They Myth of WILLPOWER

College students were recruited to participate in a food perception study.

The students were told to come to the lab a bit hungry and not eat at least 3 hours before.

They were led to a room which smelled of delicious freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

In the room were two bowls:

  1. Chocolates + chocolate chip cookies
  2. A bunch of radishes

Which would you find more tempting?


Half of the students were asked to eat 2-3 cookies and some chocolates, but no radishes.

The other half were asked to eat 2-3 radishes, but no cookies.

While the students ate, the researchers left the room, intending to tempt the students who ate the radishes with the yummy cookies and chocolates.

Despite the temptation, the radish eaters showed their willpower and didn’t sneak any cookies.

Oh and the students who were allowed to eat the cookies didn’t sneak any radishes.

Must’ve been tough. 😛

At this point, the students were told that this taste test study was over and they could leave.

But then, by design, another group of researchers entered the room and asked if they wanted to participate in another, supposedly unrelated study.

Many of the students agreed.

In this second study, the students were presented with puzzles that required them to trace a complicated geometric shape without retracing any lines or lifting their pencils. They were given multiple sheets to try over and over.

The thing is, the puzzles were designed so that they couldn’t be completed to frustrate the (poor) students to measure their persistence (aka willpower).

This is where it gets interesting…

The students who ate the cookies spent 19 minutes on the task and made 34 attempts.

However, the students that ate the radishes gave up after only 8 minutes and 19 attempts!

The radish eaters, who had earlier exhibited their willpower by not sneaking any cookies or chocolates, quit in less than half the time simply because they ran out of self-control, say the researchers.

And it’s not just this one study showing this phenomenon – many others have been done that show self-control is an exhaustible resource.

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of having been on a diet, losing weight, then gaining it all back, you’ve just proved that self-control is in fact limited.

If it wasn’t, you would’ve kept the weight off because that’s what you really want and all that would’ve been required was a little bit of willpower to keep doing what you already know works.

It makes sense that willpower and self-control are limited resources.

They require energy and we all know that energy is a limited resource.

So if your goal is to lose fat and keep it off, what can you do?

Remove the requirement for willpower.

Got any strategies to do that?

I’ll share mine in the newsletter next week. Make sure you’re signed up because every Monday we’ll be talking nutrition.

Let me know in the comments below.

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AttiafromuscleEricJustinGerrie Recent comment authors
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consistency and habit.


Wow. That’s incredibly eye opening. That said, anything that’s very difficult will have a high failure rate. That’s just how it is.

I’ve always found that the easier you make things at the start, the easier it’ll be for you to maintain. If you set the bar too high, the failure rate is high.

Whoever invented the phrase ‘Baby steps’ certainly knew what he/she was talking about.




Alright, so I’d say the key is in the exertion of decisive moments of willpower in making CHOICES – such as when shopping or deciding whether or not to put yourself in situations where it would require willpower to continuously turn down temptations.


Yessir – that is definitely one of the keys.


Food cravings are not about willpower, I agree.
You have to go deeper than that to solve them.
I’m putting my money on the Tapping-World-Summit-2013.
Actually it is completely free and some kind of audio-course.
Tonight it is about food-cravings amongst others.
You tap on certain meridian points on your body while verbally making statements,
like how stressed you feel about not being able to control yourself.
This seems to solve some of these issues.
I’ve only heard about this a few weeks ago, from Yuri Elkaim.
It seems a really powerful tool. I’m going for it. Gerrie


Make sure to update us about this – sounds interesting.


Wow, really interesting study. Do you have the reference by any chance. Its just Im doing some research of a similar kind and this would be excellent to reference.


Yeah I’ll pull it up for you – just out and about ATM.


I have found your “cheat day” the most stabilizing. I love to bake. If I know I can have a cheat day I can maintain my diet. Though my wife is not sure of my newest idiom. ” A little cheating goes a long way.”


Hahaha whenever you say that make sure you give her a wink and smack on the butt to really throw her for a loop.


I’ve found that I can only last so long without having on a no-carb eating plan. Can last but only for so long.


Hehehe Ty – The ultimate potato chip crack head in the house!!!