Willpower Alone Won’t Do

Eat well. Run well. Live well.

If you haven’t unsubscribed us by now, I believe you agree with the statements above. Some of you might not be eating well yet, but you’re working on it.

There are various methods and plans to help you eat better, but most don’t work. Here is the truth…

It’s not that the concepts behind the plans are wrong. It’s because most programs only deal with the “bad habit.” As long as you’re doing the right thing (not putting crap in your body, for example), your emotional state is not taken into consideration.

That never set well with me. 

Being in the active lifestyle and endurance sports business, I’ve seen too many people that were super gung-ho in the beginning, but enthusiasm gradually wains until they’re back to their old ways.

Even those, who have successfully maintained a clean-eating lifestyle for many years, sometimes feel sorry for themselves. They stare longingly at that slice of chocolate cake or that bag of chips, exhausting all their willpower and self-control to prevent themselves from reaching out.

YET, the plans and health gurus consider this a successful case. Yes, they are not eating crap. BUT they are also not happy. Sadly, this is where most healthy eating programs conclude…

The logical part of your brain knows that you should eat better, but that sinful piece of apple pie topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream is like a siren calling to the impulsive/addictive part of your brain. 

And you cave.

This is cognitive dissonance. An inconsistency of thoughts at the conscious and subconscious levels that creates negativity, such as anxiety and guilt.

Over the long term, we humans only do what we feel like doing.

That’s not true, you say! I force myself to clean the bathroom twice a week, and it sure ain’t my favorite pass time. 

You are not entirely wrong. We can exert willpower and self-control and do things we don’t want to do. BUT it takes effort. Lots of effort, and it’s not fun.

Willpower, like your glycogen stores, runs out. If you use it all up trying to focus in a long business meeting, not getting mad at a difficult co-worker or completing that challenging morning workout even though you didn’t get enough sleep – you then have less of it when 3pm hits and you are trying hard not to raid the office pantry.

You have to go beyond relying on just willpower and address the feelings of cognitive dissonance. 

 

Align your conscious and subconscious brains

First, you need to have a better understanding of why you can’t control certain actions. It helps to be more mindful and arm yourself with knowledge.

Here are some good reads:

If you’re trying to cut down on sugar, here’s an excellent book to learn why sugar is so addictive and why some of us aren’t able to quit it.

Sweet Poison by David Gillespie

If you’re rethinking your drinking habit, this is highly recommended. 

This Naked Mind by Annie Grace

Curious about going plant-based? This book gives some fantastic reasons from the health, morality, and environmental perspectives.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

The impulsive part of your brain takes convincing and reasoning to align with the conscious and logical levels. As you become more informed, the cognitive dissonance subsides, and the less you will need to rely on willpower.

 

It’s not a punishment

And secondly, don’t treat it as punishment. Focus on what you will gain. The positives: radiant skin, better sleep, weight loss, and clarity of mind.

Progress is the most enjoyable thing, and it’s highly addictive. That’s right, healthy habits that enable positive steps forward can be addictive. Countless people, after seeing their weight drop and fitness improve, began to look forward to the next workout and prepping tomorrow’s healthy meals. No willpower is needed. They are “addicted” to the positive progress and can’t wait to continue down the new path. 

And last but not least, find some equally enjoyable replacements.

No meat doesn’t necessarily mean bland foods.

All-natural can be delicious.

Alcohol-free doesn’t have to be boring.

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Heading out the door for a workout? Don’t forget to fuel properly to keep the positive momentum going. Here are a few recent articles to help you find suitable energy gels and develop a fueling plan.