Why willpower is overrated


It's impractical to say that you'll never eat another cookie, much like it is highly improbable that you won't eat another French Fry in your life. In reality, it is unrealistic to think that you'll absolutely eliminate "cheat" foods from your diet, cold turkey. The thing is, it isn't a question of self-control. Others will probably remark upon how strong your willpower is when you maintain a healthy lifestyle. My response has always been that I don't have strong willpower. I'm making a lifestyle change. I can tell from experience that willpower is not a sustainable way to live a healthy life. Though it does come into play when you are living and eating healthy, you can't completely rely on it.

My Experience Relying on Willpower and Willpower Alone

I followed my first diet plan in high school. It started off great: no carbs, all veggies and protein and no sugar.  It worked wonderfully, until I started to feel dizzy and cranky. On the fifth day of my 'diet', I start to sneak in foods that weren’t allowed. I started this diet plan at least 5 times and never finished it once. Why? There was always an excuse. My willpower to say no to so many foods simply ran out.

I then began to keep a food diary. I would write down whatever I put into my body every day. This also worked until I inevitably slipped up. Feelings of disappointment and sadness overwhelmed me to the point that I would neglect to write down 'failures' in my food journal.  I would be so disgusted with myself and ashamed for eating that one cookie that I couldn’t bear to write it down.

Food preoccupied all of my thoughts when I was in high school. My internal monologue wrestled between questions such as, "How many calories were in my lunch? How many calories would I be eating for dinner? How far would I have to run to burn off those crackers?". This type of cyclical thinking overwhelmed me on a daily basis.


The Demise of Willpower

Junk food and the prospect of unhealthy meals made me anxious. I'd justify eating as many cookies, brownies, and any sort of junk food as I could because I said to myself that I'd never eat them again. In doing so, I would overindulge and sabotage myself. This is how I realized that I was using willpower to get me through the day by saying no to everything that was remotely unhealthy. By nightfall, my willpower was exhausted and I'd binge.


If you want the cookie - eat the cookie.

Choosing to eat something or not is totally YOUR choice and you have to be okay with that. It is your choice if you want to eat 10 cookies and feel guilty or eat a nice clean healthy meal and feel strong and satisfied afterwards.

I realized that I needed to stop obsessing and constantly exerting my willpower to make every food decision in my life. All that needed to change was my thought process. I began to listen more closely to what my body needed instead.  Eat something the next time you are hungry, but that something doesn't have to be a bag of chips. Fuel your body with the right food to give you energy and satisfy your hunger with fruits, vegetables, complex carbs, and protein.

I used to reward myself with junk food after a whole day of  healthy eating, but this became a form of self-sabotage.  Don't beat yourself up for your lack of willpower. Instead, make healthy eating a part of your life and turn it into something you do consistently rather than you do sporadically.

Fall in love with giving your body healthy, energizing food. Stop dieting and make a lifestyle change, because eventually your willpower is going to run out and you will have to start all over again.

This is a post by PumpUp member Danica B (@danica23), author of a blog called the Happiness Hut. Check out her tips about healthy and happy living here.