Dieting and the Willpower Myth

A new study by the Institute for Wellness Education shows that sixty-eight percent of women believe that willpower is the most important factor for losing weight. Another random sampling shows that both men and women dieters rely on their will power alone. One disheartening hidden challenge of losing weight is that weight is resistant to self-control. Unfortunately, people who rely on will power to lose weight will almost certainly fail. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. But why is that so? It seems counter-intuitive.

Social Psychologist Roy Baumeister is an expert on self-control and will power. In his book, “Willpower” he explains the willpower myth when it comes to weight loss. Self-control takes energy that comes from food. Because a diet limits our food intake….you can imagine what happens next. As soon as our body experiences an energy deficit, our self-control goes out the window and we start eating.

This is one of the reasons that weight loss surgeries are so effective on allowing people the opportunity to feel the victory of success without needing to exercise willpower. The procedures do all the “heavy lifting” for you. Once you lose the weight your body becomes acclimated to that level of energy and the sense of victory that the decline in weight engenders gives you a momentum that you can maintain.

So, the next time a well-meaning friend advises you to get some willpower and  “just exercise more and eat less.” You’ll be able to explain why that typically fails.

In an upcoming blog, we will discuss some easy tricks to make the exercise of willpower less of a priority. So be sure to subscribe to our channel. You won’t want to miss this next installment!

Wishing you continued success on your weight wellness journey!

Dr. Waldrep