How to Lose Weight When You Don’t Have Any Willpower

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You’ve got willpower to spare when it comes to working hard or showing up for your family and friends. But you just can’t figure out how to lose weight when you don’t have any willpower when it comes to food.

This sums up the position most of my clients find themselves in at some point, usually late forties, fifties, and beyond.

Here’s the thing.

Willpower is a short-term solution. Willpower is only good for 2 to 14 days. That’s why when you only depend on willpower to lose weight, your efforts fall apart so soon in your diet.

Sara

Where Did Your Willpower Go?

Most women find it so confusing when it seems like nothing works anymore and their usual hard-working attitude isn’t getting them results with their weight.

You might wonder, what happened to your willpower when it comes to food?

Here’s the thing. You still have your willpower but at some point, it isn’t the entire solution to losing weight.

In the past, you used willpower to eat less, to cut calories, and deprive yourself. You were using your willpower against yourself.

You were using your willpower to hurt yourself. And that eventually backfires when you can’t do it anymore.

And when willpower is what you used to use to lose weight; you find yourself stuck.

But I’m here to help you get unstuck! I did it myself and I help women get unstuck as well.

April 2023 Update: I originally wrote this post six years ago. You can harness the power of willpower to change habits initially, and I teach women to use it in moderation and help them make permanent shifts in their brains so they don’t have to depend on willpower.

The best thing is to change without always having to think about changing!

Even women who have been fighting problem eating habits for YEARS are able to change and actually not think about the food habits that willpower was powerless to change.

It can take some willpower to decide to change and commit to doing what is good for your body, not just losing weight but taking care of your whole self.

However, it’s easier and more effective to address the root causes of overeating, eating at night or endless snacking.

You can take back your power of food!

picture of smiling woman on the beach with the words: you can lose weight without depending on willpwer

Are you desperate to lose weight but can’t stop eating?

If being fit and eating right depended on willpower, I’d be in trouble because I’ve never had a lot of willpower around eating.

As a kid, I can remember mindlessly eating chips or ice cream if I had the chance. And diets never had a chance with me because I just couldn’t stick to them.

In the end, this turned out to be a good thing because I never turned into a yo-yo dieter since I wasn’t much of a dieter at all.

The few times I did stick to a diet, while initially losing weight, I always gained the lost weight back plus a few extra pounds.

Finally, I decided that I was never going to diet again. I was never going to count points, or grams, or calories. My mission became learning to eat in a way that nourished my body and kept it naturally at a good weight.

I had to find an alternative to willpower for losing weight.

How I Lost Weight Without Willpower

My story of ending my struggle around my body weight began with giving up wheat about 15 years ago. The short story is that I had been having digestive issues for years.

By chance, I came across some information online about giving up wheat. I tried giving up all forms of wheat and every single digestive issue I had disappeared within days.

Because I felt so much better; I never looked at wheat products as something I had to eat and have continued to happily live my most wheat-free life.

While this alone did not cause weight loss (though it does for some people) it did encourage me to be open to removing inflammatory foods from my diet.

Losing Weight isn’t About Willpower

There are three parts to changing how you eat.

Changing what you eat

Losing weight is about giving up foods that cause cravings, insulin spikes, and inflammation.

Really, let that sink in. Losing weight isn’t about giving up calories or working out more. Losing weight is about avoiding foods that cause you to have cravings and insulin spikes.

To do this, I quit consuming artificial sweeteners, sugar, and food that acts like sugar in my body.

It might sound like I do without, yet my diet is richer and more delicious than ever. I never feel deprived because I’m not. I am so grateful for the beautiful nutritious food that I get to eat every day!

My meals are healthy and delicious. Here are 25 healthy and delicious recipes for inspiration.

Changing when you eat

I am a firm believer in eating meals and only meals most of the time. After four years of coaching women, this is a huge help to changing problem eating.

Women often deprive themselves at mealtime and then make it up in snacks. We often hear about how obesity dramatically rose in the 80’s.

This coincides with the snacking revolution. People didn’t start eating more at meals; they began snacking around the clock, often doubling the amount of food they ate.

I teach women to eat real meals with sufficient protein, fats, and carbohydrates. I promise you, when you aren’t actually hungry all the time, it is much easier to not snack or overeat all day.

Once your body trusts you to feed it, it calms down quite a bit.

Changing your brain

Here is the real key. You can change your brain. Most of us, use food for everything but nutrition. It’s entertainment. It’s comfort. It’s a friend.

We turn to food when we are bored, lonely, frustrated, sad, mad, or restless. We literally train our brains to look to food to solve a host of emotional problems.

You know and I know, that overeating not only doesn’t solve problems; it creates a bunch of other problems.

