Why willpower won’t help you lose weight

It’s Monday.  You’ve just started a brand new health kick, and you’re convinced that THIS TIME you’ll stick with it.  You have an event coming up in three months and you want to lose 10kg in that time.  You’ve removed all the junk food from your house, and you got pizza for dinner last night as a kind of last supper – just to prove to yourself that it was the last time you were going to eat food like that for at least 3 months.  You’ve got this.  Motivation is at an all time high, and nothing is going to stop you this time.

It’s Thursday.  You skipped the gym this morning because you snoozed your alarm too many times.  You were running late to work and didn’t have time to eat breakfast or make a healthy lunch, so by the time 11am comes around you are starving.  Sushi is the healthiest choice around, so you grab a couple of rolls and basically inhale them without thinking.  But it’s okay, you’re still on track, you haven’t given up yet!  Back to your strict diet tomorrow, for sure.

It’s Sunday.  It’s now been 4 days since you went to the gym, or exercised at all.  You’re feeling like a bit of a failure.  Your diet hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been very good either.  And now you’re sitting on the couch thinking about the packet of potato chips sitting in the cupboard.  You rationalise; “I haven’t really stuck to my diet this week anyway, so I might as well just start again tomorrow”.  Before you know it, the packet is empty and you’re hit with guilt, regret and shame.  Why did you do it?  Why did you give in so easily?  Why couldn’t you just be a bit stronger and ignore your cravings?  You didn’t even enjoy the chips in the end, you were just eating them to punish yourself! Why, why, WHY do you always do this to yourself?

Gosh, that cycle is exhausting.  Trust me, I’ve been there!  And the reason I’m sharing this with you is because I know what it’s like to struggle through with nothing but willpower and CONSTANTLY feel like a failure.  

You feel like you’ll never lose weight.  

You feel like there is something wrong with you because you just can’t stick to a diet.  

You feel worthless because you’ll never fit into those size 9 jeans sitting in your cupboard that you bought 4 years ago as “motivation to lose weight”.  

It’s a really horrible place to be, all that guilt and shame and failure.

But wait for it…. *drum roll please*….. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY!  While the dieting industry would love you to believe that will power is your only option when it comes to losing weight, I’m here to smash that myth.  Let’s be cynical for a second: if all those dieting pills and weight loss shakes actually worked, wouldn’t the dieting industry be out of work?  Wouldn’t they lose customers every time someone actually succeeded in their programs?  Wouldn’t they make A LOT MORE MONEY if they actually set you up to fail in the first place?  By convincing you that your willpower is not strong enough, and then convincing you to try again, use a different product, start again next week or in the new year, the dieting industry is making you into a lifelong customer.  And that’s a win for them and their wallets.

So what’s the alternative to willpower?

Willpower works against your body.  It tells you to ignore food cravings, push through your low energy, ignore your stress and stick to your diet plan no matter what.  So the alternative to using willpower is to work with your body.  Listen to your body, get in touch with you and your individuality, and work from the foundations up.  

When you work with your body, you delve deeper into your food cravings and figure out what is causing them, so that you can eliminate them completely.  Not having food cravings in the first place is a lot easier than fighting those cravings will willpower.  (This is what I teach in my online program Overcome Food Cravings).

When you work with your body, you figure out what is causing your low energy and you fix that first, rather than forcing yourself to “smash it out” at the gym when your body is screaming out for rest.  It might require increasing your iron intake, or improving your quality of sleep, or a number of things.  But whatever is contributing to your poor energy, that needs to be addressed before you can expect to stick to a consistent exercise regime.

How do I work with my body?  I don’t know where to start.

This is exactly what I do with clients in 1:1 sessions, online.  I will help you understand what is going on at a foundational level so that we can get you to a place where eating healthy foods and exercising regularly feels easy.  No battling willpower, no feelings of guilt or failure, just a really down-to-earth and simple approach to getting you on the fast track to success in your weight loss goals.

I’ll help you get rid of your food cravings altogether.  I’ll help you improve your energy levels, get your digestion working properly, and give you coping strategies for stressful and emotional situations.  Whatever obstacle you need to remove before you can start living a healthy, happy life – I can help you out.

