You Don’t Need Willpower To Lose Weight (Here’s What You DO Need)

by | Mar 14, 2016 | Blog

Have you ever been frustrated by your lack of willpower? I know I have! I’ve had so many moments when I decided to create & follow a plan and then quit before I started!

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told myself, “This is the time! I’m doing it! No excuses! Time to get serious!” and then found myself saying “yes” to cookies, ice cream and pizza the next day. Sometimes even the same day!

Maybe you’re familiar with the cycle? Commit in the morning, cave in the evening? 

You use up so much energy planning & promising but it gets you no where if you don’t do the work.

You stop trusting yourself. You erode your self-confidence. Your word & your promises lose their meaning.

I broke so many millions of promises to myself that I wasn’t sure I’d ever keep one.

But I did.

In fact, I rebuilt the trust. I lost over 100 pounds without increasing my willpower by gradually building two things, one single choice at a time:

  1. New habits
  2. Trust in myself


I want you to make sure you read this entire explanation, but I’ve created a free tool to help you implement what I’m explaining below. (You gotta read the rest for the checklist to make sense & work it’s magic.)

Let me try to explain why I don’t think willpower works & why I think you don’t need willpower to lose weight.

The willpower approach is like trying to learn 6 new skills at once without bothering to figure out the basics.

I heard Chalene Johnson use the following analogy (not related to weight loss, but it works):

It’s kind of like walking on to a college campus all excited to learn. You follow a big crowd into Spanish 301. You’re excited! Yeah! Time to learn Spanish! You’re frantically scribbling notes & you’re determined to go home & study, but you quickly realize you’re in over your head.

Instead of thinking, “Hm. Well. I think maybe there was a 101 and 201 class I skipped” you think, “I suck at Spanish. I can’t do this. That class across the hall looks interesting. I’ll try that. Maybe that’s my thing.”

In you walk to Microbiology 407. You’re motivated. You’re there. You’re focused.

You’re lost. You’re in over your head.

Of course you are! It doesn’t matter how badly you want it, how motivated you are or how much willpower you have.

You’ve taken on too much and you jumped ahead without the basics.

When it comes to weight loss, that won’t work.

You must tackle the basics:

  1. Learning to trust yourself & re-establish the credibility of your own word
  2. Establishing foundational habits

I talk to my 1:1 coaching clients & the folks in my Fat Loss Fast Track about the difference between practice & play. I’m a big sports fan so I often use sports analogies.

If a young kid begins playing basketball for the first time, you probably won’t send him to a shooting clinic. He needs to understand & get comfortable with the basics. Repetition & familiarity are king here. Dribbling, passing, shooting, getting comfortable with the ball in his hands.

It’s about establishing a comfort level with the basics. Building confidence, repetition & familiarity. Before you’ve done that, it’s not even fun.

I bought a guitar about 10 days ago. I’ve never played the guitar. I’m not good. Practicing isn’t fun when you’re not good. It takes time and repetition to get familiar with the basics.

If I jumped into some advanced tutorial right out of the gate, I would fail, regardless of my willpower.

If I tried to learn to read music, master complex chords & memorize strumming patterns all at the same time, I would feel like a failure regardless of my willpower.

So how do we overcome this when our goal is fat loss?

We pick one behavior – yes, just one – that we want to master & we practice it every day.

We don’t want to tackle 7 behavior changes at once! Our focus, willpower & energy are finite. We don’t want to splinter them among 7 new things. That will only lead to frustration.

We want to pick one high-impact strategy and implement it every single day until we earn easy. That’s right. Easy is earned with repetition & consistency.

Some of the most high impact single strategies I suggest starting with are:

  • Tracking – writing down what you eat & how it makes you feel
  • Fat loss breakfast – focusing on healthy fat, protein and fiber from non-starchy veggies
  • Affirmations – replacing the negativity & self-doubt with strong, powerful statements about what you will do & why

When you simplify your approach and know there is only ONE goal to tackle for the day, your progress accelerates much more quickly than when you’re over-reaching & trying to do “all the things”.

Your trust in yourself begins to grow as you prove that you can repeatedly do that one thing until it feels easy or effortless. Then, and only then, add on more.

I have created a super simple checklist for you. I want you to carry this with you each day as you build this one, foundational habit.

Each day, I want you to make a check mark to denote that you executed your “one thing” and I want you to rate how easy it was on a scale of 1-5 (5 being effortless, 1 being brutally difficult). You will find that with time & consistency, it gets easier & easier.

That’s when we know when it’s time to transition to the next thing.

You don’t need willpower to lose weight. You need to focus your energy & attention on the mastery of ONE high-impact habit and invoke the power of repetition until it becomes effortless.

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