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Willpower is Overrated as a Path to Your Goals: Use this Instead!

 A pepperoni pizza and the phrase that willpower is overrated as a pathway to health goals

You have a difficult, stressful day at work.

When you come home the last thing you want to do is stand in the kitchen and make dinner.

Sure, if it were just you, it would be easier, but you’ve got a meal to make for your whole family.

You’re tired.

You’ve been taking care of other people and responsibilities all day long.

All you want to do is order a pizza.

Done. Everyone’s happy. There’s plenty of food.

And all you have to do is put on your stretchy pants and let the day go.


You’ve got goals. 

You love to feel good. 

You like to nourish yourself with food that supports your energy and training. 

You don’t want to let yourself down. 

Sound familiar? 

It’s such a common thing. 

We work hard all day. 

Then we have to work some more? 



So time to buck up and willpower your way through dinner-prep, right?


Not really. 

Willpower is overrated.

It will only get you so far before you crash and burn.

It’s not sustainable.

It’s like holding your breath for as long as you can.  

At some point…

And that point is not far away…

You’re going to come up for air. And you’ll be GASPING to get enough. 

When we’re working on creating new healthy habits, like preparing food more often at home, for example, or eating more vegetables with our meals…

And we do it gritting our teeth…

All we’re going to end up with are broken teeth!

Ugh! And wouldn't that make eating well even harder!! 🙄

Willpower is overrated because it doesn't reinforce what sustains healthy behaviors for the long-term. 

Which is what we want, right? 

We want what might feel difficult right now to eventually feel pretty effortless. 
I’m not going to go as far as to say 100% effortless…
We’re wired to take the path of least resistance. To conserve energy. To avoid sticks and approach carrots. In other words, approach rewards and avoid pain. 

As long as I’ve been preparing my meals at home and ensuring they’ve got adequate protein, carbs, and fat, most days I get done with work and wish the meal would be made for me. 

It does take effort to take care of myself that way (and my husband), but the cost of doing so is FAR LESS than the cost of not taking care of myself that way. 

I hate feeling like junk, worse than I hate cooking. 

I hate letting myself down by choosing what’s easy, worse  than I hate taking the time to prep my meals. 

I hate feeling the dissonance of misalignment with my values and the difficulty of my workouts because I didn’t fuel well, far worse than I hate prioritizing fueling appropriately. 

This isn’t meant to be a kick in the pants.

Well, maybe a little. 

But it’s more encouragement to recognize that what you do repeatedly gets progressively easier. 

Every time you do the thing, you are building the neural circuits required to do the thing again, faster, and with greater automaticity over time. 

New behaviors are like dial-up internet. 

If you do know what that is, well, you know! 

New behaviors are fragile.

The connection can break more easily.

But with repeated efforts, we see the connection happen faster and remain more steady over time. 

You know how mad you get when you get kicked off the internet? 

You probably feel the same way when you drop a habit that you were working on, right? 

You had a string of days or weeks or months or maybe even years doing the thing…

And then something happens in life, expected or unexpected, and suddenly it’s gone? 

Well, just consider whether when you get booted from the internet you just give up on it. 

Do you get rid of your smartphone for good? 

Throw away your laptop? 

Swear away any internet connection? 

I kinda doubt it! 

You find a way to reconnect! 

You can do the same with your healthy behaviors. 

They’re only just one action away!

It’s not willpower you need. 

It’s the willingness to build. 

It’s knowing that there will be bumps in the road and disconnects. And you can reconnect. 

It’s the knowing that each time you do the thing, you’re building up to 5G. 

You’re essentially doing the reps with the appropriate weight, to build that muscle so what once felt heavy feels like a feather! 


It’s also knowing that while you may be tempted to take the path of LEAST resistance (ordering the pizza)...

you can consider taking the path of LESSER resistance to stay the course toward your important behaviors. 

What does this mean? 

Order the pizza. I’m not saying pizza is a bad dinner option. 

I’m saying, consider how you could make it meet your nutritional goals. 

Least Resistance: Order the pizza 

Lesser Resistance: Order the pizza with light cheese, buckets of veggies, and lean proteins.

Oftentimes the path of lesser resistance will still get us closer to our goal. 

Of course it depends on the goal, but would it be better to not eat at all?

Of course not! 

When I’m on my gravel bike and I’m on a looooooooooong, steep hill, rarely do I get off my bike and walk it.

I’m gonna lower the resistance on the pedals and get into my easy gear and just focus on those circles. 

Usually there’s some grumbling until I get sick of listening to myself.


Still have resistance. Still have the hill. Still have the difficulty. 
Gonna shift and keep pedaling. 

The effort you make toward one healthy behavior serves your other healthy behaviors. 

Don’t fall into the trap of viewing the actions you’re taking toward eating adequately and more nutritiously in a vacuum. 
How you eat affects your overall energy. 
Your energy affects your workouts. 
Your workouts affect your cardiovascular conditioning, strength, mobility, endurance, etc. 
Your metabolic conditioning affects your overall well-being. 
Your overall well-being affects your relationships and outlook. 
Your relationship quality and outlook affect your motivation and longevity!
Yeehaw, right?! 

As my husband and I made our way home from a camping/cycling trip recently...

I said, “I really want to ride this!” (as we came down a mountain pass).

It’s at least the 30th time I’ve said this. 

We saw a cyclist summiting and looking wooooooorn out. 

Nik said, “He didn’t look too happy!”


I said, “I don’t do these things to be happy! I do them to be proud!!” 

He smiled. He got it. He’s a Marine, after all.

But it’s the same thing. 

Proud leads to confidence leads to taking on more challenges leads to building grit and determination leads to more confidence leads to taking more actions leads to resilience leads to a growth mindset leads to…

Get my point? 


When you are considering the past of least resistance, remember there is another choice. 

A choice that will make you proud. 

Lower the resistance...

just a little bit...

so you can still do the thing that will get you closer to your goals!


Looking for more support?

Check out my Food & Body Freedom Experience, a 16-week online coaching program with built-in support, a virtual community, and live weekly coaching calls designed to liberate you from dieting and make peace with food and your body.

Check out my online, self-paced course, End Emotional Eating & Change Your Relationship with Food, that over 400 students have taken, is top-rated, and jam-packed with resources to support your development of new skills!

I also offer virtual one-on-one support – contact me to learn more about my Liberated Life coaching options.

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Loved this encouraging blog entry! Thanks Dr. Kori!

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