The third ingredient to behaviour change – Willpower
In part 1 of our discussion on willpower and motivation, I introduced Dr. Baumeister’s Muscle Model of Willpower, the idea that our willpower, the strength to resist cravings or temptation, is akin to the physiology of our muscles – it gets tired and can fatigue in the short term, but over time the more you work it…the stronger and more robust it gets. We also talked about willpower from the point of view of addiction and recovery and looked at the acronym H.A.L.T Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired and how these emotional and physiological states can jeopardize our plans for change by sapping our internal resolve.
In part 2 we’re going to talk strategies to help us avoid the first of these potentially sabotaging conditions, hunger.
Be prepared and plan ahead. In the nutrition component of all of my courses and training I talk about the need to maintain your blood sugar by eating regularly. This doesn’t boost your metabolism, it’s boosts your willpower and allows you to stay motivated and on track. In the past, the idea of “six small meals” – the mantra of meal frequency when I first started coaching others and competing in physique competitions – was touted as a metabolic boost, a way to keep the internal fire burning brighter, but that’s not the case, or the reason for the weight loss benefits some find with this eating pattern. Eating regularly and strategically can reduce total consumption (and overall calorie intake) by fueling your brain which boosts your willpower and strengthens your ability to resist deviating from the plan!
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Strategy and planning will best willpower every time, why struggle to resist when you can simply plan ahead? Let’s take a look at the time between lunch and leaving work for home. Everyone I coach gets the same instruction… if lunch is at 12:00 pm and you leave for home around 4:30 for 5:00 pm, you’re ability to reduce your calories permanently relies on having a snack around 3:00 pm. I’m not nearly as concerned with “what” as I am with “when”, because in order to make your change permanent it has to start with habits, those vital behaviours that are key to change. The best diet in the world – the only one that will work – is the one you don’t know you’re on!
Your personal food philosophies and nutritional core values might be based on spiritual, cultural, or even religious beliefs, which are not (in my opinion) up for negotiation. They might even be based on the latest trendy Netflix documentary (which is perfectly fine), just know that if you want to succeed – maintain your willpower and your motivation and eat a snack before you leave work. I personally like an apple, it grew on a tree and a large one generally has less that 80 calories, it’s light on energy, dense on fiber and packed with nutrients.
In today’s world of “The seven secret hacks and super shortcuts to stratospheric success” it’s crucial to recognize the long game and what it is you’re actually looking for. I don’t know why you or anyone else is looking to lose weight (your motivation ☺), but if it’s permanent, sustainable, lifelong change, it has to be based on you and your daily habits. In my experience changing your health and fitness or your body composition has to start with the understanding that using our willpower, our self-regulatory strength, is a last resort. Discipline, strategy and preparation are the vital behaviours crucial to making permanent changes.
In part 3 of this series on willpower and how to keep it strong for those times we actually need to rely on our resolve, we’re going to look at the emotional components of H.A.L.T and talk strategy to stay on track.
Missed part 1?
ABOUT SEAN HAWTHORNE:
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Rehabilitation is icky. (That’s not a technical term 😉) It’s hard on your psyche, I went from casually curling 70 pound dumbbells to failing with 5 lbs. It hurts, holding that little green band in a supinated position is extremely uncomfortable. And it’s slow (might be my maturity level), it’s taken several months to be able to externally rotate that little green band as poorly as it looks. . . But, what else am I going to do? Quit lifting weights? Never throw a football to my son again? Switch to button up shirts? No. As an existentialist I’m all about quality and not quantity. It’s worth the effort. Netflix and chill is not a sport. If you’re injured or have chronic pain, don’t settle, find some professional advice and get to work. . . If you read this far and you’re curious, I crashed on my dirt bike and tore my shoulder to shit. External rotation and humeral stability are severely compromised. I started with strength and stability (static) and have progressed to eccentric with very limited ranges of motion through the concentric contraction, it’s been 13 months since the accident. . . #kelowna #onelife #change #weightloss #fitness #change #exercise #practice #rehabilitation #coach #coaching #diet #nutrition #motivation #influence #performance #success #awesome #captainawesome #mentalfitness #deliberatepractice #kaizen #happy
Sean Hawthorne is the owner and operator of OneLife Health and Wellness, Kelowna’s first and longest running private, personal training facility. While working in Dubai, UAE as a Contracts and Project Manager, Sean decided to leave his successful career in Civil Engineering Technology and pursue his passion for health, fitness and helping others achieve their goals. He returned to Canada in 2001, taking formal education in Exercise Science and starting his career in the field of health and fitness. Working in collaboration with their clients, Sean and his team of health and fitness professionals strive to continually improve their skills and to help everyone reach their goals.