Do You Really Need Willpower?

[Read Time: 6 min]


Do You Really Need Willpower?

Jimmy likes donuts. He thinks that in his weight loss endeavours, cutting out all donuts, and treat foods for that matter, is a smart, ‘hardcore’ decision, exerting as much ‘willpower’ as possible in the heat of the moment. 

He’s sticking to his ‘clean eating’ diet, which restricts carbohydrates, the times of the day he’s allowed to eat, and sure as ever doesn’t let him have his favourite treat: donuts.

Jimmy gradually becomes overwhelmed with the urge to consume donuts, and other treat foods, until the thought of eating them preoccupies him too often. He struggles to focus at work, in conversations, and dreams of eating one every time he walks past them in the supermarket.

One day in the office, Jimmy’s co-workers buy boxes of Krispy Kremes. Tommy can’t help himself any longer, and, forgetting about his steamed broccoli and boiled chicken in the fridge, inhales 8 Krispy Kremes in 5 minutes.

Does this sound familiar?

Toxic diet culture, or in less extreme terms, popular (but, on the way out) thinking, is that to make progress with our health and fitness, we need to have ‘willpower’.

This isn’t entirely bulls**.

Active restraint around eating (EG, not having dessert every single night), can be a healthy and conscious decision around food. Active restraint can also be thought of as not having 2nd’s when you are already full, or choosing to have 1x treat meal a week rather than 3x.

However, eliminating your favourite foods from your diet entirely (restriction), thinking you are being ‘self-disciplined’ or exerting ‘willpower’, especially whilst likely being hungry if you are on a weight loss journey, is a sure fire way to overconsumption.

So what’s the quick answer Alex? There is no quick answer. Gotcha.


However, in the context of trying to lose weight, I highly encourage you to include small, occasional amounts of your favourite treat foods in your diet. You will not get any more (pun-alert) BROWNIE points for cutting them out. You will not fail as a human being if you eat a cookie whilst aiming to get leaner.

Including small, occasional, favourite treats can provide you with enjoyment during a weight loss phase, and can help you maintain a more inclusive, accepting relationship with food.

Remember: food is more than nutrients and numbers!

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