willpower to lose weight

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?

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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.

If-it-is-important-to-you-you-will-find-a-way.-If-not-you-will-find-excuses.

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

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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?

 

Stop Counting Calories to Lose Weight

Recently I read an article entitled “Stop Counting Calories to Lose Weight.” I was intrigued because I lost 100 pounds by counting my calories and I’ve kept the weight off now for 5 years by continuing to count my calories. (You can read more here: How to Count Calories.)

I went into the article expecting to hate it and rip it apart. Not because I think MY WAY is the best way, but because I’ve read a lot of articles criticizing calorie counting and it rubs me the wrong way when they discredit something that works. It may not work for everyone, but it works for a lot of people (I mean really, Weight Watchers is essentially calorie counting, just in a different format–points).

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Let’s talk about calorie counting for a minute. One question I get asked a lot is how I counted my calories. I’ve written a plethora of posts on the topic but the question that stands out is that people want to know if I tracked fat, carbs, etc. All those micro-nutrients and saturated fats, blah blah blah. Sure those things are probably important but I didn’t track that. I didn’t care. All I cared about was the calorie count because it was SIMPLE. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with all of those other things. Seriously, I couldn’t fathom tracking all of those things because I was overwhelmed as it was and I was also hand writing everything! Now things are easier. There’s websites and apps that do all that stuff for you.

“… not everyone has to count calories to lose weight. In fact, for some OCD people or people with eating disorders, it could be counterproductive. “

This is an excellent point about counting calories. If you struggle with restriction and have a history of eating disorders, it’s probably not a good idea. Instead, discuss your options with a doctor or RD. I’m sure they have some alternatives that can help you succeed without triggering disordered thinking.

Intuitive Eating is a popular thing these days. There are a lot of bloggers out there that swear by it and there’s a ton of books on the topic. I tried it once. It did not work for me. The reason it didn’t work for me was because I’m a REFORMED BINGE EATER who used to be obese. “Intuitively” I want to binge eat. I have to practice self-control and willpower in order to not do this. While binge eating isn’t something I have to worry about most days, there are still times in my life where I do want to revert back to the old habits I had. (Read these posts: Psychology of Weight Loss and Stop Dieting!)

When you spent half your life with bad habits and the desire to overeat, it’s difficult to trust your mind and your body to eat only what it NEEDS to survive and not what it CRAVES. For me, there needs to be a happy medium between intuitive eating and calorie counting. I address it in more detail here: Why All or Nothing Doesn’t Work For Me.

“…it is not necessary. Many people have gotten down to single digit body fat without ever counting a single calorie. They practiced portion control.”

This is entirely possible. I know several people that practice portion control instead of calorie counting. I believe that portion control is a crucial element of weight loss and maintenance. Once you achieve goal weight, it’s not like you can go back to eating an entire pizza in one sitting. You have to continue the healthy practices you did to lose the weight in the first place. But can you JUST measure portions out and still lose weight? You bet. I don’t see why not.

“You need to focus on the quality of the food that’s going into your mouth. Until your diet is 80-90 percent whole foods, you’re wasting your time counting calories.”

This has been an evolution for me. When I was first losing my weight I ate a TON of processed foods because they were portion controlled and I knew exactly how many calories I was eating (which made calorie tracking so much easier). Over the last few years that I’ve been maintaining 110 pounds lost, I’ve moved more toward eating natural, whole foods. The article recommends adding whole foods and remove processed foods from your diet. I agree whole-heartily. I love my veggie garden! 🙂

The bottom line is this: All Calories Are Not Equal. You cannot sustain a healthy body and lifestyle eating only 1500 calories of Twinkies in a day. It is true that there are much healthier calories we can be eating!

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So while I went into the article expecting to hate it, I did agree with a lot of their points and suggestions. Counting calories works for me. I lost my weight and I’ve kept it off for years. Because it works so well, I’ve continued it.

What’s your take on the article?