every day! And I see it. People flood my gym in droves. It’s crowded, it’s unpleasant, it’s annoying for the regular gym-goers (especially if the newbies don’t follow gym rules and etiquette) but it doesn’t usually last. Each week that ticks by, the resolutioners start to disappear. Why? Maybe because they set unrealistic goals for themselves.

So start small. Make a goal to do some kind of physical activity 3 days a week to start. On your “non-gym” days, include a walk. It’s not going to get you to your goal if you burn yourself out right from the start. Not only that, not easing in to a workout routine can cause injury. You know what happens if you do 40 squats in one session after not doing any? Yeah, you’ll be crippled. Hello hamstrings! I’ve done it myself! So now you’re crippled and in pain, resenting the gym and hating to workout–which makes it easier to just quit. Don’t set yourself up for failure!


Finally, here are some past posts that I’ve written regarding weight loss, new year’s resolutions and being successful in your goals. Check them out:

For Those Ready For a Change

How to Start Losing Weight Now

I Hate Going to the Gym

Don’t Wait!

How Are Your Goals?

7 Secrets to Making This Year the Best Year Ever

Choosing the Right Gym

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

I hope this post has helped some readers. If you’re feeling that spark of inspiration because it’s a new year and a new start, harness that feeling and funnel it into a specific, attainable goal. You can do this!!