I teach women to quiet the noise in their head around food and to deal with all the reasons they currently use to justify overeating.

When you solve for what is really going on, food again loses it’s power.

Yes, You Can Lose Weight Without Willpower!

I look and feel better in my 60’s than I ever have in my life–It’s been an amazing process and losing my extra weight was a big part of it.

At 61, I am so in love with how I look and feel. When I’m not obsessed about food, my weight, or my body I can show up and be present with the people I love!

Picture of author Sara with grandchildren

Because I concentrated on ADDING nutrition and healthy fats, even my skins looks better. When you diet and cut out too many things, you can end up looking worse because of your diet.

Stop Emotional Eating for Good

The best part? I don’t sit around thinking about food or craving things too much. Sometimes at work, sitting at my desk, I’ll get cravings for candy or chips.

But I’m able to recognize that those cravings have nothing to do with hunger and I don’t have to act on them.

How do I get the willpower to stop eating? Need an alternative to willpower for losing weight? Here's how to lose weight when you don't have any willpower.

Sometimes I’m tempted to diet but I firmly resist that impulse. My weight and size have been steady for years and I do not want to hurt my metabolism by any form of calorie restriction.

The important thing is that I look fine, am in a normal weight range, and I am fit and active.

My kids, friends, grandkids, and boyfriend will not love me any more if I’m a few pounds lighter. My skin and hair are gorgeous and I have a lot of vitality.

(I also love to gently exercise. Here’s How I Get Fit Without a Gym.)

Hopefully by now you’re intrigued enough to consider living and eating in a way that does not depend on using willpower to deprive yourself. If you are feeling out of control with your eating, this CAN help.

How to Lose Weight When You Don’t Have Any Willpower

It’s very common for people to think that it’s their lack of willpower that is the reason that they are overweight or just can’t eat in a healthy way.

But this probably isn’t true. If you have been wondering how can I get willpower to lose weight, I’m going to show you something even better.

We all know or have read about people that apply willpower to the task of losing weight with some success.

What was needed to lose weight seemed so simple—eat less and exercise more. As I said earlier, I have no willpower when it comes to food in general.

Are you desperate to lose weight but can’t stop eating?

As I’ve learned over the years, there is so much more to having a healthy weight than the willpower required to eat less and exercise more.

Alternatives to Willpower to Lose Weight

Willpower is a catch-22 when it comes to weight loss. When you finally manage to find some willpower to stick to a diet, instead of getting easier; it gets harder as you go along.

Then despite your best efforts, you find yourself on a plateau or worse gaining the weight back.

This is because, depriving yourself or doing something you can’t sustain will always back-fire on you.

You have to eat in a way that you can sustain forever and love doing.

Once when I did stick to Weight Watchers, I remember at my thinnest, looking at the handful of points I was now allowed to eat. To get enough to eat, I was eating all this non-fat, non-food crap. It was SO depressing.

And I gave up, gained my weight back, and decided that it just wasn’t meant to be. I just could not get the willpower to stop eating.

I can remember feeling that it was hopeless to even think about losing weight. I didn’t feel like I was overeating but I still couldn’t budge any weight off for over eight years. I was resigned to being overweight forever.

Don’t hate your fat!

That probably sounds crazy? How can you not hate your fat?

Well, your fat is an incredible organ that is literally one of the reasons that you are alive.

While we see fat as something horrible, it is actually a very important part of our survival.

And it is always trying to survive the crazy things we eat!

However, at some point, our fat just doesn’t function as we’d like it to. When hormones get messed up from the crap we’ve been eating, we end up storing more fat.

And guess what? Once you have that fat, your body does not like to lose it.

Those intricate systems, will all work to keep your weight on. It’s not you or your willpower, it’s your body’s defense mechanisms gone awry.

That’s why I start with this. You have to understand that you cannot win this battle of losing weight or fat without understanding how your body works.

However, you really can teach your body to burn fat instead of storing it permanently!

Change your mindset

A few years ago, I discovered that I could lose weight and I could do it without dieting or crazy exercise regimens.

If you are feeling hopeless, I want to share some hopeful news. It really is possible to eat in a way that not only makes you feel good; it can help you maintain a healthy weight–without willpower or being hungry.

Of course, there is no magic pill or a way of eating that lets you eat every single thing you want at any time you want.

However, it is possible to eat in a new way and retrain your brain and your body to work together so you can eat well and NEVER feel deprived.

I offer one-on-one coaching to help if you just can’t believe that it’s possible to lose weight and keep it off.

Diet as a way to eat to be healthy

I started this post with a reference to diet. When most people think of diet they think in terms of losing weight, as if that is the only reason to change the way you eat.

But your diet and the food you choose affects so much more than what you weigh.

