Most people who are familiar with dieting are probably familiar with willpower, too—or the lack of it. Willpower seems to be the commodity that separates the thick from the thin. If you have adequate willpower, you just say “no” to food, so surplus fat just isn’t a problem. Many lean people look at a fat person and pity the complete lack of willpower. Well, we don’t have a willpower meter, but it seems to me that the issue isn’t willpower at all—it’s the strength of the urges one feels to eat. If the urges aren’t strong, even average willpower is enough to say “no” as often as is needed to stay lean.

That’s the difference that people on an appetite correcting (AC) eating schedule discover as their bodies adapt to the schedule. It’s not that they suddenly get super-strength willpower and can bend steel through will alone—they just don’t want to eat. Instead of beefing up their strength to manage a problem, they’re just getting rid of the problem!

One of the first times I experienced how dramatically AC can shift the strength of appetite (the urge to eat) was when I walked into a mall during the usual lunch hour, which isn’t in my 5-hour eating window. I entered through the food court, which was abuzz with people eating, while others waited patiently in line, killing time until it was their turn to plunk down their money in exchange for chow. Even though the air was filled with the aromas of many appealing options from pizza to pad Thai, I felt no interest in the food. It had as much appeal as if I’d walked into a feedlot for cattle. I was not at all interested in lining up to scoop a meal from any of the “troughs,” and I walked through the food court and went on to get the item for which I’d stopped at the mall.

While I felt good about my willpower at the time, and felt good about the time and money I’d saved by bypassing the food options, I realized later that it wasn’t willpower that was making the difference and saving me time and money. The difference was that I’d felt none of the usual drive to eat that I would have felt on a conventional three-meal-a-day (3MAD) schedule.

Soon afterward, I noticed this effect again. I sat in a movie theater beside my daughter, who had a bag of popcorn. Anytime prior to starting AC / Fast-5, I would have been sharing the popcorn with her. Not because I was hungry, but because it was just there and available and who can resist popcorn at the movies? This time, though—no interest! It was just stuff in a bag, not particularly appealing, despite its engineered aroma. I didn’t have a bite because I didn’t want one. Again, willpower had nothing to do with my success in avoiding that calorie intake. The urge was not there. When the urge to eat is weak or absent, there’s no impulse to overcome. You can save your willpower for bigger and better things.

What has your AC / Fast-5 experience been? Stronger willpower or a reduced drive to eat? If you feel your willpower is stronger, have you found any parts of your life besides eating where that extra willpower makes a difference?