Losing weight is never exactly easy or an entirely linear process. Yet, struggling with an overly restrictive diet makes it that much harder.
This isn’t even the worst part. When you relapse - because we’re all human, after all - the guilt sets in.
After all, we’re often told that a diet relapse can surely mean only one thing - you don’t have enough willpower.
It’s amazing how a simple word can carry so much guilt, shame, and blame. Unfortunately, far too many people give up on their weight loss goals, citing “no willpower” as their fundamental reason.
A perceived lack of willpower can make you feel that you aren’t trying hard enough, that something’s wrong with you, and that you aren’t worth it.
This simply isn’t true.
While healthy weight loss certainly does take effort, you may be surprised to learn that “willpower” really doesn’t come into it as much as you may believe.
Let’s take a look at the traditional role of willpower in weight loss plans, and how it could actually
be holding you back.
“Willpower” In Dieting: Does It Work?
Yes, your diet requires you to cut out sugary foods. Yes, you know you shouldn’t have dessert. Yet, here you are, eating a piece of cake. How do you feel?
Most of us experience a wave of guilt, ruining our enjoyment of the cake and making us consider giving up altogether. You might decide that you simply don’t have enough willpower to stick to a diet. And you might feel absolutely awful for wrecking another weight loss plan.
Is this a healthy mindset? Simply put, no. Losing a lot of weight can be a major change, and it can bring a ton of health benefits.
However, losing weight isn’t just about your physical well-being. It’s also about your emotional and mental health. In fact, these are all intricately linked.
Punishing yourself for not being strong enough to refuse a slice of cake won’t make you feel good about yourself. Sure, you can exercise restraint, and successfully stagger past your late-night ice cream cravings.
But wouldn’t it be better to investigate the root cause of the cravings rather than forcing yourself to ignore the symptoms?
What Causes Cravings?
Food cravings are usually behind every broken diet rule. Using willpower to get through these cravings might work in the short term, but in the long run, you’re going to crack. The body’s survival mechanisms will drive you to eat what the body needs.
Reducing the amount of food you eat and cutting down on junk food is going to have an immediate impact on how you feel, especially if you’re drastically cutting calories or eliminating entire food groups.
So, what can you do?
Try keeping a food diary, but don’t simply record what you eat and when. Write down how you feel. This can help you analyze behavior patterns or events that trigger cravings or binge-eating.
Often, cravings can have simpler causes than we might imagine. For example, skipping meals can lead to powerful carb and sugar cravings later in the day. Lack of sleep, dehydration, or diets that cut out swathes of food types can lead to specific cravings.
Finding the cause of your cravings is important. Are you restricting your diet too much? Are you turning to food to suppress your emotions? Find out why and fix that root issue.
Willpower VS Positive Thinking
The key to successful weight loss isn’t an iron-clad will. Neither is it the latest fad diet. The only way you can make real, sustainable, and healthy changes to your body and your lifestyle is if you already feel good about yourself.
Often, we tell ourselves that we’ll be happy with the way we look, act, or feel when we’ve lost X pounds. But is that really providing the motivation to make those changes? And once you reach your goal weight, will you really feel happy with yourself? Or are you attaching your dissatisfaction with other areas of your life to your weight?
Concentrating on our failures is no recipe for success. It’s likely that you will have relapses in your diet. Perhaps you’re planning to cut out fast food and eat smaller portions. That’s a healthy choice, but you need to make this choice for the right reasons.
Dwelling on the times you succumbed to your desire for pizza or a slice of cake isn’t going to strengthen your resolve to stick to your healthy diet.
In fact, cutting out all the foods you like to eat is never a good choice. Diets are more than just a crash course in weight loss. Ideally, we need something that’s sustainable, an eating plan you can live with.
Do you really want to live the rest of your life without the foods you love? It would be far better to cultivate a healthy and balanced view of food, and find a healthy eating plan that you enjoy. This might take a little time, but it’s worth it to find a balanced diet that works well with you. And this often looks like eating foods you enjoy - but in moderation!
Focusing on your success and the progress you’ve made is a good way to keep yourself motivated. This reminds us of the big picture and keeps you working towards your goals.
Do You Really Lack Willpower?
Humans are complicated. If you eat something forbidden by your diet, this doesn’t mean you just don’t have the willpower. Perhaps it’s something as simple as low blood sugar levels, or it could be an indirect response to something happening in your life right now.
Or perhaps you just wanted a piece of cake! (Remember, life is meant to be enjoyed!)
And the purpose of a diet is to make you look and feel better. Diets are often synonymous with misery and denial, but that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. Eating foods you enjoy isn’t a crime.
If you’ve become reliant on sugary, carb-loaded junk food, weaning yourself off can be hard. Most processed food is packed with sugar and additives. Especially if you’re feeding a family on a budget, higher-quality food can be too expensive. But getting through the difficult initial period requires more than just a bit of self-control.
There are three main aspects involved in successful weight loss: planning, perseverance, and positive thinking. Weight loss is something that’s supposed to enhance your life - not take away from it. It should give you more energy, more confidence, and better health. Assess this when you set out on your next weight loss plan. Find your balance! It’s entirely possible.