What if Willpower Matters Little in the Long-Term for Weight? provoked quite a discussion in the comments and led me to consider my own beliefs about the role of willpower in both weight loss and weight maintenance for the long-term after losing weight.
What got me thinking about the role of willpower is our collective belief that one must exert their will over their desire for food in order to overcome the strong desire to eat, often what amounts to too much food.
We're repeatedly told that we suffer mindless eating habits, a toxic food environment, and a host of other influences which lead us to overeat; all of which can be overcome if we simply set our minds to choosing foods wisely, strictly rationing our intake with portion control methods, and sticking to recommended intakes of each food group to target particular ratios of calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
When doing these things fails to produce long-term weight management, the individual is often the target of blame - they failed by failing to follow the recommendations. They failed to have adequate willpower to continue as directed. They failed to restrict calories sufficiently enough for the long-term to maintain weight effectively.
Rather than challenge the concept - consciously restricting food intake - we instead accept that such is normal and focus on the failure as an execution problem by the individual, often stated many different ways, but always boiling down to calories in exceeding calories out if the individual could only get it right then all would be well.
This makes weight loss and management a math problem.
In order to lose and maintain weight one must then be good at math in order to be able to constantly be vigilant in counting their calories in each day to keep consumption within target outputs.
So, maybe it isn't willpower, but poor math skills leading to long-term failure to maintain weight loss?
No, I don't really believe that...but, it does open the door to consider the idea that weight isn't simply a math problem that is easily solved by changing inputs and outputs of numbers; that in the long-term exerting will to restrict calories over desire to eat is not really all there is to successful weight management.
If weight is not a math problem, then what is the problem?
If we look at the issue differently - set aside the idea that in the long-term one must exert willpower to maintain a calorie balance and seek to understand what truly drives our appetite, we find that weight is not a math problem, but a chemistry problem!
Weight is chemistry.
Chemistry thus influences obligate requirements for nutrients and energy, as well as our ability to exert our will over our desire.
Willpower then depends upon chemistry.
What does the data say about that concept? We'll take a look in upcoming posts - in the meantime, your comments and thoughts are welcome!