Where Is My Willpower When I Need It?

Now is the time of year when people typically become discouraged with their new years resolutions, feeling that their willpower simply didn’t show up to help them out! For those of us with the tendency to struggle controlling our eating and making good choices, this can feel like a crushing blow. Those books about healthy eating and weightloss we got ourselves for Christmas disappear under a pile of life-laundry … we start to feel like a failure for not being able to follow through with what we KNOW is right for us, healthy for our bodies and minds…

If this is you, you’re not alone. You are NOT a failure. In fact, you are very normal (besides perhaps having an inclination towards food-compulsion which has NOTHING to do with being weak-willed and everything to do with the way your brain happens to be… look out for a future blog on this!)

Before I overcame my habit of overeating and before I found myself in a body I love being in (back in 2004), I thought I just didn’t have enough willpower to resist muffins, chocolate-cake and fudge. I thought that those who could and did resist eating those treats were just strong as nails and that I, in comparison, was a loser who should get a life! (More on the inner-critic later… again – watch out for the blog!)

Actually, that critic was wrong. Willpower around food is a brain-function, and it isn’t just resisting yummy treats that diminishes our capacity to exert it. The same brain-function regulates our emotions, helps us make decisions, and monitors how well we are performing tasks throughout the day. We use up willpower as we engage in any of these things. Anything where we’re having to regulate ourselves – such as reading and responding to emails – depletes the 15 minute-at-a-time willpower capacity we have!

So it’s little wonder that after a busy day when this part of our brain-function is depleted, we reach for highly-processed convenience foods that will restore the glucose levels in our brain and bump-start that brain-function as soon as possible!

That’s how come I’m a huge fan of food-planning for anyone who has a tendency to chronically crave and succumb to ‘the wrong ‘food’’. The more we plan and prepare the ‘what, when, where and hows’ of our daily eating in the morning when our willpower-stores are high, the better care we are taking care of our tired, emotionally-and-mentally-drained later-in-the-day selves. The result is more energy, sustainable weight-loss, and a renewed sense of self-worth that causes happiness-ripples to spread all over the place. Awesome!