Why Willpower Doesn’t Work


Today, I want to talk to you about habits.

Bear with me, it’s going to be a bit like a Psychology 101 class. But no test at the end, I promise. 

This is a really powerful concept that can change the way you look at the food you eat, the exercise you do, and the way you take care of yourself long term.

Especially if you’re among the MANY people who have tried diets, cleanses, or weight-loss plans in the past and haven’t been able to stick with them, this is for you.

If that sounds like you – or even if you just wish you could fit in more workouts or eat a little closer to the 80/20 alkaline lifestyle – you may be hard on yourself, thinking, “If I just had more willpower, I could do it.”

After all, you look around, and there are plenty of examples of people out there who eat super healthy, work out every day, and feel and look great as a result. 

But here’s what you need to know about those people… It’s not willpower that makes those habits stick and last.

I know because I’m now one of those people after years and years of trying different things to kick my sugar habit and each time, ending up right back where I started – downing an entire box of sugary cereal in one sitting! And worse than that, every spoonful of cheerios, was accompanied by its own spoonful of good old white sugar!  Yes, my sugar addiction was that bad.

There were times I stopped for 2 weeks, and times my will power kept me going for 2 years…For some people (few at that), there will power can get them through it, but for me, it never worked, and I’ll bet most likely, if you’re having sugar issues, it’s the same for you.

So, if it’s not willpower, what makes some people stick to good habits (when the rest of us can’t)? 

It’s simple: they feel good!

Here’s an example of what I mean and how you can make this trick work for yourself.

If you walk into a new gym, thinking you’re going to get ripped, head toward the heavy kettle bells, and pick up the biggest one you see, what is going to happen?

Well, you’ll probably pull a muscle or two. Your back or shoulder or arms will feel sore for days, you won’t have as much movement in that muscle group, and you can bet you won’t hit the gym until you recover. So much for getting ripped!

Willpower works the same way.

When you decide… Okay, I’m finally starting my diet today. Good thing I ate anything I wanted yesterday, because today I’m cutting out 7 different types of food! …It might work for a few days. Maybe even a few weeks.

But eventually, you crash. Willpower gives way and all of those big changes are as unsustainable as that heavy kettle bell.

If, on the other hand, you walk into a new gym and pick up a couple of light kettle bells, do some squats, and then climb on your old stand-by, the stair machine, you’re going to feel good after your workout. You might feel a new muscle group you’re not used to working, but next time you head to the gym, you’ll pick up those same kettle bells and do a few more squats.

You’ll keep doing it as long as it feels good.

This is why I always tell people who are starting my powerful weight loss program, the 7-Day Alkaline Cleanse to ease into it.

Start working toward the plant-based way you’ll be eating on the cleanse as soon as you sign up, and the transition will be soooo much easier than for the person who waits until Day 1 and then really feels the effects of the detox, going from extreme to another, especially on Days 2 and 3.

That person has a harder time because they’re not feeling good yet, both physically AND emotionally.

We naturally want more of what feels good. We avoid what feels bad.  It’s the pleasure/pain principle.

That principle worked well for us humans back in the caveman days when eating the wrong berries could mean getting sick or even death. But today, it causes trouble for many of us.

When we try to lose weight with the mindset of, “I have to deny myself what I want and eat what I don’t want,” this often leads to shame and guilt. At extremes, this can turn into a really bad situation. Shame and guilt usually lead to our willpower giving in and then we overindulge, going overboard.

If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, you know what I’m talking about… “Other people can lose weight. Why can’t I?” “There must be something wrong with me,” or “Wow, I’m lazy because I can’t…” 

Here’s the thing about guilt and shame. You haven’t failed. Eating badly doesn’t make you a bad person. Unfortunately, you’ve been set up in a system that fails all of us.

So how do you shift your mindset and apply this trick to your life?

If you know you need to make a change – any kind of change, from something small like fitting in yoga classes twice a week to something big like cutting out gluten when you normally eat a lot of it – this trick of doing what feels good is something you can put into practice to make good habits stick.

Once you accept that you’re trying to do your best, it’s actually going to be a lot easier to do your best. You won’t use food to mask or numb the guilt and shame of feeling like you’ve failed anymore. And when you no longer need food to numb or mask anything, you can start eating to keep your body healthy. Because – you guessed it – it feels good.

Unless it feels good, you’ll lose motivation and willpower.

So whatever habit you’re trying to change, there’s got to be a reward of some kind. 

For some people, that reward is how you feel.

I see this all the time with patients. They might be resistant to eating alkaline, until they experience how good they feel. Then it’s easy to keep doing it – no willpower required – because the reward is no longer feeling acid reflux, no longer having headaches, no longer having osteoarthritis symptoms, or whatever it was that brought them to me.

Why would you stop doing something that leads to reviews like this?


“Alkamind greens and minerals starting working right away. My reflux literally disappeared within 1-2 days of using them. My second most significant health issue - hip pain from arthritis - rarely bothers me anymore. What a dramatic change after years of nearly daily, chronic pain. I also feel rested now each morning because these products have improved the quality of my sleep. My mood, memory and overall cognitive function have also improved.” –Alan L.


That’s the goal, but if that’s not the case for you (yet), I suggest you pick a reward for yourself. Depending on your health goals, it might take longer to start to feel a difference, whether that’s losing weight, clearing up your skin, or lowering blood pressure, so in the short run, find something that will feel good and make that your reward.

You could choose something like taking a long, hot bath every night with essential oils and Epsom salts, which is a great detox, or tie healthy choices to a guilty pleasure – such as only watching the show you love to binge if you have eaten alkaline that day. Find what works for you, as long as it feels good without sabotaging your progress.

Then you’ll no longer need any willpower. You’ll be doing it because it feels good. It’s rewarding in and of itself.

This is also why I always say, “Moderation! Not deprivation!” Make one small change at a time, wait until it’s easy and feels effortless, and then make another small change. Then another, then another, until pretty soon…

You eat alkaline because it feels good.

You work out every day because it feels good.

You wake up and do meditation and deep breathing every morning because it feels good.

Eventually, going back to my analogy, you might walk into the gym and pick up that really heavy kettle bell. And you won’t throw your back out when you do. Because you will have worked your way up to it little by little.

It won’t take willpower because it feels good to be healthy and strong!

If you haven’t read my best-selling book, Get Off Your Acid: 7 Steps in 7 Days to Lose Weight, Fight Inflammation, and Reclaim Your Health and Energy, it’s full of recipes, tips, and ideas to take you from sluggish and in pain to healthy, energetic, and slim.

For more on how to overcome your obstacles to long-term health and wellness, get your copy today.


Dr. Daryl

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