When you diet, you become obsessed with food all the time.

When you learn to eat and nourish yourself, food becomes neutral. It’s just food.

You eat some and then you forget about it until you begin to feel hungry again.

Food is also nourishment. It’s not something that just satisfies hunger or something that makes us fat. Food isn’t the only thing that affects our health but it sure is a huge factor that is often overlooked.

I don’t for a minute believe that anyone needs to be thin to be healthy. Healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes.

But when you look at healthy older people, you rarely see extremes. You see average size people. Not grossly over-weight or over-thin.

Food addiction is not about willpower!

Many people still believe that to lose weight, it’s all a matter of willpower. Yet, willpower only works in the short-term and many processed foods are designed to override your willpower.

You are fighting a losing battle if you are depending on willpower alone.

Willpower only lasts so long and it’s probably the least effective way to lose weight. The statistics on losing weight are dismal. Most people end up gaining all the lost weight back within a year or too.

That’s because, if you’ve lost weight using willpower, you have to continue using willpower to keep the weight off. In this post, I describe the five attackers on your willpower.

There is a better way than that to lose weight and maintain your healthy weight.

Picture of smiling woman with the words: How to lose weight when you don't have any willpower

5 Tips to Lose Weight When You Don’t Have Any Willpower

Here are the ways that I maintain my weight and feel great at the same time. I work with my body and not against it.

Eat real food

I truly believe that a diet comprised of real food in quantities that are appropriate for our size, age, and activity makes the most sense.

What is real food?

The building blocks: proteins, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats.

The extras: grains, beans, dairy, nuts, and seeds.

Eat meals made up of proteins, fats, and some carbohydrates.

I’m talking about roasted chicken with the skin on and your veggies dressed with olive oil or butter. I’m talking about real food that tastes amazing!

When you are eating real food, you body repairs it’s hunger signals and the hormones are better able to regulate your blood sugar and fat storage.

Remove foods that create cravings from your diet

It’s actually very simple. Yet, mentally it can be difficult to get your head wrapped around this.

How does one live primarily without bread, pasta, cookies, diet sodas, cereals, and all the other things we think are essential?

There was a time I couldn’t imagine life without those things and tried to keep them as part of my diet.

However, after being overweight for about eight years, I really wanted to do something different.

I did a Whole 30. I committed for 30 days to only eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and healthy fats. Was it tough? YES!!!!

However, it changed my eating and ultimately changed my life. I completely retrained my mind and body relative to food and eating.

What I learned was that there are foods that create cravings and as long as they are in our diets, we will continue to crave them.

Before Whole 30, I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I ate snacks between all my meals because I always felt hungry.

No surprise that I was overweight and had no idea how to change that. I knew diets didn’t work because I had tried a few and I always ended up even BIGGER a few months after my diet ended.

Whole 30 did NOT lead to an initial weight loss. However, it gave me the mindset, structure, and knowledge to find a way for me to eventually lose weight and keep it off. I am into my third year of maintaining my weight loss.

Eat more fat

Sixty years ago, our country had a crisis. Men were dying of heart attacks at an unprecedented rate. It the effort to fight this, something really bad happened.

Medicine, science, and the government decided for the first time in the history of humans, to recommend a diet for all people.

It advised things like eating only lean meats, not eating saturated fat, and removing things like eggs, butter, and cheese from our diets.

Most of you reading this will probably see nothing wrong with that recommendation since we have all grown up hearing that this is how we should eat.

The only problem is that it was wrong.

No research ever showed that this way of eating would be helpful.

Not only that, but much research showed that it was actually harmful. Look around. Obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease run rampant in our society.

In fact, no one is surprised by any of these conditions any more. We all accept that it is a part of aging. Except that it is not. It is a condition of a science experiment going horribly wrong.

One takeaway is that fat isn’t bad. Fat is one of the most important foods you need to eat to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. Let that sink in.

Here’s the important caveat though. This applies to healthy fats: fat from meat that is of good quality, coconut oil, butter, eggs, olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

Vegetable and seed oils (even canola) are bad and you should avoid them as much as possible.

So, instead of pasta have some squash with butter. Eat your salad with a delicious fatty dressing. Leave the skin on your chicken. Buy the higher fat ground meat. Add avocados and nuts to your meals. Eat whole eggs.

Fat in itself does not make you fat. It actually helps you eat less because you can eat a meal and be satisfied for hours. It’s great for your skin and all your body’s systems. Fat is GOOD FOR YOU!

Avoid foods that create cravings

One example is sugar and foods that act like sugar. It is documented that sugar is not just “bad” for us; it is literally killing us.

It is very difficult to consume it in moderation because like many drugs, a little bit can create cravings for more.

