Why Willpower Ain’t All it’s Cracked Up to Be

While willpower can be an important ingredient to our weight-loss success, it is too easy to place the entire burden of success or failure upon it. Ever heard: “She just needs to exercise some willpower”? As if putting the word ‘just’ in there makes it much more doable. Instead of deciding we either have willpower or we do not (read: we will succeed or we will not), we need to combine our bouts of willpower with good planning and preparation for when our willpower fails us. And it eventually will. Here are 5 ‘take-aways’ from Cindy Hatcher’s Cooking Light article Willpower is Overrated:

1. Emphasizing momentary failures hinders long-term weight-loss success.

2. Quoting Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State and author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: The biggest myth about willpower is that it’s always going to be there. We all have moments of weakness, but if you find that motivation it’s going to be easier. But it’s not easy.

3. Self-control with food eludes everyone eventually. If you keep your eye on the long-term goal – new habits, overall behavioral changes – a short-term setback loses it’s symbolic power.

4. The side effect of putting too much stock in the idea of willpower is what obesity researchers call the “What the Hell?” effect: As soon as you eat something you think you shouldn’t have, you figure you’ve already blown it for the day, so what the hell – you might as well keep going. But all is not lost because of one choice – you can do some calorie-compensation at the next meal.

5. If you have healthy defaults in place, then it won’t matter as much if your willpower fails.  -El




  1. Yes, we all have our struggles with staying healthy. I try not to bring it home….works the best. Good blog.

  2. Yes, the best way to avoid temptation at home is not to have tempting treats around. And–nothing new here–the best way to avoid bringing home those temptations is to make sure you’re full when you do your grocery shopping. Good information in this post!

    1. It may not be new, but it bears repeating. It’s a good idea to keep a snack bag of almonds in the car to stave off such experiences. Save calories AND cash! -El

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