For more information on working with me, click here.

I struggled against my body and blamed my lack of willpower for way too long, and I don’t want you to do the same.  Book a session with me and together we’ll get to the root of your issue, so that you can find freedom with food and healthy living.

 

Dannielle-Illingworth

Three Books That Changed My Life

it's-all-good

When I was younger, I was a huge fan of reading.  Then, growing up happened and soon enough I couldn’t remember the last time I’d read a book for leisure.  These days, reading is a part of my self-care routine, and it’s my favourite way to wind down before I go to sleep at night.  I wanted to share with you my top three favourite books that have changed the way I think and feel about myself and my body – I hope that you choose one of these books to read yourself, so that you can start seeing the changes too.

you-are-enough

#1 – You Are Enough

Cassie Mendoza-Jones writes in a way that is easy to follow, and totally relateable.  Her first book, You Are Enough, helped me to learn self-acceptance, and to stop comparing myself to others.  It’s also a great book for overcoming perfectionism, something the author herself understands.

Get it on Amazon here:

You Are Enough: How To Elevate Your Thoughts, Align Your Energy & Get Out of the Comparison Trap

it's-all-good

#2 – It’s All Good

Filled with practical tips, affirmations, meditations, energetic tools and more, It’s All Good guides us to surrender, tune into trust, and ultimately achieve the peace of mind that comes from knowing we are always supported.

I highly recommend purchasing both of Cassie’s books, It’s All Good & You Are Enough, because they complement each other so well.

Get it on Amazon here:

It’s All Good: How to Trust and Surrender to the Bigger Plan

daring-greatly-brene-brown

#3 – Daring Greatly

If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown’s work, you’re in for a treat.  Her uncanny ability to make anyone feel understood combined with her blunt sense of humour makes for a winning book.  In Daring Greatly, Brene talks about the importance of vulnerability, and how shame impacts us on a personal and societal level.  Brene gives you permission to be fully, unapologetically, vulnerable you.

Get it on Amazon here:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 

I would love to know your thoughts once you’ve read these books! They have absolutely changed the way I view myself, and the way I live my life.

Enjoy!

danni-illingworth

The secret to overcoming your sweet cravings

Blood sugar balance is often overlooked when it comes to sugar / sweet cravings.

Imbalanced or dysregulated blood sugar levels can play a huge role in the development of cravings and ultimately, weight gain.  

Have you ever had one of those days when you had a green smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and you’re feeling super motivated and healthy.. but by the time it hits 3pm or when you get home from work at 5pm, you’re raiding the pantry and eating anything you can find?  This is one of the biggest signs of blood sugar disregulation and I’ll explain later why eating “healthy” can sometimes cause this problem.

Have you experienced any of the following? Tick the boxes below.

⎕ sugar or carbohydrate cravings

  • ☐crave food, especially sweet food, around 3pm onwards
  • ☐eat healthy all day but want to binge eat when I get home from work/school/etc
  • ☐can get a bit “hangry” if I’m hungry (moody, grumpy, agitated and/or irritable)
  • ☐headaches when hungry
  • ☐feel faint, light-headed or shaky when hungry
  • ☐have urgent hunger where I feel as though I need to eat immediately
  • ☐weight gain, or difficulty losing weight
  • ☐difficulty fasting or going long periods without food
  • ☐restrictive diets often cause intense sugar cravings and/or binge eating
  • ☐“brain fog” or difficulty concentrating when hungry

All of the symptoms above are signs of poorly regulated blood sugar levels – so if you’ve ticked yes to three or more of these then it is highly likely that you have experienced some level of blood sugar imbalance or hypoglycaemia.  The good news is, it’s generally easy to correct!

Here’s a graph that makes it easy to understand what happens to your blood sugar levels when you eat certain foods.

What does it mean when we talk about blood sugar levels?

