Would you like more willpower when it comes to food and exercise?
I’m going to share with you today 5 ways you can be most effective with your willpower.
Before I share with you how to effectively use your willpower, it’s important to consider what willpower is.
Willpower at the moment seems to be a concept that is still being unravelled. One theory to conceptualise it however, is to imagine a pot full of liquid. The liquid is your willpower and your pot is your maximum capacity. The pot size (potentially) can’t be changed, but what can change is the liquid inside.
The more willpower you use, the less and less your pot has. If you empty it then you’ll not have any left. The pot can always refill but it takes time and if you keep emptying it then it’ll be pretty near impossible for it to fill up.
THE PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS
So based on that theory, if you want to improve your willpower the trick isn’t about making more willpower, because that might not be a possibility. If your pot has a height limit that can’t be changed then it requires a little smart thinking to learn how to use as little willpower as possible in your day to day, so that when you really need it, you can call on it with ease. You also want to learn what triggers in your life steal your willpower and consequently affect your food and exercise decisions so that you can become aware.
The following are some common ways people empty their willpower pots, and then some solutions you can use to keep your willpower pot high.
1st- LOWING YOUR WILLPOWER BY RESTRICTION:
THE PROBLEM: As any keen dieter will know, when you restrict your food that food often becomes an obsession. You become preoccupied with the thought of it and eventually when the diet fails, you eat that food, or other foods, in more quantity than you would have if you’d just eaten it in the first place.
If you’ve ever dieted, then such freedom might sound like you’ll just lose control if you have no rules around food. That you’ll just eat everything in sight.
THE SOLUTION: Believe it or not, exposure to exactly the foods you might be avoiding is often the remedy. It takes away the novelty, the taboo, the power of the food, and it just turns into another food. It takes time to really allow yourself a permission mentality, but consider that as long as a food is restricted, you will always give it more space in your head than if you thought of it like any other food.
2nd- LOWERING YOUR WILLPOWER WITH DISTRACTIONS:
THE PROBLEM: Being distracted when you are making food choices, as in multi-tasking, can also be a slippery slope that doesn’t even allow you an opportunity to use the precious willpower that you have.
There have been many studies where participants are asked to multitask on two objectives and as a consequence of not fully paying attention to one thing at a time their concentration on both suffered. This is why it can be a huge surprise when your hand reaches the bottom of the popcorn box at the movies and you don’t know where it all went!
THE SOLUTION: Practices such as mindful eating can be super effective where you develop an awareness of what you’re eating. That can mean slowing down to eat. Taking some calming breaths before eating. Minimising distractions. All of them are about becoming present so that you can truly enjoy your food and when you are actually full or satisfied you can use your willpower to decide when is good.
3rd- LOWERING YOUR WILLPOWER WITH DECSION FATIGUE:
THE PROBLEM: The more decisions you have to make in your day the more fatigued your willpower becomes and research suggests that every time you make even the tiniest of decisions in your day about anything it makes it more of a challenge to make the next decision.
There are famous accounts of people like former president Barak Obama, only wearing the same coloured suits -being blue or grey- everyday in an effort to limit his decision fatigue. Now you don’t need to go to such an extreme -unless of course you’re in charge of big nuclear weapons that is- but it is an illustration of someone conserving their energies for bigger tasks.
Something you might relate to however is to think of a time when you’ve had a long, hard day at work and you are so tired that you don’t have the mental energy to even think of a nourishing recipe to use for dinner. So what do you do? You operate on your path of least resistance and just order take-away food.
THE SOLUTION: You need to minimise your decisions around what food you eat for every meal and every snack. Just look at how successfully diets already do this. Diets are easy in that the thinking is already done for you and on some diets the meals are even prepared for you. Just unrap and zap, and you’ve got a complete meal. You don’t need to think. You just follow instructions. The necessity for convenience in our fast-paced world is also another reason why fast food dominates our culture.
So I recommend you take inspiration from dieting and fast food by creating your own convenience food. The options are limitless. You can do things like pre-preparing meals and putting them in tuppawear to take to work. You can bulk cook staple ingredients like grains such as rice so you don’t have to do a fresh batch each time. You can freeze these all down and easily re-heat them. You could even source out some fast food stops that offer more nourishing options so that you can still avoid cooking if you want to without sacrificing on quality. You could take turns cooking if you live with someone else so that you don’t have to think of it every night. Also, making sure you’re getting enough sleep is one excellent counter measure that provides a myriad of health benefits and curbs night time cravings when sugary foods are often all we want.
4th- LOWERING YOUR WILLPOWER BY NOT EATING REGULARLY:
THE PROBLEM: If you’re hungry then your blood sugar will be lower and you will likely be more irritable going into a state of primal hunger. Willpower is hard to use in this state as your body will be focused solely on food as a survival mechanism and so you will be more prone to binge and eat anything you can get your hands on rather than making self-caring decisions.
THE SOLUTION: Try to eat at regular intervals to avoid this state and also consider that if you aren’t able to eat regularly then how can you get around this? Working in my gym I would have back to back clients for hours on end and so a thick protein shake was my remedy. It wasn’t ideal but it was my reality and so it provided a convenient way to get some necessary energy without running out of my session to have a snack.
5th- LOWERING YOUR WILLPOWER BY BEING SURROUNDED BY MOSTLY FUN FOODS:
THE PROBLEM: While I encourage many to not restrict foods I also believe that leaving food lying around everywhere is not always the most advantageous of things you can do. Especially if you’re often surrounded by fun foods and goodies.
THE SOLUTION: Putting goodies out of sight and putting more nourishing foods in sight like fruit can really make a big difference.
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Those were my 5 tips on managing your willpower. I hope you enjoyed this piece. If you have any questions then please write to me in the comments section or the contacts page, and if I can’t answer it, then I’ll do my best to connect you with someone, or another resource that can.