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Why Willpower Doesn't Work and Never Will

How many times have you said to yourself:

  • “UUUUGHHHH if I just had more willpower!!!”
  • “My willpower sucks, I’ll just start again on Monday!”
  • “Why do I keep screwing up even though I know what I SHOULD be eating, damn willpower!”

Ugh, if only. If only it was willpower making you suck at dieting or “eating clean.”

We all have of deeply rooted mindset conditioning from our prior experiences that trigger us to take the action we take on a regular basis; the things we do or don’t do.

SO many women I talk to tell me how they try so hard to control what they eat, steering away from the bad stuff and focusing on only eating foods to nourish and fuel their bodies…but they can’t seem to stick with it consistently.

They say they just need better willpower, self-discipline, or more accountability. They need to just try harder next time, and stay strong when temptation strikes.

They experience things like eating “good” all day, then binging at night. Or “good” all week then have crazy overeating on the weekend. Or trying to have a couple chips or just 1 cookie…but eating wayyy more. Or have kind of given up completely because they’re sick of failing at attempts!

WHY does this happen to even the smartest women? Why does their willpower keep failing them?

Below are 2 massive reasons why. These are both things I help people overcome in my 6 month coaching program first and foremost, before talking about anything else, because no matter how many recipes and tips and tricks you have, if you have these things holding you back, you’re stuck before you start.

Willpower, according to Dictionary.com is the control of one’s impulses and actions, self-control, usually for personal improvement. Control. That’s code for “restriction.” AKA “No, I can’t/shouldn’t have that.” or “A carbohydrate? Are you kidding me?! Get that away from me!” or “You had a cookie, now you need to STOP before you eat the whole sleeve!”

Sound familiar?

Willpower is about restraining yourself. It’s an acknowledgment that you’re out of control and must be held back. But what happens when your willpower doesn’t work? Feelings of guilt, shame, failure, needing to get back on track immediately…and often using food to cope with those feelings. Sometimes a “last-supper” approach where you binge because THIS is the time you’re really never going to eat that food again, and promise yourself you’ll start again on Monday.

REASON 1: Biology

Your body is hard-wired to keep you alive and trigger you to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Your body is the only thing in the world – not a meal plan, not the best nutritionist or health coach in the world, that knows how much you should be eating to be your healthiest self.

BUT if you’re physically restricting yourself by not eating enough calories, certain types of calories, or nutrients…OR mentally restricting yourself by telling yourself you “can’t or shouldn’t” eat something, it triggers a whole chain of reactions.

As soon as your subconscious brain gets word there will be a shortage of something in your future (even if your conscious brain is totally on board)…

  • Your body/metabolism immediately slows down and flips on its survival mode.
  • Your body fixates on food because it’s essential to our survival. It even produces a hormone that makes food (especially sugar and carbs) look way better and more appetizing than ever because they both promote fat storage.
  • Instead of burning fat for fuel, your body burns muscle tissue.
  • Your body wants to produce and hold onto fat because it feels like it needs to ‘preserve.’ For all it knows, you’re in a desperate situation where you’re not being allowed enough food – it doesn’t know you’re on a diet or only eating “clean” foods.
  • The first chance it gets, your body wants you to binge. That’s what it’s asking for, that’s what it’s wired for.

Suddenly all you can think about is hot cheesy pizza…or chewy warm chocolate chip cookies…or cold creamy ice cream.

And it’s not because your willpower sucks. It’s literally biology that is causing you to have those cravings.

You can try to fight them with your willpower or self-discipline and it might work for a few days, or even months. But if you think you can outsmart your body that is literally hard-wired to keep you alive, you’re crazyyyy.

Your willpower and self-discipline are NO match for your biology. If it feels underfed or senses food or food groups aren’t going to be readily available – it will fight back…and ultimately win.

Taking away power food has over you and truly giving your body what it needs to feel fully satisfied on a regular basis are the foundation for beating the binge and overeating cycle, repairing your metabolism, and developing that truly healthy relationship with food.

If you’re not eating adequately enough or have foods you can’t trust yourself around or feel guilty or bad after eating, you will not be able to quiet those biological survival mechanisms.

Nothing will work. No coach no meditation, no therapist, no program, no tools, no recipes, no more time in your day, or tricks and tips…nothing!!


Normally when we want to do something different, like being able to eat a cookie without guilt or wanting to eat the whole bag, we go through our conscious determination, our mind, our blood/sweat/tears; rely on that good ol’ willpower.

But did you know it’s estimated that only 3% of decision-making powers come from our conscious mind, and 97% our subconscious? Our subconscious thoughts, beliefs (self-talk) and patterns shape our lives and determine our actions, which give us our results or our reality. It’s what really calls the shots and has the power to hold us back from doing the things we really want to do but can’t seem to stick to…or be successful at it.

These subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and patterns happen automatically behind the scenes. Like you don’t think about breathing, you don’t think about how you digest food, how you breathe…our habits are on automatic autopilot, and come from deep rooted thoughts and beliefs we have.

In order to make a big change to your habits, you gotta get your subconscious on board.

Yes your conscious mind may be saying: “I want to lose weight”…but if something in the other 97% thinks otherwise, that’s what you’ll manifest instead.

If you have beliefs that are limiting you, it will come through looking like self-sabotage, like the eating “good” all day and binge eating at night. This holds you back, this keeps you STUCK.

I’ll use weight loss as an example in 2 quick scenarios:

Example 1: Some women subconsciously use weight as an excuse for failure, telling themselves things like “because of my weight, I can’t be successful at work…once I lose weight I’ll finally be happy and have more confidence…” But if they’re afraid that losing weight means they will no longer have their best excuse to hide behind, their good ol’ subconscious will not let themselves lose weight, it’ll trigger sabotaging behaviors and those justifying stories “well you had a hard day, pizza is just what you need!”

Example 2: Some believe their body is broken in some way and change is impossible for them – especially due to tried and failed attempts in the past. But if they continuously tell themselves they’re destined to fail or their body is broken, their subconscious will again not let themselves follow through with what their conscious brain may be trying to do to succeed, a story might be “eating chicken and broccoli again? why bother? you’ll just fall off the wagon next time there’s candy in front of you anyway.”

There are so many more examples of this. Once you dig deep and identify these limiting beliefs, thoughts, patterns and mental blocks, you can change them. Think of subconscious as a computer. It takes its programming and runs with it. If you have trained it to believe these types of limiting beliefs are true, there’s no wonder you can’t stay on track.

To break this cycle, it’s your job to make sure your subconscious programming is in optimal alignment with your goals. You do this by programming, reprogramming, and debugging as you become aware of what those deep rooted beliefs and stories you tell yourself are, and adjust as they change.

Once you do that and your subconscious is on board, that’s when the magic happens! Things happen effortlessly.

You won’t have to push and motivate yourself so hard, and feel like you have to rely on willpower to reach your goals.

You will stop making excuses and finally make the changes you’ve always wanted to make.

You will shift your self-doubt to self-confidence, and criticism/pessimism to optimism.

You will get your actions in alignment with your beliefs and stop sabotaging yourself.

Like I mentioned before, these are both things that are such a GAMECHANGER in my 6 month coaching program that we work through these first…before talking about anything else.

Because no matter how many tips, tricks, tools, and healthy recipes you have, if your biology and subconscious are you back, you’re stuck before you start.

Want support from me in helping you make some major breakthroughs? Schedule a FREE consult with me!



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