05 Jan Fat Loss is NOT a Matter of Willpower
It’s common in our society to equate fat loss to willpower. If you’re overweight, you simply “aren’t disciplined,” “aren’t trying hard enough,” or “are downright lazy.”
Based on the current approaches to fat loss, it makes sense. Almost every diet out there is dependent on restriction – eating fewer calories, avoiding foods that taste good, and exercising beyond comfort. All this restriction requires a ton of willpower, so we then assume that people who are overweight simply aren’t trying hard enough.
But the reality is that those who are overweight often put in the most effort to lose weight. They try to eat less, avoid calorie-dense foods, and exercise, but they still can’t lose weight. Or, when they do lose weight, it comes back with a vengeance.
Clearly something’s not right here.
Why restriction doesn’t work
The most commonly blamed enemy of fat loss is overeating. But in a world where our bodies are never satisfied (due to a lack of energy), we’re left with only one choice if we don’t want to overeat: willpower.
For this reason, most of us live every second of every day restricting ourselves. Food is the enemy, and it’s always on our minds because we’re constantly plagued by hunger and cravings. Every meal is a fight to eat smaller portions and we’re always waiting for the next meal.
Not only is this restriction not the answer to healthy fat loss, it can be quite harmful for a couple of reasons.
- It’s both exhausting and unpleasant. For this reason, most of us succumb to the hunger and cravings at some point and find ourselves overeating. Plus, it uses up a ton of willpower that could be better used elsewhere.
- It doesn’t actually solve the problem! Overeating is NOT the problem. It’s a symptom of the real problem: a lack of energy. When we restrict ourselves, we reduce the amount of energy our bodies have even further.
The constant hunger and cravings that so many of us live with isn’t a sign that we’re winning the battle against food and our bodies’ natural tendency to be fat and unhealthy – they’re a sign that our bodies aren’t getting everything they need to provide enough energy to keep us healthy.
Food isn’t evil, and we don’t need to fight against our bodies – they’ve been designed to keep us healthy, and food is a tool they use to do that.
The problem is that many of the “foods” we’re exposed to don’t supply our bodies with the nutrients they need to produce energy. Because of this mismatch, our hunger is not satiated when we eat and our drive to eat remains, resulting in overeating.
So, we can blame overeating and use willpower to restrain ourselves from eating “too much,” or we can tackle the problem at its source.
What can we do instead of restriction?
Restricting ourselves to lose fat is based on the idea that fat loss occurs when we have fewer calories in than out. But, this idea doesn’t necessarily hold true and the advice to eat less and exercise more that comes with it doesn’t work because it ignores that our bodies adapt to their environments.
When we restrict our food consumption, or eat less and exercise more, we reduce the amount of energy our bodies have to function. So, they try to conserve energy by holding on to their body fat and storing more food as fat – the exact opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish!
Since fewer calories-in isn’t the answer, we don’t need to restrict ourselves, and fat loss isn’t a matter of willpower at all. In reality, it’s a matter of education.
Most of us are unaware of how to lose fat efficiently and in a healthy manner because we’re taught the opposite. We’re taught to reduce our caloric intake, exercise excessively, avoid saturated fats and carbs, drink lots of water, and fill up on vegetables. We’re taught that our natural state is gluttonous – that our bodies want to be fat and that we must fight our bodies with willpower.
When we’re given this kind of advice, it’s no wonder fat loss is such a problem.
But the good news is that we don’t have to live with hunger and cravings, even if we want to lose fat.
Fat loss is a matter of energy balance. If our bodies have enough energy, they don’t need to conserve energy by storing fat. So, once we learn which foods are best for increasing energy supply, we can make food choices that maximize our energy supply and allow for healthy fat loss.
When our bodies are getting the energy they need from the food we eat, we don’t need to restrict ourselves because we don’t feel a need to overeat. The drive to eat stops once our bodies have had enough.
This also means we don’t have to go through life hungry anymore! I powered through constant hunger and cravings for about 10 years, and I can’t put into words how freeing it is not to feel that way anymore.
In order to improve energy balance and lose fat without the hunger, restriction, and willpower drain, we need to know which foods increase our energy supply and how to reduce our energy demands. And, you can learn more about all of that if you sign up below for our free 6-day mini-course on Fat loss, Health, and Energy Balance!
- Wlodek, Danuta, and Michael Gonzales. “Decreased Energy Levels Can Cause and Sustain Obesity.” Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 225, no. 1, Nov. 2003, pp. 33–44., doi:10.1016/s0022-5193(03)00218-2.
- Friedman, M I. “Control of Energy Intake by Energy Metabolism.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 62, no. 5, Nov. 1995, pp. 1096S–1100S., doi:10.1093/ajcn/62.5.1096s.
- Mela, David J. “Eating Behaviour, Food Preferences and Dietary Intake in Relation to Obesity and Body-Weight Status.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, vol. 55, no. 03, Nov. 1996, pp. 803–816., doi:10.1079/pns19960080.