We get really good at the “how-to’s” with food, fitness and health but not so good about what gets in the way. One area we often overlook is conserving willpower and the importance of how that affects our choices. Because when willpower is drained, which it will be by the end of your day, it will be tougher and tougher to make good decisions that are in line with your goals. And what is one thing I let drain my willpower? Social media pursuing.
Though I tell myself I am checking it to relax and zone out for a few minutes, checking it constantly during the day just keeps my mind racing, keeps me in the comparison trap and never really just lets my mind completely relax. There are lots of other things that drain our willpower too. Work, projects, meetings, kids, zoning out for hours watching t.v. and yes the hundreds of food choices we make each day.
The real secret of willpower is to learn how to conserve it rather than use it.
You see willpower is a finite source of energy. In other words it drains like your cellphone battery. By the end of the day when your willpower is shot, your stress is high and your energy source is low you will be more susceptible to skipping your workouts, snacking mindlessly and making poor food choices.
I find myself saying, “I won’t snack.” “Don’t eat.” “ Just stop it.” “Just go workout, stop thinking about it.” And here is where we get it wrong. Telling ourselves over and over NOT to do something. Because when we continually exhibit self control and discipline it drains our energy stores.
Most likely we are not building in willpower relief through the day. We are not taking downtime, relaxation time, and it shows up in other areas of life and makes us anxious and overwhelmed and drains our focus and productivity. When your willpower is exhausted it affects your choices.
That is just what I have been doing lately. Because I have been letting stress and overwhelm get the best of me. I know how to conserve willpower, I just haven’t been doing it. Sound familiar?
Today I am going to talk about how we can conserve willpower and make better choices in regards to our health. Remember it IS a practice. If you want to get better at healthy eating, you must practice making better choices. You may not always win, but practice makes progress. Just like in a sport or new skill.
Here is what I am doing to strengthen my willpower. Because the answer lies more in conserving willpower than constantly trying to resist food, snacking and checking social media. Have you ever thought about it that way?
Strengthen your mental energy to make better health choices? Here are 4 ways to help you make healthier choices.
Priming. This idea is used when you use a positive behavior to prepare for a certain situation or challenge that you face that may be tempting. When I am tempted by snacking/checking social media/wanting to skip my workout, I will do ______ instead. The other day I was actually mid snack, not even hungry and just said “Adele, stop it. Go for a walk.” So put my peanut butter jar back in the fridge and went for a walk. I saved myself mid way through and that is better than not saving myself at all. I know for me, going for a walk is one of the ways I “prime” myself for success. It could be anything. You could call a friend, take a few deep breaths, go workout. Figure out how you will prime.
Month/week/day at a glance relaxation routine.
I focus on what I can do each month, week or day to add relaxation into my routine.
In a month I try to pick a “big” thing. A big thing to me would be a massage or a trip or day out where I completely remove myself from my work and focus on relaxation and in turn restoring willpower.
I choose 2 moderate things a week, like a walk, foam rolling or yoga session or taking a hot bath.
And I choose 3 teeny moments a day where I can take a break from my work. Maybe walk for 5 minutes, meditate for 2 minutes, take a nap, read a non business book, or watch a funny show. (Tv is shown to help relax for no more than 30 minutes. Because then it begins to feel like zoning out and escaping. And escaping is not the same as relaxing).
Introduce block time into your schedule. Create your work block time during the day, whether that is for projects, bills, chores, etc. Then set aside time to check social media, email, whatever it is that you want to use it for. Have your phone out for phone calls and texts but only check your major distractors once in the morning and once at night. Are we really missing out if we don’t check Instagram all day. No. But I know I still do it.
Think about food ahead of time.
Thinking about food too much in my early 20’s did provide me with a great tool I still use to this day. I always think about what I am going to have at my next meal or my day ahead. Not in an obsessive way, more so in a preparation kinda way. When do I usually eat, where am I going and what will I have? This will help you make your decision ahead of time and save some of that willpower. If you pack your lunch for work, even better.
Learn how to take some of the load off yourself in the moment when it comes to eating. I already know what I will eat for dinner tonight and probably breakfast tomorrow. If I go to a restaurant I almost always scan the menu online before hand. It helps me stay out of the mental battle with food cycle. Less decisions with more automatic positive behaviors are what lead to change. Not restricting your diet, not running yourself into the ground, not the new detox.
The takeaway? Instead of constantly focusing on what does not get done or where you mess up, try planning for where you might go wrong. Be aware of energy zappers (too much social media, t.v., stress and overcommitment’s) and focus on how to add more relaxation, calm, and better choices in your routine.