How to get more self-control + improve willpower.

 

I'm currently reading the 1997 NY Times best-seller 'Don't sweat the small stuff' by Richard Carlson (I'm really enjoying its simplicity) and it got me thinking about nutrition (naturally)!

When it comes to healthy eating, so many people 'sweat the small stuff'. This is one of the main reasons for 'falling off the bandwagon'. 

Did you know:

You only have so much willpower before it runs out. 

Your willpower is a like a muscle. Use it too much and it gets exhausted. Like a muscle though, if you use it regularly (but don't overload it), it gets stronger and stronger. 

The problem is that so many people waste their willpower on stuff that doesn't ultimately 'move the dial'. 

So when you really do need willpower, there isn't any left! You've wasted it on worrying about the small stuff,  instead of the stuff that ACTUALLY makes a difference. 

If you want better willpower and self-control, you need to learn to conserve your energy for the things that will have the BIGGEST impact. 

Can you relate?

+ You eat SOOOO well all day. But by the time you get home from work, you're exhausted and you end up demolishing the entire kitchen. Whoops! 

+ You exercise at the gym solidly, day after day. You're in the zone. But after a while, your body gets really stiff, and you're so tired and can't go anymore. So you give yourself a little break and that little break becomes days and then weeks. Argh! 

You eat 'perfectly' and 'clean' all week, but on the weekend, something tempting is offered and you can't resist anymore. You give in and it starts an avalanche eating spree. You feel guilty and crap. And have to start from scratch on Monday. Again! 

How to get more self control and improve willpower blog post Lyndi cohen dietitian.png

If this sounds like you, then chances are you currently waste your willpower when you 'sweat the small stuff'. 

What is the 'small stuff'? What should you be focusing on instead?

Stop worrying about the teaspoon of sugar in your marinade or salad dressing. You are eating a freakin' salad! Well done, you superstar. Having a bit of sugar or fat is NOT going to derail your goals. It IS going to help you enjoy the salad so much more, and then you'll naturally keep choosing salads for lunch. THIS will make the difference. 

Take home: Focus your energy (and willpower) on cooking more at home and eating loads of vegetables. So what if you need to add a little dressing, or feta, or extra virgin olive oil! Don't sweat the small stuff. 

 I always add balsamic glaze to my salads. A bit a sugar? Who cares. I save my willpower for the stuff that matters.  

I always add balsamic glaze to my salads. A bit a sugar? Who cares. I save my willpower for the stuff that matters.  

Don't worry about cutting our carbohydrates, or gluten, or dairy or whatever else is trendy these days. These foods are NOT the cause of weight gain. You know which foods DO make a difference to your health/weight/happiness? Alcohol. Fast food. Chips and chocolates and soft drinks and other 'sometimes' foods (that you might be accidentally be eating every day).

Take home: Eat all the food groups but aim to eat and drink less 'sometimes' food. Can you have more alcohol-free days or drink one less drink a day/week? Can you buy one less treat at the checkout each week and add in another piece of fruit? Can you cook one more night at home a week?

Don't worry about whether cardio or weights will burn more calories. The best exercise for you is the one you LOVE doing. So if you hate runs, what's the bloody point, eh?! It'll always feel like a struggle. Even if yoga or a walk doesn't burn as many calories, if you enjoy the exercise, you'll keep doing it more consistently, and THAT moves the dial big time. 

Take home: Find an exercise you enjoy, even if that means it's not as intense. Don't waste willpower pushing yourself into exercise you hate, because it won't last. The best exercise is the exercise you enjoy, done consistently.  

 Mmmmm, I love a good walk with a juicy podcast. It never feels like a chore. 

Mmmmm, I love a good walk with a juicy podcast. It never feels like a chore. 

LET'S GET PRACTICAL: How to get better willpower and self-control.

If you only have a small amount of willpower to use each day, what will you prioritise it on?

1. Pick THREE things that you want to accomplish health-wise every day. Simply focus on getting those three tasks done.

For example, my health priorities are: Eat 5+ serves of vegetables a day and 2 pieces of fruit, exercise and get 8+ hours sleep. Anything else I manage to get done is just a bonus but by nailing these three things, I know I'm focusing on what matters. 

2. As your willpower 'muscle' strengthens, you can add on another habit.  For example:

  • Always eat at the table, without a phone/tv/computer to distract you
  • Get 10,000+ steps a day
  • Eat more vegetarian meals (for example, eat meat only once a day)
  • Here are some other ideas.

Please share your comments!

What do you think about this idea? I'd LOVE to hear from you in the comments section below. Can you relate? What are some BIG habits you want to focus on? What have you been wasting your willpower on trying to control?

Need a little more guidance? If you need a little extra help with healthy eating and your relationship with food, check out the Keep It Real Program. It's will help you 'keep it real' and focus on what really matters. 

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