Can’t or Won’t?

“I just can’t stop eating chocolate.” I used to say that all the time. I would sit after lunch at my computer and down a half a bag of M&Ms — and of course feel like crap about myself.

This went on forever. Until I made one tiny modification to the statement. And that was to change a single word: can’t. When I changed “can’t” to “won’t,” I was able to change the behavior.

I got this strategy from Marie Forleo, a life coach who teaches women how to create success in their own lives, both professionally and personally. She has amazing videos on her website at, and I highly recommend watching them if you want to make changes in your life, including to your body.

Here’s how substituting “won’t” for “can’t” changes things: Doing this means that you make yourself accountable, and there’s no one to blame but yourself if you don’t make changes in your life. You’re taking charge instead of being a victim. Saying “I can’t” means you have no control, Saying “I won’t” means you do.

One of the keys to changing your body (or anything else in life) is taking responsibility. It’s only when you take responsibility for where you are right now and committing to making your own changes that you will be able to change your body. You aren’t taking responsibility for anything when you keep saying that you “can’t.”

And you can’t take responsibility when you diet, because you’re getting someone else to tell you what to do instead of choosing for yourself what you will do. Plus you will stay permanently stuck if you feel helpless and dieting is your only way out. If that’s your only option, you’ll stay in the loop and never get anywhere. Diet, fail, rinse, repeat.

Dieting makes you a victim. Changing habits makes you the orchestrator of your life.

So for me, when I changed “I can’t stop eating chocolate” to “I won’t stop eating chocolate,” all of a sudden I was making a choice to not stop eating chocolate. If that was the case, then I knew I could make a different choice if I wanted to. If I could make a different choice — not to eat it — I had to look for ways to change. And that’s what I did.

I started incrementally decreasing the amount I was eating, and I started eating it being fully present, with my laptop closed and my phone somewhere else. Over time, the impulse to binge on chocolate subsided, and I didn’t need it anymore to feel satisfied. Do I still eat chocolate? Yes, sometimes. But certainly not a half a bag of it.

Putting myself in control of making this change made me feel confident, and I started making more changes. My body started to change and the way I talked to myself changed, too. I felt better mentally and physically.

When you say “I can’t,” you have to justify it with reasons why you can’t. Reasons like being overweight runs in my family or I don’t have enough time to work out or I’ve had two children or I’m getting older.

It’s easier to be a victim for sure. I mean who wants to admit that they’re actively doing something they don’t want to do?

But when you take charge, you create options for yourself — and there’s no limit to what you can do. Empowering yourself is the first step in changing. If you’re a victim, you will never change.

What “I can’t” statements do you find yourself making on a regular basis? And if you changed it to “I won’t,” what’s one action you could take to start making progress? Leave a comment and let me know.

Start putting this strategy to work for yourself this week. Not having any excuses to make feels scary, but the internal power you get when you stop making them will eventually start showing up outwardly.

And you might be surprised to find out that it’s even better to feel stronger on the inside than it is to look better on the outside.

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Camille Martin, RD

I wasted nearly 25 years of my life trying to lose weight. Now I spend my time running, juicing and "cooking" raw food, and laughing with my baby girls. I thoroughly enjoy growing Love To Lose, so I can teach you all I've learned along the way. I'm beyond excited to help you start your own journey, and I can't wait to meet you one day!
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