The Fallacy of Willpower

July 2, 2019

"I just feel like I have too many decisions to make and it's exhausting."

Yes.  And more yes. 

For anyone that thinks that they can willpower their way through making lifestyle changes, I hate to tell you this can't.

When you sleep overnight, it's like your willpower battery charges overnight giving you a whole 15 minutes of willpower for the next day. 15 measly minutes! 



If you ever want to see willpower (or a lack thereof) in action, consider a child between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. Children desire to be fully self-expressed. But adults will try to mold their behaviors to teach them self-control and how to adhere to social mores because we know that in our societal structure, outbursts, tantrums, and breakdowns aren't tolerated. Children are taught to reserve and constrict their feelings for the sake of others' comfort. Sad, but true. 

As we become adults, most of us muster our way through our days applying these same "rules" that we learned as children but with a whole lot more added to our plates. Not only are we following the rules of society when it comes to our often suppressed emotions, but we are also forcing ourselves to do things every day that we don't necessarily want to do - wake up to an alarm, shower and get dressed, take care of others, go to work, manage a household, be nice to your coworkers or clients, feed your children, etc, etc. Most people are living a life constantly pushing themselves to do things that they don't love. This uses willpower.

Now consider what happens when you want to make lifestyle changes such as cutting out certain foods or adding in some exercise or movement. This requires willpower, too, from a bucket that's already pretty empty. 

With just taking food alone into consideration, we make roughly 220 decisions a day regarding what we're going to eat. It's not just what - it's how much, when, how it's going to be prepared, do you like it, dislike it, is it going to satisfy you, and so much more dialogue around food. Again, the willpower bucket is pretty depleted to begin with. So how do you make lifestyle change doable?

You have to have a plan. When it comes to food, the biggest thing that you can do to help yourself make changes is to have a plan of action that tells you what you are going to be eating for each and every meal or snack. It is very easy to allow your emotions to inform your eating choices when you really need your brain in charge. Having a "map" for your food throughout the day will eliminate all of the extra energy and willpower that's needed to make healthy choices. 

One of the most precarious times of day for most of my clients is the late afternoon. Here's've used up most of your daily allotment of willpower adulting, you may not have fed yourself well (imbalanced blood sugar, not enough nutrients, too few calories), and you're ready to retreat to your home space - which for some, especially parents, starts a whole second half to your day with different but stressful responsibilities. This time of day, in between the end of the workday and the start of dinner), is the worst for most. It's often when my clients are snacking while making dinner, having a glass of wine or a beer, and where despite their best intentions, the wheels fall off of the health wagon.

Is it all doom and gloom? No way! 

Meal planning and preparation is one MAJOR tool to help combat the empty well of willpower. You have to have a plan. Be sure to keep healthy snacks on hand. Have clear boundaries established around your food life and practice them to the point where they become second nature - like putting on your seatbelt when in a vehicle. For those that create food plans, there is a 350% greater chance of compliance than those who don't.

This is always the ONE thing that I tell people to do that can lead them to the results that they are seeking. If they come back to me to tell me that they're not reaching their goals, I will point them back in this direction. So, if you're "off," get started on those foods plans. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be 100% full of nutrition. But they do need to be created in order to be implemented. Carve out some time for these really valuable tools that can be the difference between the make it and the break it. 


If you're stuck on where to begin or what to eat, that's where I can help. Now through the end of the summer, I'm offering a discount on coaching sessions to help guide you through how to make these plans for yourself. 

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