Losing Weight Without Willpower |  Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms with Dr. Priyanka Venugopal

Episode #14: Losing Weight Without Willpower

Jul 05, 2022

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Decades of push-pull, fad diets, as well as counting and restricting calories have led to diet brains. Your diet brain relies on willpower to make action plans and muscle through. You may even find that this works… or at least, it works until it doesn’t. Well, it’s time to release the reins on willpower forever, and I’m showing you how in this episode.

We all have willpower. I like to think of it as a bank account that gets filled up every Monday morning. But by the end of the week, it gets depleted and by Friday evening you’re left with the tattered crumbs of what used to be. This is totally normal for our human brains, but why is it that those high reserves disappear so quickly, and what can we do about it?

Tune in this week to discover what willpower actually is and why we use it. I’m sharing why this reliance on willpower presents such a problem, how it’s preventing you from achieving permanent weight loss, and of course, I’m sharing how you can start to lose weight sustainably without relying on willpower.


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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:


  • Why it’s no surprise that using willpower throughout the day leaves your human brain fatigued by the evening.
  • How the countless decisions you have to make every day leaves your willpower depleted.
  • Where I’ve tried relying on willpower in the past, and what turned things around.
  • How to see the things you’re trying to force yourself to do using willpower as your only fuel.
  • The deeper problem with relying on willpower and then quitting when we start to fatigue our reserves.
  • Why relying on willpower to lose weight means you’re feeling resistance, looking for a chance to quit.
  • Where the resistance you’re feeling is coming from, and what you can do about it.
  • One tangible step you can start taking right now to begin recognizing and releasing your diet brain.

Listen to the Full Episode:



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Featured on the Show:


Full Episode Transcript:

Click here to download the full transcript


Priyanka: [00:00:00] Hello, you are listening to my mommy's podcast.  

Hey, this is Dr. Priyanka Venugopal and you're listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms, Episode 14, Losing Weight Without Willpower.  

Decades of push pull, fad diets, counting and restricting has led to diet brains and it's diet brain that relies on willpower to muscle through action plan after action plan. Sure. It works until it doesn't. Today, we are releasing the reigns on willpower forever. I can't wait for you to listen in.  

If you want to reach your ideal weight and create lightness for your body, you need to have simplicity, joy, and strategic decisions infused into your. I'm a physician turned life and weight loss coach for ambitious working moms. I've lost over 60 pounds without counting points, calories or crazy exercise plans. Most importantly, I feel calm and light on the scale and in my life. There's some delicious magic when you learn this work and the [00:01:00] skills I'm going to be teaching you.  

Ready? Let's get to it. 

Oh, my gosh. Did you guys like that intro?  

My daughter walked into the office just as I sat down to record this episode and she saw the mic with her sweet little face and her eyes lit up when I asked her if she wanted to say something to you all. So that was her welcoming you to today's episode.  

So I had a totally different episode plan for today and I had it mapped out and it is going to be such a good one. But I had to put that one off until next week, because this topic that we are talking about today came up recently this week inside my intimate coaching group, The Unstoppable Group, it's the group that I coach for ambitious working moms who want to reach their ideal weight and they want to do so with more ease and joy and simplicity. 

And this was a topic that came up and it was just too good to not share all of my thoughts [00:02:00] about, because I have so many thoughts when it comes to willpower and muscle-ing your way through action plan after action plan and then giving up and feeling the fatigue and then creating more disbelief. I mean, this is a cycle that I have personally been in for decades, I feel so passionately about which is why I was willing to bump my episodes back just to put this one in.  

We had a fire call inside the group, and because this call was so on fire, I am guessing that this is a topic that is absolutely coming up for you too.  

The topic at hand is willpower and weight loss. 

So today we're going to really define what willpower actually is, why we use it, why it's a problem and how relying on willpower for something like permanent weight loss is actually keeping you stuck. And then of course, I'm going to share with you how you can start to release it.  

So I looked this up. The definition of willpower is [00:03:00] control, exerted to do something or restrain impulses. 

It's control, exerted.  

The keyword here being exertion. 

It eventually fatigues and depletes. Now we all have willpower. I like to think of it almost like a bank account, a bank full, full every Monday morning that by the evening, by the end of the week gets depleted. It's high at the start of your week, but tattered crumbs of it are what's left for you by Friday evening. 

