As we move into the tail end of January, some of us are still going strong with our weight loss goals and some of us or not. There have been recent studies on willpower and its ability to help us stick to our fitness and weight loss goals. Willpower is a real form of mental energy, which is powered by glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose is a simple sugar that we take in from food and is converted to energy. Glucose is also used up as you exert self-control. The result is called “ego-depletion,” as a state of mental fatigue. The best way to keep your resolutions going and stave off this mental fatigue is to anticipate the limits of your willpower.
A new study published in December 2011 by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, tracked people’s reactions to temptations throughout the day. The study showed that individuals with the best self-control are the ones who use their willpower the least. Instead of fending off one urge after another, these people set up their lives to minimize temptations. They play offense instead of defense, using their willpower in advance so that they can avoid crisis, conserve energy and outsource as much self control as they can.
These strategies are particularly important if you’re trying to lose weight. The more you starve your body, the less glucose there will be in your bloodstream, and that means less willpower. Because of this vicious cycle, even people with the greatest self-control in other parts of their lives can have a terrible time remaining slim.
- Set a Clear Goal – Instead of resolving to “lose weight” or “eat healthier” set a specific goal- say, lose a pound a week. And limit yourself to one big resolution at a time but do make them. With a finite amount of willpower, it’s hard to keep up with multiple resolutions. Individuals are 10 times more like to change behaviors if New Year’s resolutions are made compared with non-resolvers that have the same goals and motivations to change.
- Pre-Commit – Plan meals in advance, keep junk food out of the kitchen, schedule workouts with friends or, you can be more extreme and bind yourself by emailing your goals to friends or by posting it on Facebook. There are even sites such as www.stickK.com that allow you to set goals, put up money on your goals and list a referee to check on your progress. The more you pre-commit, the better you will do.
- Keep Track – In the past, you were always recommended to weigh yourself once a week so you’re not hung up on daily fluctuations. Now research has shown that daily weigh-ins work better. Self monitoring is vital to any kind of resolution.
- Don’t Overreact to a Lapse– One major reason that dieters fail is because they deal with a phenomenon called “counter regulatory eating”- otherwise known as the“what the hell effect.” Instead of just stopping where they are, they continue to eat thinking the entire day is blown anyway. This thought process is far more dangerous than just realizing that you can stop what you are eating and immediately get back to eating healthy. So when the desert cart arrives, promise yourself that you will have a sample, but just not tonight.
- Reward Often– Don’t just use willpower to deny yourself of pleasure; it makes it a boring thankless form of defense. Instead, reward yourself for each milestone. Once the waistline starts to shrink, reward yourself with new clothes. Even the tiniest and silliest rewards can make a difference. If you want your willpower to last all year, every little bit helps.
At Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts, we are here to assist you with all of your weight loss obstacles through fitness classes, Behavior Change coaching and nutrition education. Registration is already underway for our summer 2012 season! Hope to see you there!