I start the engine. I gain as much momentum as possible, as fast as I can. Surely this time I want it so badly that my willpower will be strong enough to dodge any obstacles that would try to keep me from staying on track with my weight loss plan.
THIS time, I really want it.
I’ve been going strong for two days. I think I can. I think I can.
And just like that the engine runs out of steam when I suddenly feel ferociously hungry and I just discovered that there’s a stash of my favorite guilty pleasure hiding out in the pantry.
I know, that’s ridiculous. Of all things… fruit snacks?! A small, 80-calorie bag of fruit snacks won’t derail me. But since my willpower steam is sizzling out into thin air, I can easily justify eating not one, not two, not five, but the whole box of ten “tiny” (as I tell myself while ripping open one after another) packets of fruit snacks.
Now I feel horrible. They were so yummy for the few minutes I was eating them, but now the sugar rush is gone, and the reality is setting in that this time, I did not in fact dodge the obstacle that tried to derail me.
The fruit snacks overtook me once again.
It’s a vicious cycle.
But let me help you dig your way out of this one.
First, let me remind you that willpower is similar to a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Thus, the more able you are to use your willpower to make tough choices in the moment when it is most difficult. Every little time you allow your willpower to trump your temptation, you’re becoming that much more capable of doing it more often.
Another little tidbit about willpower is that you can exercise it more easily on a slow and steady lifestyle change, than on a quick fix, super restrictive diet. Because the slow and steady option requires smaller, more manageable choices, where the more restrictive plans require you to make bigger, more drastic choices. When you work to implement a new and healthier lifestyle, you know that things take time, and it’s easier to choose a similar, but slightly healthier option in the moment of temptation.
When you’re feeling extremely deprived for a length of time, your judgement gets a little blurry and you get that feeling of “this just isn’t worth it! I can’t live like this”. Before you know it you’ve gone off the deep end, instead of indulging a little and then getting right back to your plan.
A well-rounded, lifestyle-change type of plan will take precedent over willpower any day. It will preserver when willpower fails you.
A little trick that can help you build up your willpower is to think about what’s on the other side of each little choice.
You walk into the kitchen. You notice a hershey’s kiss sitting on the counter. It catches you by surprise and sends a happy thought to your brain. “mmm!”
The next moment could very easily go one of two ways.
- You decide it’s just a hershey’s kiss. You shouldn’t have to deprive yourself. One little hershey’s kiss won’t make a big difference. So you indulge. That was yummy, but so tiny. You then remember there is a little stash in the drawer. So one by one you eat each and every last kiss. You feel terrible afterwards, and even more so you feel completely defeated. You think “I just can’t do this”
- You think. ‘Ok. It’s only a hershey’s kiss. One hershey’s kiss wouldn’t derail me, but it’ll make me want more and more. Passing up this hershey’s kiss will remind me that I do have what it takes and that I don’t have to give in to every tiny little temptation that drops in front of me. That will feel really good. You pick up the hershey’s kiss, and throw it in the drawer (or the garbage if you’re extreme like me). You feel victorious, and begin to realize that you’ll be able to pass up other (more difficult) unhealthy choices that will undoubtably be coming in your future. You head to the fridge for some berries instead.
Choose option 2.
Think of it as practice. You have to practice using willpower, to be able to strengthen your ability to do so. The more you do, the easier it gets. I promise!
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