Why Willpower is Garbage, and What You Really Need to Do

“I was doing great for a few days, then I just ran out of willpower and went on a donut binge”

I’ve never heard this exact quote before, but I’ve heard plenty like it – arguing that lack of willpower was someone’s downfall to meeting their goals. Willpower only has a finite amount of time until it runs out. I’ve been there. Back in the day when I was trying to get super shredded up for spring break in Florida, I took on a super unhealthy low-carb diet for just 2 weeks and failed one week in (many carbs were consumed that fateful evening).

Low carb meals for days…sucked…

Willpower can run out very quickly, and if it’s something that you are relying on, you are setting yourself up to fail. I have terrible willpower. If someone mentions ice cream to me during the day, I most likely will go buy some and eat all of it later that day. More on how to combat this in a bit.

Instead of trying to rely on willpower to make these quick and radical changes to your life, diet, and exercise routines, you need to establish a new MINDSET, create HABITS, and ultimately a new LIFESTYLE.

When working with clients I often like to set side goals, mostly nutrition oriented, and sometimes exercise oriented that align with their goals, and why they are trying to reach those goals. This being said, I don’t try to undo 30+ years of bad habits on day one, week one, or month one. Say you know you don’t drink water at all, drink 5 sodas a day, and never move besides when you are at the gym. Instead of trying to create a whole new lifestyle in one day, lets get into a new mindset where we pick which one is easiest to work on, and start there. Often times it will be the issue that you haven’t tried to fix in the past, because most likely you have tried many times and failed.

Example: You drink 5 sodas a day, lets try to bump that down to 4 sodas a day for this week, and replace one with a glass of lemon ice water. Right there we are adding in some water, and cutting out 1000 calories from your weekly intake. If after a week this goal seems to be sticking and is easy to maintain, lets cut back to 3, then 2, and eventually 1 and none. Work on nothing else in the meantime. 


Once soda is pretty much cut out of the diet, lets talk about adding in one serving of vegetables per WEEK. That becomes the norm, then we add in 2 servings per week, and so on and so forth.

This is an example of an appropriate mindset, creating new habits (no matter how slowly we do it) and what eventually leads to a new lifestyle.

Yes you may need a little willpower at first, but the idea is to use it only to jumpstart the new mindset into creating a better daily habit.

You need to be assertive in making healthy choices throughout the week, so when that “lack of willpower” kicks in, and you buy a concrete mixer from Culvers, and down the whole 800 calories worth of fatty and sugary goodness, you get right back to you normal healthy ways.

A great way to start making changes to form good habits is to find distractions, or alternate means of dealing with super triggers or pure avoidance. MY trigger foods are tortilla chips and ice cream, I love them, and I could eat them until my stomach pops if I had the chance (I’ve been close). So what do I do?

Censor and freedom of speech concept. Media prisoner and human rights concept. Tied mouth and blindfolded eyes.

I rarely have these things in my house (except when my super strong willed fiancee, Amanda buys them – and she knows how I feel about that). Even when they are in the house, I have become so accustomed to not having them, that once they are gone, they are gone – there if no need to seek them out from the store.

When it comes to creating a new mindset around food or exercise, keep in mind your goals and reasons behind them. I have talked enough on here about finding your “why” and remembering why you started in the first place. You need to look at food as fuel for your body, and that it will either get you closer to your goals, or maybe have you taking a few steps back. End of story, move on. You cannot dread over foods, or label them as bad, or you will tend to crave that forbidden fruit. By knowing that having “food x” on the regular might not help you get to you planned destination, you eventually learn that it should just be avoided and when you have no choice, it should be enjoyed, and then not thought of again.


In the end it comes down to creating a new mindset about what you are doing, establishing new healthy habits over a long duration of time, and thus developing a totally new lifestyle that embraces health and healthy behaviors. We only have one body, so why not try to make it as great as it can be.


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Stay healthy my friends,

Published by Mike Gorski

Registered Dietitian and Fitness Coach OWNER OF MG FIT LIFE LLC

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