The Myth of Willpower

The Myth of Willpower

You fell off the wagon (again) and you feel like a failure, like you must be lacking in willpower because achieving your health goals is just too dang hard!

You’re fine for a 1 or 2 days, 3 if things are really going well. But inevitably someone brings donuts, muffins, cookies, or candy into the office and your willpower is tested. You’re able to resist for the first hour as you watch your co-workers happily consume their favorites, but the longer that hour goes on with donuts still in the box, the harder it gets to resist.

So you pray to the donut gods to remove the temptation:

Dear Donut Gods,
For the love of all things chocolate and glazed, can you please make that last donut disappear?

And when that doesn’t work, you curse the donut gods, convinced that they’re testing you.

Why won’t they let you be great!?!

After 90 minutes of resistance, you sneak over to the donut box, grab the last one, hide out at your desk, and inhale it. Never mind the fact that you hate Boston Cream. It was a donut, and after eating salads for 3 days straight, anything other than kale and lettuce tastes like a gourmet meal.

So what’s a girl to do now?

Do you celebrate the fact that you had impeccable willpower for 90 whole minutes, or do you beat yourself up because you caved, give up on your health goals, binge eat all the things that you’re “not supposed to eat,” and promise yourself to start over again on Monday?

Chances are it’s the latter.

But before you circle further down the shame spiral, know that the problem here isn’t a lack of willpower.

The first problem is dieting; it’s ruining your relationship with food (more on that here).

The second problem is thinking that willpower is all you need to reach your goals.

We live in society where dieting and hating our bodies is the norm. We’re told to eat less, move more, and have self-control. Will your way to success.

But you can’t will your way to success, because willpower alone will not help you achieve your goals.

Willpower is a finite resource, and when you’re attempting to reach a goal it might help you get started and conquer a few small bumps along the way, but it won’t help you finish.

What will help you finish is the gratification that you get from seeing results.

If you’re not seeing results or getting a reward of any sort, willpower is not enough to keep you going. So you have to figure out what needs to change in order for results to happen or reassess your goals – are your expectations too high, are you expecting too much too quickly?

The Myth of willpower - jennifersterling.com

When we’re talking about health (and we are), setting grandiose goals and expecting to reach them right away isn’t realistic. If you’ve been struggling with food for several years, your body needs more than a week or two to get back into balance and heal.

It’s a journey, and if you want to get healthy (and heal), you have to be in it for the long haul. And the only way you’re gonna make it to the “finish line” is to set small goals that will allow you to see the fruits of your labor. Seeing results is what fuels the fire and keeps you motivated, not willpower.

If you’re ready to take the journey to good health, I can help!

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For years I struggled with how food owned my life, and then I took control not just of my plate, but my passion. With a background in body movement, dance, and once-upon-a-time bakery owner, I now help women create mindful lives.

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