If there was a bowl of your favourite snack in front of you, could you say no?
willpower is one of those things that some people seem to have in spades. Not me.
Some think it is easy for me to not eat the food that should be a treat.
Well, it is not.
I have good days and bad, maybe I just look at it all a little differently.
My feeling is that if you have a moment where you eat more than you think you should have had or the wrong thing then that is ok. You restart the next moment. That does not mean the rest of the day is for bingeing or eating poorly, it means you restart the next moment.
The other thing I believe is that you need to fuel your body first before letting yourself have that naughty treat.
The third thing that helps with your willpower is to always eat food you love. Especially the healthy food.
Can you imagine craving healthy food because it just tastes so good?
If that has not happened for you then it is time to try some new foods and recipes.
What about when you need willpower?
There is always going to be moments when you do need to exercise willpower. That is an apt phrase, exercise willpower. It is like a muscle that you need to work at to improve, but there are a few things that you can do to give it strength.
- If you crave, have a little
- Be well rested
- No intense workouts/exercise sessions
- No mental workout sessions
Thinking that most of these have nothing to do with food?
You are right, but a lot of studies have shown that they affect willpower.
If you are craving food then at the start of the craving you can do 2 things to help it. One is to have a little of what you crave, but it has to really satisfy the craving.
The other is advice from one of my clients, this works really well for her. Have a cheat time each week, could be an evening or afternoon, whenever. As the week goes on write down all the foods you fancy on a list. On your cheat time look at the list and see what you crave. You can eat it then. You may be surprised at how much off the list you don’t really feel like.
By knowing that the food is not taboo but just available during one time each week, it becomes less forbidden and easier to say no to.
Being tired makes it more difficult to have willpower. The more rest you have the more energy that you can use to stay away from the foods that you don’t want to indulge in.
So get that little bit more sleep each night, say it is for your weight loss!
No intense workout sessions
Just like lack of sleep, if you workout and wear yourself out you will also wear out your willpower. You will see this in action if you see a bunch of runners who had a hard run or race and stop at a cafe. I know the group I ran with pre-covid used to stop at the end and most indulge in a slice of cake.
The excuse was, I run so I can eat this. But if you are trying to lose weight then you want to slow your exercise down so you don’t wear your willpower down. The excuse of “I can eat that because I worked out” defeats the purpose of the workout. Slowing your weight loss down.
I will give you more reasons to slow your exercise down to lose weight another day.
No intense mental workouts
I only learned about this recently. There have been studies where one group of people are told they can eat the freshly baked cookies in front of them and another group can only watch the other eat, they get to eat radishes.
Then the groups were given puzzles to solve. Guess which group did better? The one who had the cookies.
If we reverse that then we can see that if we took our time working out mentally, in a high stressful job, doing work that takes a lot of mental energy (writing detailed reports, essays, presentations) we have no energy left to stop ourselves from overeating, eating the wrong foods, or snacking uncontrollably.
Putting it into practice
It can be difficult with our busy lives, but making small changes. Like on the day you know you are going to have to think a lot and it might be a stressful day mentally, you can have a cheat night.
On those days, try not to exercise or at least have a hard workout, do a slower, more easy workout. Yoga can be great on those days.
Over time it will become easier but you need to give yourself a chance to succeed. Take small steps and build up over time.
What can you do today to help your willpower?