How important is willpower in losing weight?

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John Maynard Keynes, the esteemed economist, once wrote that “the difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” The myth of change only requiring willpower is one we sorely need to escape from.

This pre-scientific misconception contains a grain of truth within a loaf of nonsense. The grain of truth is that your willpower or commitment does contribute to your success. Believing in your ability to change and acting on that belief raises the probability that you’ll succeed.

However, the loaf of nonsense is that willpower constitutes the only, or even the most effective, ingredient. It’s only one ingredient in the recipe. Much to the contrary, our research shows that resolvers who rely on willpower to the virtual exclusion of the other valuable tools actually fail at a higher rate than everyone else!

What’s more, committing entails more than the mysterious, ineffable “willpower.” Contrary to popular thought, committing actually encompasses a set of identifiable skills that you can develop and practice.

So despite what your mom or Aunt Lily might have told you as a child, willpower is nowhere near sufficient for lasting change -- and it may not even be your most important tool. People who rely solely on willpower set themselves up for failure. Stick with the science and use your willpower as one of many learnable tools that will help you change for good.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.