Weight Loss and the Illusion of Willpower
In the end, will-power has never worked to help people lose weight and it never
will. Why? Because when it comes to hunger willpower is only an illusion. Sure, we
can stop eating for a while, perhaps even a long while if the reward is substantial,
but not indefinitely, not by choice. The overwhelming urge to eat becomes too
great.

This fact becomes clearer if we compare hunger to another powerful urge;
breathing. Again, as with hunger, we have the illusion of control over breathing.
Most of us can will ourselves to stop breathing for thirty seconds or a minute and
with practice, some of us can even do it for two minutes, but, no matter how
great the reward, no matter how disciplined the individual, nobody can hold his
breath for four minutes. The urge to breathe becomes agony to resist. So does
the urge to eat.

Does this mean that it's all hopeless? No, of course not. What it DOES mean is
that any weight loss plan which causes unremitting hunger isn't a weight loss plan
at all; it's a plan for failure. Sure, starvation or semi-starvation will work for a
while, but nobody can live with ravenous hunger for very long. So, the important
issue in weight control isn't merely what plan works, but what plans works that do
not cause abject hunger. On this basis, sadly, most "diets" fail. But not all.

Trying to Say No When Hungry Just Won't Work
In the context of weight loss, the term "will-power" usually means not eating
when hungry. Down the ages, will-power has been held out to overweight
people as the solution to their problem. When this has failed to work for people
because they get hungry, the failure has too often been interpreted as a
reflection of some character flaw of the individual. "If you'd just stop stuffing
your face you would lose weight" is a typical response.
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