Now, I think it's important to really understand what is it and why is it that those high reserves on Monday morning get depleted by the evenings or by Friday afternoon?  

It's simply a day full of just living your life, making millions and millions of decisions. Some of these decisions that we're making day to day are more conscious and top of mind while other decisions are just happening in the subconscious background of your life.  

Millions and millions of [00:04:00] yeses and nos that your brain is making all day just humming in the background. Little by little, taking a penny out of your willpower ATM bank account every moment of every day-- leaving that bank of willpower reserves depleted by the evening and by the end of your week.  

It's why I find for most working moms who have had a full day of this, the evenings feel the hardest.  

This is not just you. This is normal human brain behavior. Our willpowers are highest in the day and they just wane and get depleted by the evening. So if you've been using willpower to stay on plan and lose weight, it's no surprise that by the end of the day, when your reserves are at their lowest, your so much more likely to give in. 

You can't exert control because your control tank is almost on empty. And remember, this is normal, it's normal for the end of the day or the end of the week for that reserve to be at its lowest. 

In this episode, what we really want to [00:05:00] uncover, highlight and bring attention to is there is a better fuel than relying on willpower to create sustainable and permanent weight loss. 

I mean, I can think back to years and years and years of using willpower to try to reach really any goal, not just weight loss. I remember when I was studying for my Ob/Gyn oral board exams, which I've shared on here before, I made the experience for myself initially so miserable. I was relying on so much willpower to get through my action plan. 

I kept trying to force myself to do something I didn't want to do.  

I knew I wanted to pass my board exams, but when it came to the work, I had a sentence on repeat in my brain. "I don't want to, and I have to." I kept reaching deep into the bank of my willpower reserves muscle-ing out hour after hour of studying, forcing myself to crack open the books, to make a schedule and to stick to it... only halfway [00:06:00] through to start scrolling on my phone, checking my email, meandering into the pantry, and I would naturally fall behind schedule. 

I've shared on this before, how I would fall behind schedule and then start printing out a whole brand new calendar and try to cram in more material with fewer days, and I honestly ended up spending so much more time planning than actually implementing and executing the game plan. Let me tell you what actually turned this around. 

I had a pretty serious moment of realization when I ask myself, why did I want to pass my oral boards? 

Now beyond the surface level of just wanting to be a board certified OB GYN... 

Beyond the surface reason of what it looked like to be board certified.... 

Beyond the surface embarrassment if I didn't pass. 

When I got underneath those surface level reasons, I realized that I wanted to be the best OB GYN physician for my patients. 

I wanted to be the best in my [00:07:00] craft. 

I wanted to hone my skills.  

And me touching back to that, Why really lit me up into wanting to do the work.  

And so we started looking at the studying and my plan and the calendar from a totally different perspective. I thought:  

I want to. 

I want to read this. 

I want to know this.  

I want to learn this.  

And what's so amazing about this is that this new thought pattern led me to have a more effective study time. I became doubly effective, getting through the material in half the time. And I created a result that I adored. I became a board certified OB GYN, more skilled and honed at my craft.  

I've shared before that willpower does work in short moments or what I like to call grit and grind. But it can't last beyond these short bursts.  

Maybe you use willpower to muscle through a few all-nighters.  

Maybe you [00:08:00] throw in a few 24 hour fasts. 

Maybe you count every point and calorie that you put into your mouth.  

But you cannot force yourself to keep doing something that you don't want to do for a long period of time. I mean you can try and the whole time, your experience will be just that.... struggling in the mud and the muck of not wanting to do something, but trying to force yourself to do it. 

Listen, this is totally possible, you can absolutely try to muscle through and I've tried it. Trust me, I've tried it in so many areas of my life beyond just weight loss and passing my board exams. But here's what I also know. When you try to force yourself to do something that you don't actually want to do, what you end up doing is halfass work. 

It's like flipping the pages of the book skimming, but not really reading the material with interest. I want you to imagine that you send your kid to tennis camp and they don't wanna go, but you force them to go because you paid for it. And so you can put the tennis racket in their hand and sign them [00:09:00] up for the most amazing, luxurious experience. And maybe they even swing... but the energy behind it is just non-existent.  

