Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Will Power

Last evening at work, one of my co-workers commented on how well I've done losing weight and then followed up with, "I just don't have the will power that you do." That got me thinking. Have I managed to gain my health and fitness back while losing 93 pounds simply because I have more will power than another person? I'm pretty sure the answer to that is NO.

I've used the lack of will power excuse to carry on living an unhealthy lifestyle for more years than I'd like to remember and then I wised up. It doesn't take will power to buy yogurt, berries and granola instead of Frosted Flakes. It doesn't take will power to cook with olive oil rather than butter. It doesn't take will power to buy a bag of apples and eat one each day. It doesn't take will power to park far away from the store to get in a bit of extra walking. Finding solutions that work in your every day life isn't hard, it isn't expensive, it's just a matter of taking one step at a time and building from there.

Will power is a concept that goes along with crash dieting, it's archaic and only temporarily effective at best when it comes to health and fitness. I'm 13 months into this journey with no signs of going back, will power has nothing to do with that. Embracing good health is a matter of working at small digestible changes until they become permanent habits. Add a bit of planning to the mix and you're on your way to good health, vibrant energy and, yes, weight loss. Once you get a dose of that sweet freedom that comes with taking charge of your health, the momentum takes on a life of its own.

What are your thoughts on will power?


  1. I LOVE talking about will power! My take? It's an EMOTION, which means it fluctuates just like every other feeling. So when you're feeling strong, yeah, maybe will power does factor into your success. But if you think it all hings on will power, what happens when you have a crap day with no will power? What happens when the high turns into a low?

    I'll take every advantage I can get on this journey. If that means grabbing onto willpower and riding the wave on a high, so be it. But it also means setting up my life, my habits, and my environment so it's easier to succeed when my will power deserts me.

    Great post!

  2. I pretty much agree with you for the most part - it is just an overall lifestyle for me - not a choice between the "good" and the "bad" foods. HOWEVER, I do think willpower comes into play for me at least when I go out to lunch or dinner, or when I'm alone and struggling not to snack and pick at leftovers.

  3. I think people who have only crash dieted don't realize something important: making real changes is easier because you feel better all the time. "Will power" usually means feeling miserable--hungry all the time, or having cravings for "bad" foods, of beating yourself up. Really changing your like is so much the opposite of that--learning to love "good" foods and feeling better about yourself. Once you start doing healthy things for yourself, like exercising, you see and feel real reasons to keep going.

    But getting started is hard, and I do think that takes either will power or something pretty close. Those first few weeks, before you start really feeling better, are pretty tough. For me it took really falling in love with bicycling to ever keep exercising for more than a few weeks at a time. I had a completely superficial reason--I wanted to be able to go up a hill as fast as my husband--but it got me through until I realized that I actually enjoyed the exercise for its own sake. Now I can tell myself to go work out even when I don't feel like it, because I know for a fact that I'll feel better afterward, but it does take a while to learn that.

  4. I think the concept of will power goes along with the concept of guilt. If you learn to take it one step at a time, make healthy choices whenever you can, and allow yourself to splurge sometimes, the concepts of will power and guilt stop meaning as much as they once did. Learning to embrace a healthy lifestyle and avoiding the "all or nothing" mentality of dieting is key. You know what I'm talking about when I say "all or nothing" mentality, right? It's that little devil that sits on your shoulder and tells you that since you ate one cookie, you've blown your diet and might as well eat the whole bag. Lifestyle changes make that kind of thinking obsolete, and you learn to forgive yourself for eating the cookie and accept it as part of your new healthy life which allows you to splurge in moderation, and counteract it with 15 extra minutes of exercise. Splurges are part of a healthy lifestyle, and learning to make mistakes and get back on the bandwagon is part of it too! People who think it's all about will power are people who approach the problem from the negative side of things instead of the positive. Stop thinking about what you can't do or do wrong, and think about what you can do and what you do right!

  5. Well said to your comments about will power! To me - will power is what one makes it. Just like a lucky rabbit's foot or a lucky penny. If you want to call your choices in life will power then so be it. It's not rocket science on what we have to do to lose weight. Eat healthy and exercise. It's only if you want it bad enough that you want to stay healthy. You can opt for the easy road and blame will power or you can opt for the rocky and hilly road where you have to stop and make choices. Don't let the food rule you. So personally I say will power doesn't exist - it's a mind toy. Be strong - choose right!

  6. Having read briefly about motivation (if your library has a copy of The Motivated Mind by Raj Persaud, I'd suggest that you have a read), frankly I think that will power doesn't exist. Or if it does, it's pretty much powerless. That's why I base my motivation for losing weight on something other than will power. Given that about 2% of people who join up to the weight loss forum that I belong to reach goal, either will power on average is useless, or there has to be something more required.

  7. I say AMEN! You have to set yourself to succeed, not just blame it on some fluctuating emotion.

  8. Thank you for your post. Often the words we use and the meanings we think they are different. I totally agree with your concept of what most of us think will power means. Will power is about self-will and the choices we have. It is the will to live a healthy lifestyle and the discipline it takes to make MANY MAJOR changes.

    You give me hope to keep my own journey going. Keep it up! I started my blog for the same reason. To keep me on track.