Willing Your Willpower

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Do you ever wonder where your willpower is when you need it most? Many people have shared their stories about losing their willpower and overeating.  And yet, what exactly is this thing we keep losing?


Willpower is inner strength, self-control, determination, resolve. Sometimes it's "don't-do-it" power or "don't-eat-it" power. When you set on a path toward changing behaviors such as to stop smoking or to lose body fat, it's really hard to stay motivated enough to achieve your goal. You have to be willing to walk away from your old, comfortable habit and be willing to choose a new behavior such as chewing on a carrots, or saying, "black with skim" at the coffee shop instead of "Grande triple caramel latte, extra whip." Making new choices requires thought, effort, follow-through and practice. The question is, do you have enough willpower to reach your health goals?  


Many people I work with say they may have willpower for a short time, but it goes away quickly. They aren't strong enough to refuse a chocolate frosted brownie at the restaurant or their favorite jelly donut that an evil coworker brought to work.  "If only I had more willpower..." So far, no one has been able to manufacture willpower in a bottle. 
Recently, research has put a new spin on willpower. In a study reported this month in the New York Times, psychologists Wilhelm Hofman and Roy F. Baumeister showed that people trying to lose weight reported more self control when using willpower less often. Huh?  
It's all about defense (thanks, Marcia!) Think about the game of basketball.  The experts say, in order to win, you have to play the better game of defense. Coaches and players watch game film of the opposing team to know what they'll be up against.  They plan ahead and prepare for it, creating strategies to win despite the opposing teams best defensive and offensive plays. The people who were most successful trying to lose weight, instead of fending off one urge after another, set up their lives to minimize temptations. They used their willpower in advance to protect themselves in a way, so that they avoid temptation, conserve the need to use willpower,  and "out-source" or ask others to help as much as they could. 
Willpower as stated by these researchers, is an actual form of mental energy. Your body actually uses up energy in the form of glucose as you exert self-control. Keep in mind, willpower doesn't burn enough calories to equate to earning a candy bar no matter how much self control you've used staying away from those brownies! On the other hand, if you allow yourself to get very hungry, your blood sugar levels also drop very low. At this point, you won't have have the enough blood glucose to exert the willpower you need to stick to your plan and control yourself at that buffet table Saturday night. This science supports the recommendation to have a small, healthy snack before you eat out!


When it comes to willpower, it's all about setting yourself up for success. Plan, prepare to play defend before you have to play an offensive game with your willpower.


What are your ideas to create an environment where you don't have to use as much willpower to lose weight?