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
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!