So either the energy is just nonexistent and you're just reading and skiming pages, but not really reading the material or you go to the other end of the spectrum, stick in hand, trying to scold yourself to work harder. This is like that kid going to the tennis camp and knowing you're going to get pissed if they don't try. And so they start swinging the racket because of a fear of retribution.  

Either way, this experience is miserable. 

And while we might be swinging the racket at the ball, we are not really connecting with the experience or the sport. Trust me that first moment that they possibly can, they will quit.  

And trust me, they do. 

And we do the same at the first chance you get, you will quit on the plan.  

If you've been using willpower to lose weight, you are looking for a chance to quit. And I'm going to tell you why we do this in just a minute, but before I get to that, I wanted to [00:10:00] tell you the deeper problem with relying on willpower and then quitting when we start to fatigue our reserves.  

Telling yourself that you have to do something that you don't want to do has a shelf life. Eventually it fizzles and fatigues. And the reason for this is because it never really addresses your thinking that was requiring the willpower to begin with. 

So it fizzles and fatigues, and maybe you gain some of the weight back, but then you remember, "wait a second, I wanted to reach my goal. I wanted to lose the weight." 

So you try a new plan, the latest fad, maybe this new way will do the trick.  

But underneath, you never really knew to change your thinking.  

And so you do this day after day, month after month, year after year. And because you keep starting and stopping, you keep muscle-ing through and quitting, you start to believe the false story that maybe you're just not capable of following through. 

Maybe you're not capable of losing the weight.  

Maybe you are just that unicorn who can't get.  

And this [00:11:00] false story starts to infiltrate your identity, how you identify and define yourself. It sounds like:  

I'm just someone who loves food too much.  

I'm just someone who doesn't follow through. 

I'm just weak. 

I'm not actually going to be able to lose the weight. 

I'm just <fill in the blank.> 

And so you continue trying to use the depleted bank of willpower and not creating your dreams as a result. This ...is the deeper problem to not solve this in a lasting in permanent way, you start to identify as someone who doesn't create dreams. 

I see this time and time again, when you start to believe that and you start to create that as your reality, that is the real problem that keeps us stuck on the scale.  

And to me, this is the real, real reason that I want to help free you from the cycle.  

You get to free yourself from the false story, and it starts with identifying the thoughts that are driving you to lean on willpower, to begin with. 

So before we can really free ourselves from this, [00:12:00] let's just understand why are we needing the willpower to lose weight? Why have we used it so far?  

The only reason we ever need willpower is because we want something like losing weight, but we feel resistance to doing the work. And so we tried to override this resistance by taking action through willpower. 

So where does this feeling of resistance come from?  

This feeling, that emotion that you feel in your body? 

It comes from a thought that you are thinking. Some flavor of, I don't want to, and you add a sneaky second half, and .  

Talk about the ultimate struggle. Can you feel the push pull happening when you think this way? It's putting you in the thick and heavy, hard muck, and then you try to manhandle your way out, which obviously creates fatigue. Using willpower for more than a short burst will lead you to quitting, self sabotaging and canceling your dream goals.  

And it perpetuates the mistruth that weight loss is [00:13:00] so hard. 

It isn't, but we've created so much evidence from decades of thinking this way.  

Now it's true. Weight loss, like any major goal you have requires work. Absolutely.  

But it's simple. It's doable and it's just sometimes challenging.  

So let's just first recognize that your willpower being depleted by the end of the evening or by Friday night, isn't a weakness. It's not unique to just you. It's normal across all humans. It will absolutely happen. And then the most brilliant thing that our brains do is literally just take our direction. The moment that that bank gets depleted, that bank of willpower, your brain is finally like,  

listen, my love you're telling me you don't wanna do this. 

I've got you. No problem.  

You're telling me you don't wanna do this.  

Let's quit. Let's give into all the things.  

Let's walk into the pantry. Let's pour that extra glass of wine.  

Let's eat those nachos because literally you're telling me that you don't wanna do this.  

It's why that little naysayer gets louder and louder and [00:14:00] why we negotiate longer and longer. 

It's your brain following your own direction from the thought "I don't want to and I have to." So if you've wandered off, come back. The reason that you have been relying on willpower is to muscle through an emotion like resistance. And resistance is coming from the thought "I don't want to, and I have to." It's classic diet brain, and you likely thought this for decades, but guess what? 

That sentence I don't want to and I have to is optional.  

