Eat Your Willpower

Because it is not the answer to lasting weight loss

Chocolate chip muffins. Unsplash - Oriol Portell

Who has ever heard (or thought) they needed more willpower to lose weight? That it would be the key to saying no to all foods that undermine your progress? That it would take you to the gym every morning?

Since we are conditioned to believe that our lack of control over food is a problem we need to fix, it is easy to imagine that the tool for this is more discipline or willpower. I’ve heard (and thought, I confess) many times that I couldn’t lose weight because I didn’t have enough willpower.

“If only I was stronger and didn’t go back for thirds for that cake, I’d be thin.”

or

“I don’t have the willpower to stick to my diet over the weekend.”

Two girls holding a tray of cake.

Today, on the other side of my story, I see that what brought me to food freedom and weight loss was not a big pile of willpower.

See, the few people who can maintain the long-term weight loss results of a restrictive diet live in a constant struggle. They have suffered to lose weight and are still suffering to stay thin — it does require (A LOT) of willpower.

To lose weight without that struggle (and forever) an internal transformation is required — that has nothing to do with more discipline.

This is because your eating habits are associated with many things besides food. This way of relying on your willpower to persuade you not to pick up the second (and third, and fourth) pieces of pizza may even work for a brief moment — those first moments when you’re excited about losing weight.

But unfortunately, willpower is a rather limited resource that we use all day for a number of tasks. Besides being a depletable resource, it works best when your life is balanced, everything is working and you feel happy, and it doesn’t work very well when you are tired, stressed, and disgusted.

Therefore, believing that more willpower will solve the problem is an illusion.

Many factors can affect your cravings for food, and your “willpower stock” just isn’t enough to overcome your food problems — the ones that really make you eat more than you need.

A woman holding a green smoothie.

These factors may include lack of coping skills, thinking patterns that favor dysfunctional relationships, lack of sleep, excessive stress, hormonal or intestinal imbalances, fears in general, and especially a history of restrictive diets.

None of this heals with willpower.

See, dietary restriction is arguably the greatest predictor of uncontrolled and compulsive eating. Dieters are also demonstrably predisposed to an obsession with food and weight.

This does not mean that you may not want to (or can) lose weight.

As a former diet junkie, I know I would never embrace this idea easily — nor do I intend to convince you do to so.

Today I see very clearly that a woman can accept herself and still want to lose weight, that she can see herself beautiful and be grateful for her own body and still want to change it. But this can be done in a much smarter way since weight loss is a byproduct of balancing the factors mentioned above.

The key point is that losing weight and healing self-destructive eating habits will never be a success with a bland diet, which you need the willpower to follow. This kind of strategy has an expiration date.

However, as you begin to focus on what really matters, you will find that willpower is the least superfluous in your transformation.

What is indispensable is self-care and the desire to become the protagonist of your journey.


I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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