Will power is a very interesting thing. It’s cited as the number on reason that people seem to “fail” on diets and exercises programs. I definitely disagree with this statement and I’ll tell you why! And then I’m going to give you some interesting tips I’ve picked up on the science of willpower and how to use it to your healthy advantage!
First of all- those saying that they don’t have enough willpower to eat healthy or exercise are doing it ALL WRONG. It shouldn’t TAKE willpower in the first place! Willpower is defined as “control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses.”
It’s important to know that willpower is viewed as a limited resource. Basically think of it as this “pool” of willpower that you start off each day with. Then you spend ALL day fighting with your environment if it is not set up properly for your goals.
For example: your fridge and pantry are filled up with junk food- say goodbye to a little bit of your willpower first thing as you attempt to make the healthy choice for breakfast. Then you get to work and you didn’t pack a healthy lunch and you are starving…It takes an extreme amount of that willpower to drive around looking for a healthy choice past Mcdonalds, and junk food everywhere you look.
Then you come home and your are exhausted. You know you have to work out. You’re tired and you sit on the couch and turn the TV on. Guess how much willpower its going to take your to get your butt up again and get a workout in?? A LOT more than if you had all your gym stuff ready in the car and went on your way home.
So my point is, that first in order to really use your willpower to your advantage; You need to make it EASY ON YOURSELF. Stop utilizing all your willpower reserves and then feeling like shit at the end of the day because it was so hard to make healthy choices. You start wondering why its so easy for someone else. You feel angry and resentful against those people that seem to have no problem turning down a plate of fries so easily.
So my number #1 tip is FIRST: Make your environment work for you. This is how I barely exert any willpower throughout the day making healthy choices. Before you know it these things become habit and thats when it’s completely automatic. Doesn’t take willpower to brush your teeth does it?
1.) I plan all my workouts in advance and schedule them in to when I KNOW I can do it. If you aren’t a morning person, for gods sake don’t schedule your workouts in at 6am when its going to take every ounce of your energy to get out of bed and workout. I NEVER schedule my workouts for evening because thats when I know I don’t want to; and it’s going to be really tough for me to force myself. Obviously I have it a lot easier than most and I work at a gym. I have an hour a half break on M/W/F that I schedule in workouts and then I fit it in Tues/Thurs morning cardio after I sleep in, etc.
2.) GET GROCERIES AND MEAL PREP! If your house is filled with junk and chocolate you are going to be using up willpower everyday just resisting those treats (not that I don’t think you should keep treats in the house, I think if you want to have them just keep them out of sight in a drawer or something that you don’t look in etc. I have other blog posts on this topic!). Sometimes I know its super hard to cook an elaborate meal and much easier to eat a bowl of cereal or get take out for dinner. That’s why I always have chicken cooked, quinoa cooked, and veggies and fruit stocked up in my fridge. When I’m feeling tired its easier for me to heat up some chicken and quinoa than it is for me to drive somewhere and get junk food. No willpower needed!
3.) Are the people you hang out with constantly eating junk food, or engaging in drugs/alcohol/bad habits? It’s time to start thinking about surrounding yourself with people that support your goals! I’m not saying you need to ditch all your friends, but find a buddy that enjoys healthy eating and working out and when you see them loving going to the gym and enjoying cooking healthy meals, that can inspire you to keep on going! So basically just become friends with meeeee! 😉
4.) Coming back to the definition of willpower: “control deliberately exerted to do something or to restrain one’s own impulses.” Why is healthy eating and exercise viewed as something that needs to be forced/controlled? Restraining impulses? I find it very interesting that the natural way to view health is that it’s hard. That’s when you need an attitude shift. If you think healthy eating + exercise = deprivation, hunger, fatigue, and missing out then that is why it’s hard!
Society has completely created this view with stupid diets and punishing workouts that have you running back to your comfort zone of ice-cream with relief.
Change your attitude. The reason why some people find fitness so easy and healthy eating is because its ENJOYABLE to them. And maybe it will take you some time to find what is enjoyable to you and that’s okay! Life is meant to be full of joy and happiness and fun. And health should be viewed as something that brings joy and energy to your life. It’s an amazing stress reliever, natural way to feel amazing and energetic through good nutrition, and I guarantee if you are doing it right- you are going to be a heck of a lot happier, confident, and loving in every aspect of your life.
Are you really happy being sedentary? Does TV actually make you feel good? Does the chocolate binge or McDonalds burger actually make you feel BETTER? Be honest with yourself.
I get that SOMETIMES indulging in chocolate/sugar is totally enjoyable and lovely!
As someone that is recovering from binge eating I can tell you without a doubt that there are very few times food as ever made me happy and these were the times:
1.) when I’m enjoying a delicious dessert with all my closest friends at restaurant, sharing it and savouring it.
2.) when I’m filling myself with delicious nutritious foods, experimenting in the kitchen, and feeling energetic and amazing through the foods I’m choosing to eat.
3.) when I’m having a glass of wine with my family or out on a patio in the sunshine etc.
Food does NOT make me happy when I’m eating it alone, in excess, while watching TV and dealing with overwhelm and anxiety.
I encourage you to find things that genuinely make you happy. Like reading, bubble baths, friends, sunshine, nature, writing, playing an instrument, writing a blog post, journalling, cuddling with a puppy, snuggling up with your significant other, hosting a dinner party.
So change your beliefs about health and wellness, change your environment. Set clear, defined goals so you know what you are even trying to “use” your willpower for!
Some more little tips to increase willpower:
-If it takes less than 5 minutes, just DO IT. Don’t even debate. This really helped me to stop letting a whole bunch of tiny e-mails or dishes or clothes pile up into one big anxiety inducing mess that makes me exert willpower to clean everything all at once. Keeping everything organized and put away keeps your mind free to worry about other things and keeps that willpower reserve intact!
-Get sleep! It’s very hard to resist things when you are dead tired, can’t think straight and have to use up all your willpower just to keep your eyes open. 7-9 hours. PLEASE!
-Be realistic. Sometimes I get mad at myself when I don’t work for like 14 hours in a day and I’m like “why don’t I have any willpower!!! I’m such a failure”. Don’t set yourself up for failure in the first place. Have realistic expectations of yourself. Set a goal and then cut it IN HALF. Feel accomplished when you reach it. The next week you can add a little more. Bask in accomplishment. Rinse and Repeat for success in reaching your goals.
Today I have a of work to get done. At first I was like “I’m going to get up at 6am (willpower) and work constantly till 5pm (willpower) and then go teach 4 classes and come home and work more (ummm… sorry but I don’t have that kind of willpower).
Instead I set a timer for ONE hour this morning. I’m already 2 hours in and I just ignored the timer when it went off because I was on a roll. I slept in, had a great breakfast, and went for a walk this morning in order to increase productivity. Then I kept saying to myself “I can do this. One small thing at a time”. I started with the easy things and crossed them off my to do list.
I don’t feel like I’ve exerted any willpower because I just started with the easy stuff, and accomplishing things gives me energy to keep going. Try it!
So save your willpower for the big things and set yourself up for success. Remember: health is FUN and brings happiness and wellness. When that finally clicks in you are going to be one of those “crazy” people like me who can’t wait to get to the gym everyday and smiles through every workout!