If Weight Loss Is Hard, You May Want To Rethink Your Approach

non diet thoughts weight loss willpower Jul 17, 2021

Most of my clients, when they first come to see me say losing weight is hard. In fact, ‘it’s so hard’ is the most common comment they tell me when I ask about their weight loss journey so far.

And while this comment can be due to many different reasons, most often it’s because they’re trying to use willpower and self restraint to help them slim down. But this never works for permanent weight loss. In fact it can actually contribute to the restrict-binge cycle I see so many struggle with. And when things feel this hard, that’s when a lot of people give up.

So what is going on?

Willpower is resistance. It feels tense and closed down and uncomfortable. It feels hard. When you resort to using willpower every time you’re faced with some food you want to eat, you have to resist it which not only doesn’t feel good, but willpower is a limited resource.

Have you ever noticed how you’re never wanting to eat chips or chocolate or cookies for breakfast? But later in the evening when you sit down on the couch to watch t.v. that’s when you get the urge or craving that’s really hard to resist?

That’s because later in the day your willpower has been depleted. Think of willpower like the battery on your mobile phone. When you wake up in the morning, after a good nights sleep, it’s like your phone being on charge overnight, willpower is at it’s peak. The more you use your phone the less charge it has and it’s the same for willpower. Every time you motivate yourself to get work done, clean the house, discipline your kids and all sorts of other things you have to do each day, your willpower reserve gets depleted and you have less left. Less to help you make a healthy dinner, avoid dessert and not eat chocolate while watching Netflix.

When you’re trying to stop yourself from ordering take away instead of cooking, or not eat after dinner when you know you’re not hungry, but there’s no willpower left, that’s when the process of losing weight feels really hard.

You then most likely add to this with some mental beating up. After all you were so ‘bad,’ right? (errr, wrong!) And then weight loss isn’t just hard, it’s painful.

What do you make it mean when your attempt to ‘stick to your diet’ or ‘not eat chocolate’ fails? And what do you say to yourself? That you need more willpower? Why did you do that? What’s wrong with you? That you’ll never be able to lose weight? Etc!

The irony is, it’s thinking this way that makes overeating very likely to happen again. In many ways, you turn to food to comfort yourself from the self-created judgement, criticism and other negative emotions that are a result of the way you’re thinking about yourself and your food choices.

So if you’re thinking “All I need is more willpower or more self restraint and I’ll be able to lose weight” let that go because the more you try to control, the harder you grip, the faster and harder that will come back to bite you. Think of it like when you pull a rubber band really hard, then let go. It snaps back. And hurts. Yep, it’s just like that!

Instead, start to apply some ease, awareness and curiosity to what is happening.

So what is happening?

Overeating is a habit and habits by their very nature are hard to change. And you can’t change by flicking a switch - by just deciding you're going to eat in a perfect way. Change takes time, awareness and a willingness to try and not always succeed. Oh, and do yourself the favour of never trying to eat ‘perfectly.’ Instead, aim for a healthy balance (that's what I do!)

We want everything in our lives to be easy, effortless and pleasurable. That’s partly because our brains are seeking pleasure all of the time and food is an easy way to get it. You see, your human body is still designed for when we lived in caves. It wants to find energy dense food, eat as much of it as possible and store fat for those times of ‘famine.’ Our ancestors binged (feasted), that’s how they stayed alive. That’s what your body is designed to do. It’s working perfectly. However what kept us alive then is what’s killing us now. Literally. We have constant access to food and our bodies have no need to use the fat we have already stored on our bodies as there’s no famine in sight.

Weight loss can also feel hard as your brain is telling you not to stop eating these energy dense foods. It comes out in thoughts like:

‘But I really enjoy eating it’

‘I just really like it;’ or

‘I love it’

More willpower, control and self-restraint are not the answer. They’re part of the problem.

There is a way to lose weight and still enjoy eating your favourite foods. I can teach you how. Initially it won’t be easy, it will be hard. But it will get easier and it’s a darn sight better than the alternative of trying to use willpower for the rest of your life.

And by the way, you will be required to like yourself and your body along the way as you can’t hate yourself thin. You just can’t. But liking yourself also makes life a lot easier. I can teach you that too!

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