Finding (and Keeping) the Mysterious Mr. Will Power, Pt 1

I’m not sure how it happens, but it seems as though I frequently fall into conversations about weight loss with random strangers. I’m sitting or standing there minding my own business (or pretending to), and suddenly this person I’ve never met before knows I lost 100 pounds. It’s not like I’m wearing a sign or running into buildings shouting it at the top of lungs. Not since the first month at goal, anyway. :)

Whatever creates this discussion and the subsequent disclosure on my part, the response is almost always the same, some variation of: “I’d love to lose some weight, but I just don’t have any will power.”

My response to my BFF-of-the-moment is almost always the same, too. Something along these lines: “I thought I didn’t have any willpower either, but what I learned is that I had it; I just didn’t understand it. It took some work, but I finally figured it out.”

That’s the point at which their eyes glaze over, and they scoot their chairs away or notice that there’s a big sale on shoe laces in the next aisle. Note to self: Find an alternate word for “work.”

Willpower isn’t some inborn talent we’re gifted with at birth. It’s more a skill that we can develop and grow, and that does require some work. To a large extent, though, it’s not hard work and well worth the effort. And the payback is ENORMOUS!

So why do we find this Mr. Will Power to be so elusive? Maybe because we don’t understand it?

In days gone by, if you had asked me to draw a picture of willpower, I would have sketched my round self standing in front of a mountain of chocolate with my arms crossed and a little cartoon balloon saying, “NO! I DON’T WANT IT!”   Title: Willpower=self-denial!

Cut to a 100 pounds later, and my drawing would show my thinner, fitter self walking away from that mountain of chocolate with a tiny piece of yummy goodness clutched in her fingers. The cartoon balloon would say, “I’ll come back some other time. This is enough for now.” Title?


It only took me 15 years or so (maybe longer) to figure out the self-denial vs. self-control distinction for myself, and it may make zero sense to anyone else but me. That’s A-OK by me; I’m not known for making a whole lot of sense. :) But in the event you’re interested in how I moved from point A (failed self-denial) to point B (somewhat successful self-control, if I do say so myself), I’ll cover it in my next post.

Meanwhile, your thoughts so far are welcome and appreciated. Agree? Disagree? Just trying to distract yourself from a snack attack?

22 thoughts on “Finding (and Keeping) the Mysterious Mr. Will Power, Pt 1

  1. Can't wait for tomorrow. It's amazing what we learn about ourselves and what we can do if we just make a persistent effort. You are a great example and always give wonderful encouragement.

  2. Great post! I like your definition of willpower a lot. I have struggled with willpower and motivation for the past few months. Once, I finally made the descision to get healthy for good my journey began.

  3. Great visual! I could never be the crossed arms version anyway.. the version with the little piece seems so much happier. :-)

  4. i think the self-control version is the goal, but sometimes that is so much harder than just crossing your arms and saying 'no, none at all.' for me it's the lack of self-control that led me to where i am now, the seeming inability to have just that little piece. i agree it's better to have a little and move on, but that's something i struggle with.

  5. Well said. I love the visual of walking away with a small portion. I'll strive to keep that in mind.

  6. I have not figure it out myself. But right now, for some reason, I have it mastered. I wish I knew what was different because I want to hang on to my willpower forever! I have honestly not cheated once since my diet restarted before New Year. For me, that feels empowering and amazes me. I feel great. Maybe that is part of willpower? Feeling the emotions more than the food?

  7. Great post Cammy! People say I have great will power but after all these years, to me, it is just life, how I choose to live & it is my lifestyle. As one of my posts said, the doc asked, would you rather exercise for 1 hour per day or be dead 24 hours a day.

    Now it is not just that. We all know that food is a huge part of the equation. But, I think some people just don't want to put in the hard work & I do think it is hard work. It takes patience, consistency & saying no to things you want & yes to living healthy. It takes fortitude & you can do it if you want it bad enough. It is all about give & take BUT you do have to put the effort in and yes, the payoff is great!

    Can't wait to read more!

  8. Wow… this is exactly what I needed right now. I went over my points yesterday because I had NO will power. I ate and ate when I really didn't need to eat and eat. I could actually point to the places in my journal where I didn't need to eat that. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Wow… this is exactly what I needed right now. I went over my points yesterday because I had NO will power. I ate and ate when I really didn't need to eat and eat. I could actually point to the places in my journal where I didn't need to eat that. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Willpower needs to be trained just like the muscles! A little bit at a time and soon you have a whole lot of it!

  11. BFF-at-the-moment. I loled :) Willpower to me = commitment. Would I skip a day of work or a basketball practice just because I didn't feel like it? Nope. Why? Oh, I have reasons, like I like money and I wouldn't want to let my teammates down. But really it's simpler than that. I just wouldn't. It's an unquestionable thing. You just don't skip practice. You just don't skip work. Why? You just don't.

  12. I totally agree .. but it took me a long time to get to this point too. The first time I successfully lost weight my method was Will Power = Self Denial. I lost weight fast that way. But I put it back on fast too. Forbidden foods did not pass my lips, and that's no way for me to live my life.

    Now Willpower = Self Control and my life is a much happier world.

  13. I agree with you, but am not there yet. My self control is a work in progress…..I think of it as an internal agreement to follow a certain path. I sometimes (too often) wander off that path!

  14. i've found that willpower takes you part of the way, but you have to back it up with strategies. w/o the strategies, you won't know what to do (or you won't have the resources at hand) to make a better choice when your willpower is flagging. success = willpower + strategies.

  15. People always say that they can't lose weight because they don't have any willpower. I say we all have it within us, but sometimes it takes the little "extra" added to the willpower you possess to get you through those hard days and weeks.

  16. I always think of myself as someone with no will power (as in, I'm no good at making myself continually do something that's making me miserable), but of course I have a great deal of will power when it comes to doing something fun or achieving a goal that requires work that's not terribly miserable. So I try to use my will power for good instead of evil, finding ways to make it fun to achieve my goals so that I can fully commit instead of some unrealistic expectation of living with misery for the rest of my life. :-)

  17. Isn't it funny how you can mention "hard work" to someone with regards to weight loss / getting in shape and they want to run?

    I was that same way too, before this last stab at a healthy lifestyle.

    I don't know what it is that's exactly different, but maybe it's just that I've developed my "will power muscle" just like I have other muscles in my body.

  18. Yep, that word "work" is a definite turn-off, isn't it? But what else can you say that is honest? It IS work, but so worth it. I can't wait to read Part 2. 😉

  19. chiming in with the "funny how the word WORK turns people off"

    we, the royal, all want the quick fix.

    I also love your notion of ENOUGH as you walk away from the chocolate :)

  20. I said "mmm" in approval twice while reading this post, while nodding my head. So TRUE. Willpower turns out to be not quite what we thought it was. Good stuff.

  21. . . . so many thoughtful comments! You've clearly hit a nerve with this post, Cammy. My willpower comes and goes but I find the older I get, the longer it stays and the more quickly I recover after having lost it. I hope that's a reflection of learning (and practicing), and not just of age. :)

  22. I agree with your new definition of will power. Eventually, it will be about learning to listen to yourself and your body.

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