Willpower may have gotten you across the finish line in other areas of your life. But, there is no finish line when it comes to healthy eating and weight loss.
No matter how disciplined, resilient, or committed you are — willpower cannot possibly last long-term. Because willpower relies on harsh emotional fuel to make the food decisions required to lose weight. It’s emotional fuel that burns out — every single time.
Therefore, to eat healthy and lose weight long-term, you must take a different approach. An approach that requires you to stop relying on willpower to eat healthy and lose weight.
In this episode, I’m sharing why willpower will not create the permanent healthy eating and weight loss results you desire. You’ll also learn what will be necessary to stop relying on willpower so you can become a naturally healthy eater for life.
Hello, my friends. Welcome back to the podcast this week. Of course I am so happy you are here with me and it is so funny because when I sit down to decide what episodes I’m going to create every week, I really think about what you all may most need to hear right now. So I think about my clients, I think about all of you who are being introduced to this work and a really big topic that comes up is the topic of willpower.
And I thought about it this week and I’m like, surely I have done an episode on just willpower. And I looked back and I double checked and I realized I have not. So I am so excited to just devote an entire episode to willpower today. I think it’s going to be super valuable for any of you, whether you have been in my community or you’ve been my client for years, or whether you are brand new to this space and you are just being introduced to this work.
So I’m super excited to dive into it. And I think what can be really fun is to just start with you thinking about how you would personally define willpower and what I find for my past self and the majority of the women I have the pleasure of working with is that we tend to think of willpower as a positive thing. We really see willpower as being representative of how hard we work, what we’re capable of, of seeing ourselves as high achieving women.
And I really want to offer that a lot of the traits you may have that make you a very high achieving woman, maybe the traits that you have to put on the nightstand in order to eat naturally healthy and lose weight permanently. This really is such a highlight of my work with the women I coach is that so many of the qualities that help them succeed in other areas of their lives, whether that be in their careers or as moms, or even in their relationships at times.
So many of those traits don’t work for them when it comes to creating permanent changes with food and weight loss and willpower is actually one of those things. What I wanna start with is, as I mentioned, just you considering how you define willpower for yourself now, and kind of, as I mentioned, we’re not here to completely invalidate the effectiveness of willpower in other areas of your life, because it can get you results.
But what I want to break down for you today is why this is not the most effective tool, the most effective energy for you to create permanent results with food and body. And what’s interesting is how the Googles defines willpower is control exerted to do something or restrain impulses. And I think this is a very clear, useful definition because I want you to notice the language that is associated with this definition control, exerted and restrain impulses.
So what most of you have been doing is trying to harness willpower to make healthy eating decisions and lose weight. So you are attempting to exert control or restrain impulses, right? And I want you to really consider for a moment how much emotional energy is being spent daily to have to exert control within yourself or restrain impulses within yourself.
And something that as high achieving women, we often do not consider. We’re not taught. This is that we are a human being that has a limited amount of emotional energy. And this is really hard for my clients because they really have this high level self concept, meaning they see themselves in a way where they get it done, they can perform. And this is fantastic once again for the other areas of their lives.
But what often happens for us is we really resist the idea that we have limitations.
And in this case that we have a limited amount of emotional energy to exert control on ourselves or restrain impulses that will only go so far. And this is why willpower defined in this way will not get you the permanent weight loss results that you desire. It will not produce long term change with food. And I really want to use this opportunity for you to visualize a bit what a naturally healthy eater looks like.
And I throw this term around quite a bit, but truly what I mean is becoming someone where food is just food. You have control with it in a way where you love food and you are able to deeply enjoy those foods without overeating them without depending on them for emotional comfort, you’re able to listen to your body without micromanaging it. And you are able to create a sustainable weight.
You want permanently without spending constant emotional energy without that constant focus. And so when you think about someone who naturally eats healthy, this is in my practice. What we’re really focused on with each client is having them become this naturally healthy eater. When you consider her, do you think that she is harnessing willpower to make healthy eating decisions every single day?
Do you think that she’s constantly exerting control with food and her body? Do you think that she’s constantly restraining her impulses to eat a certain way? And I want you to be mindful with how you think about this, because what you might be tempted to do is to believe that you are somehow a special snowflake or unicorn that is different than the people out there who naturally eat healthy.
And this cannot possibly be true. We all have that ability to eat naturally healthy.
It’s what nature intended us as humans to be able to do with a human body. So just to be careful there, if you think that this isn’t available to you, because it is, but I just want you to see that comparison with someone who eats naturally healthy. If you picture the way she lives, her life or that future version of you, do you really picture her having to harness willpower? And I’m guessing that we’re all on the same page here and it’s a no right.
She’s able to eat healthy, be at her most sustainable weight, enjoy food without having to exert that control, restrain her impulses or spend emotional energy to do so. Now, something that I always want to honor, because it’s important that we’re validating the facts here. Willpower can work, it can produce the results you want, but for a limited amount of time, if the changes you are making require you to harness that willpower, to spend that energy, the results will always be temporary.
