Debunking the Willpower Myth to Losing Weight

Most people I talked to this year had the same new year’s resolution as me….to lose weight! I would love to lose the last 15 lbs that just keeps hanging on. Many Canadians share my desire to lose weight. We live in a society where 57% of Canadians are either overweight or obese. To me that is a staggering number! Some would even say we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic. 

Here’s some frightening statistics from Statistics Canada that opened my eyes:

  • The incidence of overweight and obesity among adult men and women in increased 9% between 2006 and 2011
  • It is projected that up to 70% of adults aged 40 years will be overweight or obese by 2040 if weight trends continue at the current rate
Weight Watchers 360
15 more lbs to go!

I know part of the reason is due to having so many unhealthy food choices almost everywhere you turn. As one who is currently on a diet, I know firsthand how tempting (and easy) it is to cheat. I always thought it was my lack of willpower when I failed on diets in the past. I just couldn’t handle the temptation of sweets and I enjoyed the flavours, textures and the entire experience of savouring every last morsel. I was surprised to learn recently that Weight Watchers has proven that having willpower is not the key to how successful you will be at losing weight. I was very interested to see the science behind how they debunked the willpower myth.

It all starts with the science of Hedonics.  Hedonic hunger is the desire to eat for pleasure when we see, smell or think about foods we find delicious. Think about it for a second. How hungry do you feel after browsing the food boards on Pinterest or watching a cooking show on TV? Even when I attended a Twitter party that was centred around food, I immediately wanted to head to the fridge to see what I could find.

Since the 1950s, science has only focused on the other type of hunger: homeostatic. Homestatic hunger is controlled by the hypothalamus and it tells us when to start and finish eating based on our blood sugar levels. We all know this isn’t always correct though. Many times I will continue eating even if I am comfortably full either because it was always drilled in me as a child to clean my plate and not to waste food. I even have ordered dessert at a restaurant despite the fact that I am full from a meal. Why? Because I want to eat for pleasure and to savour the experience.

Hedonic hunger is eating for pleasure and not eating for survival. I know when I eat for pleasure, I’m not always choosing the healthiest foods! It’s usually items high in sugar or fat. It’s in our brain chemistry to want to eat these types of foods and with all the choices available to us…well, you can see why it can be difficult to make healthy choices!

Watch this video from Weight Watchers Canada that explains hedonic hunger more:

Weight Watchers has taken this science and applied it to their new program, Weight Watchers 360°. It combines current nutritional science with advancements in behavioral science, teaching members how to build healthy routines that can become second nature and to set up their environments to lose weight successfully and learn to keep it off. It’s much more than just tracking points. You can take advantage of Weight Watchers meetings and eTools to help keep you focused on your goal. People who used these lost 5 times more than those who did it all on their own. 

Though I haven’t tried Weight Watchers myself, I did read more about it on UrbanMoms where a blogger is beginning her weight loss journey using this new program. Check it out!


  1. Maria Iemma says

    OK, I confess I love to eat specially carbs – my willpower is nill so I have read this post carefully and have to applaud how you have explained the program.

  2. Heather Bush says

    good review, and mocking those who fail @ weight loss does nothing to help their already battered self esteem

  3. nicoleroannef says

    This is an interesting topic. I rarely eat out of hunger myself so the hedonic hunger concept makes much sense and controlling your food environment sounds really promising.

  4. Natasha Brodsky says

    I am trying to lose the 30 pounds I gained while on prednisone for 8 months. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Chandra Christine O'Connor says

    Weight watchers is a really good program not only for sensible eating but the support system in the meetings is wonderful

  6. Suzanne Smith says

    I almost never eat out of hunger, that is why consciousness instilled in weight loss programs like Weight Watchers 360 work so well.

  7. Eva Mitton-Urban says

    Great informative perspective on weight loss. I use to follow the New Year’s Resolution weight loss regiment – but after too many unsuccessful attempts – decided not to follow the crowd. I decided my resolution date started in February 1. I have lost 45 pounds to date – hard work, exercise, small portions and determination are key. Self Acceptance in any size/shape helps too. Hard battle of the bulge for everyone – come to terms with yourself and things will eventually become your victory.

  8. Stephanie Thompson says

    I have an Aunt that has been in Weight Watchers for many years and didn’t ever loose much weight then they made some changes on going about it and she lost so much weight.

  9. Jaime Brown says

    I have heard a lot of good things about Weight Watchers, I have a friend that was on it and lost about 40lbs.
    I have thought about going with it but I can’t afford the program right now but hoping later I will. Thank you for sharing:)

  10. Rhonda says

    Thanks for all of the great information. Currently, I am at 130 lbs lost (well, just gone because I don’t intend to ever find them again :-) ) with 30 left to go and I am finding it hard to gather the motivation to get these last 30 off.

  11. says

    I know what you mean about eating for pleasure. It is so hard to resist all the delicious foods around you, especially when others are eating. I am currently on weight watchers. I’ve done it before and it really works if you stick with it. It’s hard to motivate yourself sometimes to eat what you should and work out.

  12. Donna Martin says

    i’m from malaysia. Among Southeast Asian nations, Malaysia is the one with the highest rate of obese people. What cause this is the daily sugar intake among Malaysians was too high, at 51g, which was above the World Health Organisation recommendation, at 50g.

  13. kristin sims says

    I used the point system with weight watchers after i had my son, and i lost the weight fairly quickly, i am a true believer in this

  14. Michelle Armstrong says

    I have had the same issues. Trying to exercise and eat better. It’s had being a mom. Always having to put everyone else 1st. Us moms need to remember to do at least one thing for yourself a day.

  15. Heather Vineyard says

    I had heard of weight watchers but was not familiar at all with the 360 program. After reading your article on it, I am going to look into it and find out more about it. Thank you for sharing the information.

  16. Wendi S says

    I have the will power but seriously until the kids are in school and I have time to exercise I don’t think I will loose.

  17. nancy chartrand says

    I have lost weight on my own and found it again, If someone loses 5 lbs i find it, 10, ooops there it is.. I lost 185 pounds once, when I dumped my husband … that was a huge weight off my shoulders… so I have just decided to try again, thank you for the encouragement.. My sister lost a ton of weight on weightwatchers, the last time she came over the kids were watching hercules on tv and someone named her aunt skelator behind her back.. giggles.. keep up the good work everyone!!

  18. Kathryn M says

    That is the coolest thing to learn. I’m obese and after many many failed attempts at losing weight I just figured it was because I too didn’t have the willpower to do it, that I was just weak. This makes a lot of sense!

  19. brian says

    ?? Yes. It is your will power that makes you lose weight?. Calories in.. calories out. That is the science behind losing weight. You eat a little less calories than your body needs to maintain your weight. Get online and get a maintenance calorie calculator. Sorry guys, this article just seems like an excuse to use if you fail

  20. Erin K. says

    I feel like many…like I have no will power. I have found a lot of success with Weight Watchers after the birth of my son. I feel like I needed a schedule or a plan and that was what Weight Watchers gave me. I am now pregnant with my third baby and gaining more weight than I should be (those damn carbs!). I plan on going back to WW and hopefully losing the weight. I just wish I had the will power now, but those cravings!

    Thank you for being so open and honest in your posts. It always makes people like me feel better knowing that there are others facing similar challenges!

  21. Jaime Brown says

    I am hoping that changing how I eat and exercise, will work this year, last year I was determined to quit smoking and I am 9 months smoke free. So just hoping this year to start losing a large amount of weight, thank you:)

  22. Kelly says

    Such great information. I have read so many things about weight loss. Yet the weight doesn’t drop off. Guess you have to do more than read about it :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *