In Mark Manson’s ebook Habits, he writes
In 1998, psychologist Roy Baumeister made a startling discovery. People who were forced to exert willpower (in this case, resisting eating cookies placed in front of them) did worse on puzzles and problem-solving tasks than people who indulged themselves. Thinking that perhaps it was a fluke of particularly hungry people, he and other psychologists ended up testing this over and over again across multiple scenarios and found the same thing: people who are forced to exert willpower and focus on one task, are worse at exerting willpower and focus on subsequent tasks.
What this means is that our willpower is finite and can be drained.
This is why after a week of strict dieting it’s so easy to convince yourself that eating an entire pizza isn’t such a big deal or getting shit faced on tequila is not that bad or eating a tubful of ice cream is well-deserved (you’ve been 100% compliant all week), so it’s just a one time treat.
Now for the good news – your willpower is like a muscle. Just like going to the gym and building up strength and endurance, you can build up your discipline and willpower over a long period of time by setting and accomplishing a series of tasks on a consistent basis. Think about it like you are building up your fuel tank to the level necessary to accomplish your chosen goal, task, project, etc.
Most people diet with a “crash” mentality. They pick an arbitrary number — say, lose 15 pounds in two months — and then they implement whichever form of starvation or abstinence most appeals to them that season.
How many times have you thought, “I will not eat any white sugar for the entire month. I am going to stop eating after 3pm. I will not eat any carbs. If I lose these 15 pounds, I will feel happier and better about myself.”
We must GET OUT OF THIS DIET CULTURE. We must UNDIET. Personally, I’ve been where you have been. I’ve rode the diet struggle bus since I was in 1st grade and teased for being chubby. I’ve gone through extreme diets and extreme exercise to lose weight.
What I CAN 100% tell you is what I recommend to all of my ladies. It’s not about the diet. It’s not about the perfect exercise program. Rather, it’s about integrating the appropriate habits into your daily life. It’s not about the willpower to give up certain foods, but developing the taste for good ones. It’s not about forcing yourself to the gym every week as much as finding a way to actually look forward to it and enjoy it.
It’s about getting in the reps; day after day, month after month, year after year. You build a series of healthy lifestyle habits. You make simple lifestyle changes that are sustainable rather than drastic shifts that you have no hope of maintaining 24/7, 365.
Habit researchers have found that in order to create new habits (or break old habits), we should NOT focus on the behavior but rather focus on the cue.
Let’s say you want to start working out on a regular basis. Instead of just focusing on developing the habit of “working out,” focus on developing a routine around initiating a workout. This may just seem like a subtle difference, but it’s actually huge.
An easy way to do this is to choose a cue that already occurs regularly in your daily life, such as getting home from work. Then, during the early stages of developing your workout habit, focus your effort on going straight to your room after you get home and changing into your workout clothes. Then go fill up your water bottle and head straight to the gym or whatever it is you chose to do. You want to develop the habit of putting yourself in the position to work out regularly, which makes it more likely that you’ll work out regularly.
After a while, you’ll start to notice that when you get home from work (environmental cue/trigger), it takes little to no effort to go to your room, throw on your workout clothes, and head to the gym (habitual response). You’ll even start to look forward to it, and maybe even feel like something in your life is off when you don’t work out. And that’s the power of habit.
If you want to get really serious about leveraging wellness and accountability habits to change your life, reach out to me. I work with busy and stressed women who have tried and failed at every single diet out there. My vibe_365 tribe is a network of women who have reached out to me because they are frustrated and hopeless of beating themselves up about what their bodies do not look like or are frustrated with continued loss of health. Our group is a village; we help one another and support one another in ways above and beyond their individual coaching programs.
And please, just as a friendly reminder- please consider your views on New Year’s Resolutions. I challenge you to pave a different way for your 2020.
Cheers to another healthy, happy and thriving 2020 friends!