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January 6, 2014

Tips to boost your willpower

Is willpower what distinguishes our success stories from our failures? Fifty percent of dieters say “yes,” they didn’t have the oomph to stick it out because they lacked the willpower. It is true that willpower is a resource, and one that is in limited supply.  But the difference between those with a supposed exceptional amount of willpower is perhaps not that they have more of it, but that they take steps to boost or better manage the willpower they do possess.

 A recent article in the magazine Fast Company provided “Secrets of The Most Productive People.” I found the habits of these ultra-successful and productive people intriguing.  There is only so much available brain power, but thousands of decisions to make each day. They shared how their daily habits freed up brain space to focus on the important. Some eat the same thing for lunch everyday; others wear the same outfit each day.  Goals are important, but their daily routines and processes are what propel them forward. Without some kind of system, not much can be achieved.  Ideals and goals of any kind can be motivating, but to reach the pinnacle of success we desire, there must be a roadmap.  The same is true of our wellness goals. 

 I would argue that those who are able to stick to wellness goals don’t have more willpower but instead create an environment that makes it easier to embrace the best choice. The daily choices we face can be dizzying, including the more than 200 regarding food alone.  Any plan to achieve better health or weight loss must include adopting healthy habits which, in turn, makes the abundance of choices easier to navigate.  With healthy habits in place we can conserve our willpower for the most tempting of times. Consider the following habits to build you own willpower.

l Sleep. Do whatever it takes to get adequate sleep (at least 7 hours per night for most of us, say the experts). Sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to reduce your ability to resist easy temptations. Making the best choice often requires complex thinking and when we are tired we just don’t care as much.  We lose our ability to stay strong.

l  Keep the addictive foods away. Whatever foods twist your ironclad willpower into tinfoil should be reserved for planned eating occasions only. The point is to keep those foods you can’t stop eating once you start, out of the pantry, off the counter and away from your desk. If it’s not there, you can’t mindlessly, uncontrollably eat it. A certain person in my house has to reserve Cheetos for birthday occasions only.  We all have our weak points.

l Eat regular meals and avoid alcohol. By keeping blood sugar stable, there is less likelihood that poor choices will be made. When we are hungry, we lose our ability to resist temptation. It makes sense since our brain needs a regular supply of energy in order to think clearly. Alcohol is another willpower killer as it tends to stimulate the appetite and cause the mood to relax.

l Avoid TV dinners.  That is, eating in front of the TV.  The goal of good TV is to be distracting. If we eat while we watch, we don’t usually have a clue what we have eaten or if we even enjoyed it at all.  Reserve the dining room table for dining and designate the coffee table for your feet!

 Willpower is precious commodity for everyone, but there are ways to boost and help conserve the supply we do possess.   Plan ahead, eat regularly, sleep well, skip the mindless chowdowns and stockpile some willpower.  By following your daily game plan and tapping into this added willpower nothing can stop you from achieving success.

Crumpacker is a registered dietitian and owner of Go Nutritious. Visit Barbra at gonutritious.com or email her at rd@gonutritious.com

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