Blood sugar levels refers to the amount of free glucose (sugar) that is circulating throughout your body in your blood.  Glucose is the form of sugar that your body uses for energy.  When you eat a meal or a snack, or even when you drink something containing sugar, your body converts those sugars into glucose and sends it straight into your bloodstream, where it can then be delivered to the area of your body that needs it.  There are lots of things circulating in your bloodstream, but blood sugar levels are just in reference to the glucose molecules.

Why are blood sugar levels so important?

There are a number of ways your body deals with sugar from the food you eat, but I’ll simplify it into these two scenarios:

  1. If you eat a meal that is stable in terms of glycemic load (more on this later, but it basically means it doesn’t have too much sugar in it) then your body breaks the food down to glucose molecules, releases glucose into your bloodstream and the glucose is sent to wherever it is needed for energy.  Once that glucose has been used up for energy, you’ll have a healthy hunger response to signify that it is time to refuel your body with more food.  This is the blue line on the graph.
  2. If you eat a meal that has an unstable glycemic load, the following cascade of events takes place: your body breaks down the food into glucose molecules, your body sends glucose out into the bloodstream and it is delivered to where it is needed most.  Then, your body starts to realise that there is too much glucose circulating in the blood and starts to go into a stress response to fix it!  Excess glucose is sent to your liver, where it is converted into fat and stored in your body as fat tissue.  Meanwhile, your brain begins to become starved of glucose because it’s all been converted into fat and your brain has no fuel to function! So your brain sends out a signal to your hunger control centre, and all of a sudden you have a really strong craving for carbs or sugar or any kind of food.  You might feel light-headed, a bit weak or even be a bit  grumpy until you manage to satisfy your brain’s craving for more glucose.  And once you eat that glucose-rich food, the cascade starts all over again.  This is the purple line on the graph.

Scenario #2 is complex and stressful to your body systems.  This is the basis of imbalanced blood sugar.  Now let’s look at how you can avoid this cascade and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

What is Glycemic Load?

Glycemic load (GL) refers to the level of impact a meal has on your body and your blood glucose levels.  If a food or meal is balanced in terms of carbohydrates, fats and protein content, and therefore causes minimal impact on your blood glucose levels (i.e. it causes scenario #1) then it is said to have a stable glycemic load.  When a food or meal creates havoc in your body and causes large increases or decreases in blood sugar levels (scenario #2) it has an unstable glycemic load. By eating foods and meals with a stable GL, you can reduce your sugar cravings and mood swings, minimise stress in your body and even lose weight!

 

Top Tips for Stabilising Blood Sugar Levels and Glycemic Load

  • ensure you are eating protein at every meal  – protein helps to slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, which means you have a slow, steady release of sugar (rather than a quick rush of glucose into the body, which causes chaos and stress)
    • protein sources include: eggs, meat, fish, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, eggs, cheese, tofu and tempeh, mushrooms
  • combine sugar- and carbohydrate-rich foods with high quality protein sources, good quality fats or both
    • examples: eat fruit and dried fruit with nuts/seeds/nut butters/etc
    • don’t drink soft drink or other sugary drinks without a meal, or some kind of protein at least (or just avoid them altogether!)
    • sweets/treats should be eaten before/with/after meals, ideally not on their own
  • make sure you are eating lots of high quality fats in your diet, including but not limited to: nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, LSA, good quality cooking oils, and eggs – fats also help to slow the absorption of glucose, thus stabilising blood sugar levels
  • avoid refined wheat products (i.e. ‘white’ wheat products such as white bread, store-bought bakery foods, biscuits, etc) as much as possible – the refining process that the wheat is subject to removes protein, fats, vitamins and minerals necessary for our body to digest the food in a healthy way.  White, refined wheat products basically turn into sugar when digested, and are more likely to cause the red line on the graph (unstable GL). Wholegrain and wholewheat breads and wheat products have a stable GL because they still contain the necessary fats and proteins to help slow glucose absorption (green line).
  • snacking between meals prevents dips in blood sugar that cause cravings, so snack twice per day on protein-rich foods such as nuts, seeds, eggs, animal products
  • eat slowly and mindfully, so that your body has time to absorb and digest your food properly without excessive insulin production

Dannielle-Illingworth

Should you really quit sugar?

