How to Improve Willpower

In a perfect world, we would all just eat insanely healthy because it makes us feel so great. We would workout because we love it.

In reality, we just try to eat healthfully because we are scared of the deleterious effects of the standard American diet or just care about our six pack (or lack thereof). We workout because we should.

In reality, most food options surrounding us are not ideal. Most people around us are not making the best choices for their health. Most of the time, we are busy or tired and just don't feel like working out. Then, as if adding insult to injury, junk food is designed to make us crave it. Sugar is addicting and we know how good some of those foods taste. Even TV is addicting which begs you to sit down instead of going to the gym.

How do we make ourselves do some of these good-for-you things in an environment that is less than ideal? Most of the time, it's because of a little thing called willpower.

Everyday, we wake up with a certain amount of willpower. It's inherently limited.

Willpower is a biological function and a mind body response to the specific situation in which you find yourself. (Source)

So the question arises: how does one increase willpower?

The best way to strengthen willpower is to not rely on it so much.
— Natalie Digate Muth (ACE Healthcare Solutions Director)
  1. Get Rid of the Diet Mentality
    • Restriction almost always leads to cravings and strips you of the energy to workout.
    • If you eat ENOUGH you will be amazed at how your cravings start to disappear. You will be amazed that the 3:00 slump doesn't hit as hard. You won't be as "snacky" after dinner.
    • Fill up on vegetables, meat, and healthy fat and you'll have the energy to workout and the satiety to pass on dessert.
  2. Optimize your Environment
    • My number one tip on willpower for nutrition (besides eating enough) is to just not keep the food in your house. Plain and simple. If the ice cream is in the freezer, you will eat it. If you have to get up, drive to the store and buy something, when then you must REALLY want it. In that case, just eat some ice cream and move on.
    • Prepare food when you have time so it is ready for when you don't. That may mean chopping vegetables during a TV show, or baking chicken on a Sunday afternoon.
  3. Have a plan and take the decision out of the action
    • Do you get stressed and start craving sweets at 3 pm? Plan to take a walk instead. Bring a healthy snack to eat if you know you get hungry on your drive home. Don't expect yourself to be perfect. Winging it doesn't work.
    • Don't wait until you get home to think about dinner. A healthy meal isn't just going to appear. Don't test your willpower by trying to make a decision about what to eat when you are already tired and hungry!
    • Getting up to workout at 5 am? Heading to the gym after work? Make it mindless. Pack your clothes the night before so you don't have to think about it when your alarm goes off. Pick a gym that is on the way home from work. If you HAVE to drive by it, it will be easier to stop than if you had to drive out of your way.
    • Incorporate activity into your day in ways that don't feel like a burden. For example, walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show. You had that hour blocked off anyway and the time will go by quickly!
  4. Give into your cravings in smaller, more mindful ways
    • This is a lifestyle. It's an overused word, but it's true. You are going to want to eat your favorite dessert every once in a while and that doesn't mean you never should. It just means that you don't have to completely binge on whatever your craving is. Truly enjoy whatever you are eating and eat until you are full.
    • People always ask me: "What kind of pizza is best?" My answer: "Whichever kind you like the best!" Yes, you could "save" calories by eating one kind over another. Yes, more vegetables are always better. But if you are eating pizza, it's probably not because it's lower calorie or has more veggies. AND THAT'S OK. Enjoy your food, and then move on.
    • The other thing that happens when you give into your cravings every once in a while is that you realize how bad your body feels after eating poorly. You remember why you changed your lifestyle to begin with!

So there you have it! Do you have tricks that I didn't mention? Share it with me in the comments!

Julie

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#WorkoutWednesday (4-30-14)

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