And so this is when I like to be really transparent with all of you, because of course, right, willpower can allow you to adhere to a strict diet. For example, for a few months, for some of my clients, they were able to stick to a specific diet for a year. But I want you to consider if you are attempting to harness willpower now, or maybe you are sticking to some type of diet. Now, how long will you genuinely be able to keep this up?
And when will this willpower inevitably run out? And I don’t want to be, the bear of bad news, or I don’t want you to think I don’t have confidence in your abilities to make these changes because you have everything you need to make these changes. But what we don’t want is for once again, you falling off track to come out of left field for you.
If you are harnessing willpower, I just want you to expect that that will happen at some point. And it won’t be because you are not capable of eating healthy and creating permanent weight loss. Willpower runs out for all of the humans. Because even though it’s hard for us to admit, sometimes we can be capable. Women who are high achieving and we can get it done. And we are humans with a limited amount of emotional energy.
We have limitations, we have needs, and we have different preferences. So we have to treat the changes we’re making with food and body as such. We have to partner with our humanness. And with this understanding, what we really need to keep in mind is that no matter how disciplined, resilient, or committed we are, willpower cannot possibly last long term because willpower relies on harsh, emotional fuel to make decisions.
It will rely on you to exert control with food, to restrain impulses with food, right? And this is what will be necessary for you to lose the weight if you are relying on willpower to do so. And when I say harsh, emotional fuel, it’s going to look different for each one of you. But I want you to think about the emotions that feel the most gritty inside of your body. It feels the most heightened. I like to describe these emotions.
Like they’re more of an inhale rather than an exhale. These emotions tend to feel a bit more flighty. They tend to feel a bit more pressuring on the body and they may feel a bit faster paced for you. Now it’s not a one size fits all, but here are the emotions. My clients most come to me with emotions like persistence, determination, perseverance, motivation, grit, discipline, et cetera, et cetera.
Take a moment to consider what your harsh, emotional fuel is. When you are attempting to harness willpower with your food decisions. When you are attempting to exert that control with yourself or restrain your impulses. Essentially, this is when we’re trying to beat ourself into submission a bit with the changes we want to make. We see ourselves as being wrong and out of control. So we think we need something like willpower to make the changes we want.
Right? So I want you to just take a moment to picture what harsh, emotional fuel looks like to you. There’s no one size fits all, but when emotional fuel is harsh, it burns out every single time. So I want you to think about fueling a car, right? I want you to think about fuel. That just burns out really quickly, and it doesn’t give you a lot of mileage.
Now. I’m not a car person. . And whenever I use these analogies with my clients, we always have a little laugh sometimes, cuz I’ll try and take this analogy further and I can only take it to a certain point. Cause cars are not my thing, but I truly want you to just picture fuel that burns out really quickly. It’s not the most effective because these types of emotions are incredibly taxing on your body and they’re not sustainable for you to live with day after day after day, they take a lot from you.
And this means that using this fuel will not allow you to produce sustainable results with food and body because they can’t drive your actions long term. You are going to burn out eventually. And sometimes it happens very quickly. Sometimes it takes a little longer. But if you think about the car example, the car will break down in the middle of the road at some point.
And we want you to reach your destination in a really sustainable and safe way where you’re feeling like you didn’t have to exert control or restrain impulses to get there. I always like my clients to also picture again, if we’re thinking about a car, it also means you’re holding onto the wheel really, really tightly. And you’re leaning forward, hunched over . It’s kind of a funny visual, but this is what willpower is. And when you are doing this and you’re driving the car from this level of stress, eventually you’re going to burnout and I want you to picture burnout.
As you just let go of the wheel completely. You’re just done. You’re not even directing the car. And this is when you fall off track with your progress. And then you go right back to your overeating patterns. You engage in some self sabotage a bit, and it’s just that all or nothing that you may be experiencing.
We want you to be in a car where you’re safely and sustainably moving towards your destination. You know exactly where you’re going and hands on the wheel, but you’re not holding onto it tightly and leaning forward because you think you need to exert control over yourself or the car. You see what I’m saying here? I think the car example works. And I want you to know that if this is all resonating with you, amazing, sometimes I think when we’re called out in this type of work, it can feel a little bit harsh.
Like our defenses can come up. I personally love being called out in coaching because it just shows me where my truth is, but I really just want you to know if this resonates. No, that that is a good thing because you’re not alone. And the good news is that permanent changes with food and body are available to you.
Now that destination is available. It’s not that it isn’t, you’ve just spent breaking down the car before you reach that destination every time because you’re using the wrong fuel to do it, right? So this is all solvable. But in order to reach that destination, you have to take a different approach. You cannot rely on willpower and on your harsh, emotional fuel to get there. And once again, this willpower may work for you in your career, your relationships, other areas of your life, but to make permanent changes with food and body, you will have to let that part of you go and become someone who is a naturally healthy eater, who has the patience, awareness, and intentionality to get you to that destination, which means that the approach that is required is for you to stop relying on willpower, to eat healthy and lose weight for my high achieving women.
