The Truth About Willpower + Your Health
The following post comes to us from Robyn Srigley, Holistic Nutritionist + Women's Health and Nutrition Coach. Robyn is one of our contributing authors to the Healthy Eating Bundle...
One day I was talking with a private coaching client about willpower. She was trying to balance her insulin and blood sugar in order to release some weight and balance many of her PCOS symptoms. Together we had decided on a diet plan and lifestyle changes about a month before this call. When we chatted on this particular date, she was complaining to me that she just couldn’t stay away from something sweet after her meals, and just didn’t feel at all like exercising.
She said she wished she had more willpower, and that if she did, her results would be better.
The truth of the matter is willpower doesn’t work.
What is willpower?
It’s that inner reserve of motivation that we believe will get us where we want to go. For instance maybe we want to clear up acne, improve our health to improve our relationships, or reduce the pain of endometriosis so work isn’t a dreaded activity. So in our minds it seems easy to ‘just say no’ to the extra helping of dinner or to sitting on the couch day in and day out.
I bet you’ve been there too- wanting to make some kind (any kind!) of change and hoping to rely entirely on willpower.
My client was there, and I’ve been there too.
The fact is that when you balance your body properly (more on this in a minute), willpower doesn’t need to be your Ruler in this context. That’s right- no willpower necessary. No biting your fingernails because the anxiety of an upcoming work function (complete with unhealthy finger foods and desserts) is happening tonight. No more staying up at night thinking about all the good stuff you “can’t” eat, how you "don't have time" to do all this "health stuff".
How do we cope and make change without willpower?
Balance your insulin.
I am always rambling on about balancing insulin and blood sugar because it’s so damn important for your health and creating happy hormones.
Insulin as your blood sugar regulating hormone is responsible in part for getting sugar (aka glucose) into your cells to make energy. Poor diet and life choices eventually make the body resistant to insulin’s signals, creating high insulin and high blood sugar. This turns insulin into a fat storage and sex hormone-disruptive shit disturber.
Why does balanced insulin negate the need for willpower?
Let me break it down for you with some truths about balanced insulin instead of willpower.
Truth #1: Balanced insulin reduces (maybe even eliminates) cravings
When your blood sugar is balanced, you feel full and satisfied. Your body is able to thrive on the whole, real foods you eat during meals. Sugar, dairy and salt cravings are often the first to go when insulin is balanced, as I’ve seen clinically and personally. Your body isn’t craving other foods for a quick boost because it doesn’t need those foods.
Truth #2: Balanced insulin means effortless weight release
Maybe you’re trying to get rid of a few pounds. Maybe it’s a lot of pounds. Either way, extremely restrictive diets like calorie counting and eating very low-fat may initially result in some pounds lost, but over time the weight comes back and then some, as these types of diets wreak havoc on insulin and blood sugar balance. When you balance insulin through a proper diet, self-care and movement, weight is released without extra effort. No counting, no “willpower” to put the fork down. It just isn’t needed.
Truth #3: Balanced insulin increases energy
Remember how I said that insulin helps sugar get into cells to make energy? Yeah, this is where that comes in. Many women, like the client I mentioned previously, have very little energy and feel low and unmotivated to prepare their own nourishing meals, or to move their bodies in a productive way. When your insulin sensitivity is right on (instead of being resistant) the cells actually get their food (the glucose) and can make energy with it. Movement, meal prep and self-care aren’t chores you think you “should” be doing (but still don’t do) when your insulin is balanced. Rather they are fun activities you enjoy that increase feelings of well-being and reduce symptoms.
Truth #4: Balanced insulin could regulate mood-disrupting hormones
Estrogen dominance, low progesterone and high testosterone and other sex hormone imbalances can funk up your mood. Like, getting weepy at TV commercials or flipping out on your spouse for something really insignificant (because come on- unwashed dishes are insignificant in the grand scheme of things). The truth is that your sex hormone-producing ovaries and insulin have a very important and fragile relationship. Even a little mishap in insulin regulation can prevent ovulation, increase high testosterone symptoms like acne and hair loss, plus contribute to extra PMS-y issues like mood swings, irritability, anger, anxiety and depression.
Truth #5: Balanced insulin improves memory and cognitive function
According to two ongoing studies, insulin resistance reduces the ability of insulin to get into the brain, leaving the brain without enough insulin for normal functioning. The researcher Dr. Craft has hypothesized from her study results that insulin resistance (with high levels of insulin in the body) paradoxically leads to lower-than-normal levels of insulin in the brain, which results in memory problems. Poor memory and cognitive function isn’t helping anyone’s willpower!
Remember that client I talked about at the beginning? When she was educated on these truths and worked slowly at developing a sustainable healthy insulin and happy hormones diet for her own unique lifestyle, she never mentioned willpower again!