You’ve probably heard a fair bit about sugar lately, and how bad it is for our health.  There are even dedicated programs online to help you quit sugar for good – but do you really need to quit it?  Let’s take a look at the role of sugar in our diet and whether or not we actually need it to survive.

Sugar turns into glucose when it’s digested.  High-sugar foods such as lollies, soft drink and even fruit cause a huge spike in blood glucose levels are we eat them, and our body then produces a hormone called insulin to help reduce the amount of glucose in our bloodstream and turn the sugar into energy that we can use to get through our day.  Usually when our blood sugar levels spike, say for example after a high-sugar food, we might feel really energetic, really happy and sometimes even a little bit anxious or jittery.  Once insulin comes along to get rid of all the glucose from our bloodstream, our blood sugar levels will drop and suddenly we’re left feeling flat, tired and moody.  You might have heard this explained as 3.30itis, when you’re feeling flat and tired and reaching for something sweet – but it is often simply due to imbalanced blood sugar levels.

High sugar intake can cause insulin resistance and may eventually lead to diabetes.  The pancreas is responsible for producing and secreting insulin, and if it is overworked due to a high sugar intake (which increases your need for insulin) then your pancreas may start to over-produce or under-produce insulin.  This leads to moderate to severe blood sugar imbalances and can manifest in symptoms such as feeling shaky, anxious, light-headed and/or cranky between meals.  Your body may also become less sensitive to the hormone insulin if it is overproduced, meaning your pancreas has to produce even more insulin to be able to process and transport glucose – and so this negative cycle can down spiral, causing further insulin resistance and placing more strain on the pancreas to produce insulin.  Type II diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels – sometimes the pancreas becomes unable to produce any insulin at all!

Insulin resistance and excessive sugar intake leads to weight gain, and can make weight loss very difficult.  When sugar is eaten in excess, our bodies are unable to use all of that glucose for energy and the excess glucose is sent to the liver, where it is converted to a different form of glucose and stored in your body as fat tissue.  Weight gain can then be very difficult if insulin resistance is present, as your body’s resistance to the hormone insulin means that your body converts more and more glucose into fat cells rather than processing it as energy.

However, glucose is necessary for brain function.  That’s right, your brain NEEDS glucose to function.  Without glucose – say for example if you went on a low-carb diet and weren’t getting enough sugar – your brain will actually send you extremely strong cravings for sugar to ensure that it is getting the glucose it needs.  Glucose is the energy that your brain uses to complete all of its extremely complex processes that keep us living, breathing and moving.  Without glucose, we would literally become brain-dead.  So don’t quit sugar altogether.

There are some forms of sugar you should definitely quit.  Refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are two of the worst inclusions in any diet.  Both of these products place an incredible amount of strain on your pancreas and your entire body, and both contribute absolutely no nutrition or benefit to your health.  These forms of sugar contribute to weight gain, fatigue, poor liver health, diminished eye health, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as being linked to higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression and even some types of cancer.  Opt for raw, unrefined sugar, brown sugar, honey and other natural sweeteners rather than the highly refined sugars and syrups.  Check nutritional labels to determine what sugar is in your food, but basically all processed foods will use the cheapest, nastiest forms of sugar available – so opt for homemade treats over store-bought ones!

To summarise, sugar itself is not the devil.  It’s when sugar is processed and refined to remove all its minerals and nutrients that it becomes a bigger problem, and consuming any form of sugar in excess is not ideal for your overall health.  However, we are all individuals and some people can handle more sugar in their diet than others, so listen to your body and if you are noticing any of the symptoms of imbalanced blood sugar that I mentioned above, you might want to limit your sugar intake (regardless of the type or form of sugar).  Remember, your brain NEEDS glucose to function, so don’t quit all sugar & carbs!  And plus, fruit is so darn delicious and good for you, it’d be a shame to miss out on your favourite fruit every now and then.  

So find what works for you as an individual, be sure to give your brain enough glucose to survive, and stay away from those nasty refined sugars and corn syrups.

Dannielle-Illingworth