Willpower. How I do hate that word! Some thin people love to look down their nose at fat girls and pity their lack of self-control. They think, “I have willpower and she doesn’t. If only she had my moral fortitude i.e., “willpower”, she might be able to be thin but she is just a lazy sucker and she is fat and deserves bad things whereas I am thin and therefore awesome and in control.”
What a bunch of crap! When it comes to dieting willpower is a myth pure and simple.
Let me tell you something. If you are overweight you have 3 choices.
- You can commit for three days to severely restrict your carbohydrates until you enter ketosis at which point you will be treated to GOBS of self-control and the ability to continue to chose to eat the right things (and by the way you will only achieve this by eating regular protein and fat). Once you have gobs of self-control making better choices will seem easy.
- Or you can severely cut your calories but still eat regular protein and get into ketosis at which point you will still be treated to self-control although you may still struggle being bumped out of ketosis on occasion by certain carby foods at which time you may succumb to high risk food and blow your diet;
- Or 3 you can try to restrict your portions eating inadequate protein and feel extremely hungry and then binge and then flagellate yourself and again try to starve yourself into submission and end up on a rollercoaster of restrict, binge, restrict, binge which in the long run even if you become bulimic and puke up 80% of what you consume will still probably result in a gain because spiking insulin which occurs early when the first parts of the binge get digested will cause you to not burn whatever food you keep down.
When I have done #1 and to a lesser extent #2 I have succeeded. #3 has been the path to hell, repeatedly, pure and simple. I have also observed this in others including patients I treated on internship with eating disorders.
People say over and over “I don’t know how you lost 100lbs you must have incredible willpower. ” And I think “yes I know because you never took the first step of getting into ketosis.” When you are not in ketosis you think cutting bread, and pasta and potatoes and ice cream or living on 1400 calories a day must be a death sentence. You think losing 100 lbs must have meant I went through 2 years of hunger. You can’t imagine eating 1/3 less than you do right now because you eat what you need to feel satisfied and eating less would logically mean feeling less satisfied and so you think I somehow conquered feeling unsatisfied for two years.
Let me tell you something else. The only voluntary way to lose weight and stick to a diet is to satisfy your nutritional needs. Your body will get what it wants; it is in charge of you because it is you; not the other way around. I lost 100 lbs over 2 years because I felt satisfied eating enough protein and fat and eating so little carbohydrates that my blood sugar was not driving me into a frenzy of hunger EVER. When one is in ketosis, one is not hungry because one is living off of one’s own fat stores. Think about it, if you’ve stored 2 years worth of ice cream in your butt, and suddenly you’ve found the code that unlocks the ice cream stored in your butt, you aren’t hungry because you have access when you need it to the ice cream stored there so logically you won’t be all that hungry when you see actual ice cream!!! Why would you be when its all right there in your butt.
I’m not saying there weren’t times during the 2 years when I saw ice cream or smelled cookies or pizza during my 2 year odyssey and I didn’t want them. But wanting to taste something when your nutritional needs are being met is very different than wanting to eat something because your blood sugar has just spiked and then fallen and you are starting to shake and get a bit panicky and you just know with every fiber of your being that that Krispy Kreme Donut, hot fudge sundae or birthday cake available on every corner in America will get you back to feeling normal. It is normal to eat when your blood sugar plummets and eating a fast fix is what we’ve learned to do. Its generally everyone’s first resort when one hasn’t figured out how to live off our fat stores.
It is very odd to me that nobody sits down and says “Gee, fat happens for a reason and so does thin.” Its like its a big mystery to people. Here it is as simple as I can make it. We get fat because we can store fat and we can store fat because if we had not had this ability the human race would have died out a long time ago whenever there was a famine or a flood or fire that wiped out all the supplies and people had to walk way far to find food someplace else or people had to wait way long (a New England winter) for there to be bountiful food again. All those parents telling kids to clean their plate knew winter might suck and things might run low so you better put on a little extra if you’re going to get by. And women get breasts (fat) with the onset of puberty because if you’re going to put 9 months into the project of creating a baby you need to be able to withstand walking a fifty miles to go get some food for the kid if the kid is born during an economic downturn or sheep flu or long winter.
Its only been in this modern era that we have food continuously and stlll only in certain places is there no shortage of food. Now some of us can afford to be thin because in the middle and upper middle class in the US and Western Europe and a handful of other lucky spots we no longer need to store ice cream in our butt because if we really need to walk to the next village to get food (say the grocery store in our town burns down) we can usually drive or take the bus so we don’t need to have all those stores. However the mechanism if we wanted to use it is still there. Nobody has told thousands of years of evolution that we don’t need the extra storage lockers. If we wanted to we could pretend tomorrow that there is a famine and I could walk 50 miles and use my fat stores; thank you bipedal ancestors who did it all before my time.
Thin on the other hand can happen when there’s no shortages. Thin happens when there is adequate protein. The highest SES individuals have the lowest waist to hip ratios because they get enough protein and yes they actually do eat more protein even if they’re all running around claiming to be vegetarians in reality they are generally sashimi slurping, gruyere munching, truffle chomping, oophiles. They can afford it and they aren’t hungry all the time because they had an omelet for breakfast and morels for lunch and a big ole hunk of raw fish for dinner. It is not hard to turn down ice cream after meals with adequate protein because you aren’t that hungry anymore. So they can. This is also why until people started shoplifting the ingredients for meth, meat used to be the #1 most shoplifted item; Think about it; if you were going to shoplift something its not like meat is convenient to slip under your skirt or tuck inside your shirt. Its clammy and bulky but its so luscious and fills you up and its expensive so “Beef, its (what’s stolen) for dinner. Thin also happens as a result of starvation and it has the amazing effect of making the starved person or creature at least initially more proficient at walking or chasing down a meal. The difference between ketosis on an adequate protein and fat low carbohydrate diet and starvation is during ketosis the protein we eat keeps our muscle mass including our heart intact whereas in outright starvation we lose muscle mass too.
So I challenge those of you who want to lose weight but think “I could never give up carbs” to make a conscious decision to trim them a lot just for a few days while at the same time making a point to eat 3-5 meals with protein and non-starchy low carbohydrate vegetables. See if getting into ketosis is that bad and see if you don’t drop a stone or two in a very short time. See if its as hard as you thought to keep going. See if you don’t have gobs of willpower. And if I’m correct see if you can re-label "Willpower" “The ice cream (bread, pasta or whatever your carby thing is) I had stored in my Butt!” Realize the next time you see someone who is overweight that she isn’t better or worse or weaker or stronger or more or less awesome than anyone else. She probably just hasn’t found the key to her own personal ice cream freezer. When she overeats she is being driven to it by hunger the way herds of wild animals migrate in search of food and the way our ancestors migrated following herds of antelope, buffalo and other migratory beasts. It is hard for us to not chock up our accomplishments to our own moral superiority but in the end we are animals and there is no willpower that can keep us from addressing our hunger.