That means you’re going to have to stop relying on what comes easily to you, which is using really harsh, emotional fuel for you to take action and perform. And it’s kind of funny because I was like this too. Pretty much all of my clients identify with this and they come to me of course, right? Because they want this to be easy for them, them, they want to eat healthy and lose weight permanently in exactly the way I’m describing to you here. Logically, they want it to be easier where it doesn’t feel so harsh, but then we start the work and they start becoming someone different with food and discomfort comes to the surface for them because everything they ever relied on to perform and take action is now being put on the nightstand and they have to learn how to let it be easier.
How to let it be more sustainable.
And this is the part I want you to know will be the most uncomfortable, right? I don’t want you all to think that making these permanent changes with food and body will require more willpower, more energy, more time, more focus. That is not true. It’s going to require less of all of those things, but I wanna offer you that that’s actually gonna bring up more resistance and discomfort for you. And that’s why coaching is so powerful because you have a really safe and sacred container to allow you to move through that humanness, where you’re becoming someone different with food, where you’re becoming someone who can eat healthy and be at your ideal weight from ease.
And what’s interesting is you get to keep showing up with willpower in other areas of your life, if you want. But my clients learn how to create results with food and body without it.
So then this does trickle into other areas of their life as well, where ease and simplicity gets to be available there too. But just to give you an idea, here’s what it will look like for you to stop relying on willpower, to eat healthy and lose weight permanently. This will mean you will abandon the quick fix weight loss mindset. So will power where we’re using harsh emotional fuel to make decisions we’re exerting control re streaming impulses.
It’s because we really are attached to getting weight loss quicker because we think that’ll solve all of our problems and we’ll never have human emotion. Again, , we’re all guilty of this. We think once we hit a goal that life will be rainbows and butterflies. So we’re really attached and we wanna do it as quickly as possible, which is why we use harsh fuel that burns out really quickly in order to make these changes permanent.
We need to get out of that really urgent energy and move into a more mature energy with these changes, which means you will need to abandon that quick, fixed weight loss mindset, and be willing to do this for the long term and become someone who naturally eats healthy, who naturally takes action to maintain her ideal weight. When you stop relying on willpower, you will also need to validate yourself for past food failures.
You will need to validate why willpower didn’t work for you in the past. For some of you, this episode will allow you to do that and take that monumental first step where you can just observe, oh, that is why willpower didn’t work. For me. It’s not personal that I failed in the past. It’s just because I was using emotional fuel that burns out. I’m a human and you don’t wanna skip over this validation piece because it’s important.
You make peace with your past and with yourself for your past food failures, it is a non-negotiable step. You will also have to begin making healthy food decisions from calmness and clarity. So when you are in willpower energy, you’re going to want to make food decisions from urgency, from discipline, from grit and what this looks like for most of you will be creating food plans or meal plans.
And they’re all perfectly nutritionally healthy. And you have this really pretty and perfect picture of how you’ll be eating when you get it together. And you are that healthy eater that you want to be with the weight loss that you’ve always wanted to achieve. And I think it’s a good time to let you all know that when you become a naturally healthy eater, you’re going to still enjoy quote unquote unhealthy foods you love. If you don’t want to do that, that’s okay, but I’m betting you do.
If you knew you could do that and get the results you wanted without willpower, right? So when you make healthy food decisions from calmness and clarity, without the diet mentality, you can make food decisions based not just on what’s nutritionally valuable, but based on what’s pleasurable to you as well. And whether you’re making food decisions for nutrition or for pleasure, we want them to be calm and mature decisions where you’re not in this urgent quick fix place.
When you stop relying on willpower, you will also begin seeing yourself as the best expert of your eating decisions and body. When you stop relying on willpower, you slow down, you then have the opportunity to evaluate your progress and get to know yourself as an eater, you get the opportunity to study yourself, become your own best expert, and really take intentional responsibility for your progress and evaluating your results.
A big piece of my coaching practice is we slow all of y’all down. we really focus first on taking you out of that quick fixed mindset and then getting you to slow down. So you can actually really get to know yourself as an eater, as a woman with a human body. And then you get to create your own version of healthy eating and weight loss that matches your needs. When you do this and you craft your own version of healthy eating and weight loss, it’s impossible not to see yourself as the expert.
And when you see yourself as the expert, you will not have this urgent need to rely on willpower because as mentioned, here’s the really, really big truth, right? Willpower may have gotten you across that finish line in other areas of your life. We do not want to invalidate that piece, but no, there is no finish line.
When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, you are an eater for life. you have a body for life and whatever emotional fuel you are using to create healthy eating or weight loss is what’s going to be necessary to maintain it for life. So you will need to create emotional fuel for those changes that can stand the test of time and that won’t burn out. So I really, really hope that devoting an entire episode to willpower was helpful.
And for those of you where this is really resonating, I invite you to apply to own your eating habits. This is my coaching program, where you will learn how to make these changes without willpower. So you learn how to eat healthy, lose weight in a way that is sustainable for you. So this is really for those of you who are ready to take this type of work to the absolute deepest level. So to learn more about that and join me inside, you can go to cat, runes.com/coaching.
Once again, thank you so much for being here with me today. I hope this was valuable to you and I will talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified life and health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.