And it's your ticket out of releasing willpower forever.  

Let me repeat that if you want to stop using willpower in weight loss.... and I think I've made a fairly compelling case for why it's valuable to do that. Your ticket is to recognize that willpower is being used to muscle out of resistance. And it's coming from the optional thought "I don't want to and I have to."  

That [00:15:00] sentence isn't a fact. It's just simply a sentence that you've been telling yourself probably thousands of times. And your work now, if you choose it is just to notice and catch it in real time. Just this step, this one tangible step that you can start taking today will lift resistance for you and you will start to create some space, some lightness, and a little bit of wiggle room.  

Now, how is it that you actually release an old pattern thought? Because you've likely thought this for years, thousands and thousands of times. Two neurons in your brain have fired together for decades and it's why diet brain can take a while to really recognize and release. 

When two neurons fire together for decades, it turns into a belief that borders on fact, in your mind. This is why coaching is so valuable to really have insight into understanding what your belief structure is and knowing how to challenge it, and then turn it around is how you get to create these massive [00:16:00] moments of growth. 

The way that you get to really uncover and release this thought is getting curious about the sentence: "I don't want to."  

Now from a place of true curiosity, give yourself full permission. You don't have to.  

Let's just get below the surface. Like passing my oral boards... beyond the vanity of just the title beyond the vanity of what it looked like.  

Beyond that below that. Why did I want it?  

I want to have you tap into your Why.  

The same is true for weight loss, for any work goal you have for any life goal you have, you could stay right here, right where you are and you are still perfectly okay at this gravitational pull on this earth. You're still a whole, amazing ninja woman. But just in this moment, you can decide. 

Why is it that you really want to reach that ideal weight? Do you [00:17:00] want to?  

Let's just dive under the surface for a moment and give yourself permission for any answer to come up for you. Just flash forward 1 year from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, do you want to have lost weight? And if you hear a small, yes, let's tether to Why. 

And now you forever know your answer.  

If your answer was yes, never, ever, ever again, tell yourself that you don't want to. And this is how you forever free yourself from the resistance of doing the work. I say this often, if you know, you want to lose weight, don't hate losing weight. Find a process that you trust, love and believe in. 

Because otherwise it creates this exact struggle that we're talking about. You pit yourself against yourself. When you imagine yourself that future self in a lighter body let's honor the desire that you have to create her [00:18:00] and remind yourself on a daily basis that you do in fact, want that.  

That thought "I want this" is steady fuel my friends and only, you know, the best exact path forward. 

And here's, what's amazing-- in those evenings, those weekends, when your willpower reserves are naturally at their lowest, you'll have that practice familiar thought, come back: "I don't want to," and now you get to catch it, recognize it as an optional thought and change it to something new. How do you want to think about following through, on your own dreams? 

And then you go do it.  

You know, when you do this again, and again, night after night, weekend after weekend, you start to build a new muscle that replaces willpower. It's a muscle that doesn't fatigue. It doesn't get depleted by the end of the day. 

And it is the muscle of self trust.  

As you practice this, this muscle gets stronger that you're going to do what you say you're going to [00:19:00] do. Even in the absence of willpower. And also recognize that this is a practice. It starts with just noticing the thought "I don't want to, and I have" to as optional, and then reminding yourself that you have agency to change that thinking if you choose.  

When you do this seriously, you will start to blow your own mind at how much lighter you'll feel and the identity shifts that you'll experience. 

You'll start to deeply believe in your bones, a new, more expanded belief structure about yourself... and really seeing that you can actually lose weight, reaching your dream ideal weight without having to lean on willpower is going to be incredibly enlightening for you. Start this practice today and share with me how it goes. 

Are you loving this podcast? I would love it, if you subscribed, rated and reviewed the show and share it with a friend. My mission is to help [00:20:00] more working moms free themselves from this push pull energy that we're talking about. The heavy, that creates heaviness on the scale and really a heaviness in your mind. 

This is how we create a life that feels lighter in your mind and your body deeply and permanently. And we do this by creating a paradigm shift away from your status quo. Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it takes your attention and yes, it is so worth it.  

Thanks for listening to Weight Loss for Unstoppable Moms. 

It's been an honor spending this time with you and your brilliant brain. If you want more information or resources from the show, visit theunstoppablemombrain.com. 


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