Willpower is a limited resource.

When we start a new diet, we want to see results fast.  Unfortunately, this need for results can interfere with consistent adherence.  The cornerstone of weight-loss success.

Ever started a new diet and reduced your calories per day from 3,000 to 1,000, hire a personal trainer, decide you’re no longer eating carbs, and buy every “super food” you can get your hands on?  Maybe done multiples of these at a time?  I’m talking to you.

Willpower is far more than making the choice to lose weight.

When you want some pizza but you eat a chicken breast instead: you are using willpower.  When you want to watch the next episode of a show but instead get up and go to the gym: you are using willpower.  When you’re out with friends and turn down a drink or a snack they indulge in: you’re using willpower.

If you continue to use use use and never let it recover, then, much like your physical body: willpower will crumble under the strain.

The strength of our will is directly related to our true desires and needs.  The difference in willpower-reserve for a person who goes to work because she enjoys it, believes in it, and is fulfilled by it is far different than the person who hates her job, wishes her boss fell down a flight and stairs, and just needs money.  In activity-terms, that is the difference between doing something you enjoy vs something you don’t.

You have decided that you want to lose weight: that’s excellent.  So, as is the thought-process with most people, you think: “If a little is good, a lot is better.  I shouldn’t JUST reduce my calories, I should also eat a lot more health food, do lots of cardio, get on a program, etc.”

Believe it or not, trying to make a sweeping lifestyle change all at once is a recipe for disaster.  Lets use basic caloric restriction and exercising as an example, from a purely physiological standpoint:

  • You reduce your calories and therefore have less energy.
  • You increase exercise and therefore require more energy.

Can you see how these two activities are at-odds with one another?  It requires more will to do both.

That’s not to say that people can’t reduce calories and exercise at the same time.

However, we need to recognize when we are doing something because we need to, and because we want to.  This is where being honest with yourself is crucial.  It sounds great to say that you WANT to lose weight, you WANT to be healthier, you WANT to go to the gym.  But do you, really?

It’s best to be honest with yourself, because the difference in willpower depletion will depend upon your personal honesty and self-awareness.  I enjoy lifting weights.  It centers me and makes me feel powerful.  Whether or not I’m at a caloric deficit or not: I will want to lift.  I will choose lifting over other activities.  So, for me: reducing calories and lifting is easy.  This did not happen for years.

This post is not meant to discourage, or to say that you won’t be able to hit your goals.  It is to say: take baby steps.  You know you need to make a lot of changes, but you also always start to make changes and then crack on your diet.  You start to make changes and then you skip the gym and your membership goes unused.  You go to extremes on your diet, see progress, and then see a rebound.  You are exhausting your willpower.  You are not being honest with yourself.

Do one thing at a time.

Get used to one small lifestyle change before adding another.  Weight-loss does not need to be an ordeal.  Let it, instead, be a process of self-discovery, where you are open and honest with yourself.  

Your body will thank you later.


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