I think by now we all realize that sugary foods are harmful. Most people think it’s just about weight. But sugar is inflammatory and causes all kinds of bad things to happen inside our bodies.

However, there are lots of other foods that act like sugar in the body. These include: pastas, breads, cereals, chips, tortillas, and artificial sweeteners.

Avoiding these foods is very helpful in keeping cravings minimized.

Use time restricted eating

One of the problems with eating low fat and high carb foods is that despite trying to eat healthy, we are hungry all the time.

It seems like you no sooner finish your bowl of cereal with skim milk in the morning, then you need a snack. Bring on the low-fat yogurt or breakfast bar.  We are addicted to eating all the time.

However, by eating snacks all the time, we never allow our body to properly metabolize our food. We don’t get the benefit of our body’s natural fat metabolizing system.

Your body needs a break from eating so the digestion hormones can do their job. (The Fat Burning Secrets Everyone Needs to Know)

The solution? Eat enough at your meals to get you to the next meal. The only way I know to do this is to eat enough real food with enough fat to satiate you and keep you from craving snacks.

One thing that is very helpful is to not eat after dinner. The next day, wait until you are hungry to eat. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you it’s time to eat.

Hunger is a good thing when you are eating enough. If you wait to eat until you feel hungry, then it is much easier to tell when you have had enough to eat.

Your body will adjust within weeks to this. My clients tell me that they begin to love their hunger. It doesn’t feel painful or scary.

Hunger, when you are eating right, is your body’s signal that it is time to eat. This is a good thing!

Lose Weight When You Don’t Have Any Willpower

I wanted to debunk the willpower method we all hope will work. Yes, there are a few people who do make it work. But for the majority, it only works in the short term.

More important is to learn how to feed your body in a way that fills it with nutrients and reduces or eliminates cravings.

This is how you become comfortable with eating. Eating is a GOOD thing that most of us have forgotten. Nowadays, we think of eating as something bad or risky. That couldn’t be further from the truth!

Eating is a natural function. It’s good for us and it’s enjoyable. You deserve to be able to eat AND enjoy it as well.

That’s what can happen if you learn to eat real food and break your addictions to modern processed food.

If having a healthy weight isn’t enough of an incentive to do this, then also consider how having nice skin, and optimistic outlook, and plenty of energy could feel.

Our food consumption isn’t just about weight—it affects our whole self, including our moods.

Yes, some willpower is needed to break the addictions to harmful food. But if you can do that, then you have something more powerful than willpower to help you maintain your good habits for the rest of your life.

Feeling and looking great can happen at ANY age. I wish you all the best in your own journey.

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Keep showing up my friends,

Sara

Sara

I'm a certified life and weight loss coach who helps women feel better and get the most out of their lives! The process of life coaching teaches you to love yourself and gain self confidence in a safe effective way.

Start feeling better today!

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13 Comments

  1. Kiran on April 19, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Great for summer… thanks for the article

  2. Mary on May 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Sara,
    I came across your article with great tips, so today I am starting the whole30. First time seeing the whole30.
    Thank You

    • Sara on May 6, 2019 at 11:25 am

      Good luck on your first Whole 30. The Whole 30 website has a great forum for more information and support during your 30 days.

  3. April on March 6, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you said! While I didn’t do Whole 30, I did stop eating cookies and cereal when I wanted to lose my baby weight. And it definitely worked!

    • Sara on March 7, 2018 at 4:51 am

      That’s great! Baby weight is it’s own challenge. Glad you found something that worked for you.

  4. Julie on March 6, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    These are great tips for me! As I’m eating a chocolate and raspberry muffin with wine for dinner!! (I’m NOT kidding!!) Too busy to make a dinner, but love your tips, summer is coming and I need tips!!

    • Sara on March 7, 2018 at 4:47 am

      I was watching a Scary Mom video and she called it a day whern there was no time for a fork. We all have them!

  5. Leigh Suznovich on March 5, 2018 at 10:58 am

    This is really helpful because as a food blogger I have ZERO willpower. Great post!

    • Sara on March 5, 2018 at 7:39 pm

      It’s sort of here’s the good news–and here’s the bad news! But at least you don’t have to starve. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Brooke on March 5, 2018 at 10:08 am

    There are some great tips in here. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Sara on March 5, 2018 at 10:51 am

      Thanks and you’re welcome!

  7. Zuzana on March 5, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Thats exactly what I need right now. And summer is almost here, so real urgency. Thanks for the post

    • Sara on March 5, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Summer is always a good incentive but remember this is for the long haul too!

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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! Big changes can happen with a shift in thinking. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life coach, I can help you create a life you love. Visit my life coaching page here.