I’ve got no willpower
You only need willpower when you’re being tempted. If you’re not being tempted and there’s no possibility of you reaching for unhealthy food or eating too much food, then you don’t need willpower.
So, in environments which you can control, like your own home and possibly your office, try to remove temptation. If you don’t want to find yourself eating crisps out of boredom in front of the TV in the evening, don’t have crisps in the house. If you don’t want to find yourself eating a whole packet of chocolate biscuits in one sitting, buy individually wrapped ones, one at a time. Then it doesn’t matter if you have no willpower – you won’t need it, there’ll be nothing to tempt you anyway.
But what if you live with a partner and he/she likes to have treats in the house? You’ll say you can’t ban them from having treats around if they aren’t joining you in your new way of eating. How about identifying some foods which are treats for them but which you don’t enjoy? I used to be tempted by the biscuits which my partner liked to have around the house, until I realised that there were others he liked equally which I don’t like. So I got him to buy a different brand, which didn’t tempt me at all – problem solved.
And if you have a family? I appreciate that kids can be very specific about what they do and don’t like, but once again are there things that they like to eat which you don’t, and which would therefore be “safe” to have around the house? And do they really need the treats every week? I’m not about to start preaching about how kids should be eating healthily but if your house is full of unhealthy snacks for your family could you at least reduce the quantity?
So that’s one way to get around a lack of willpower – minimise the need for it. And get creative about that. If you are tempted by the bread basket when you’re eating out, ask your friends to put it at the other end of the table, out of your reach. And if your friends don’t want the temptation either, ask the server to take it away. If you know you’ll be tempted by the cakes on display when you go into a coffee shop, ask whoever you’re with to go to the counter, and go straight to the table, with your back to the counter if that’s what it takes. What’s your own personal temptation and what can you do to remove it from view or ensure it’s further out of reach?
There are however going to be times and places when you can’t control what’s around you, when you will need to find the willpower to restrain yourself and make healthy choices. In these cases, it helps to focus, focus, focus – you will be most successful when you have your end goal fixed firmly in your mind. Remind yourself why you want to avoid sugary snacks, too much alcohol, processed foods, or whatever temptation you’re facing at the time. You want that end result so much that you’re willing to put the effort in to get it. There’s a saying, “Begin with the end in mind” but I think it’s more about progressing with the end in mind. Remind yourself all the time why you are doing this.
Also, try to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. If your friends are constantly trying to tempt you to eat what they know you don’t want to eat, then are they really the people you need around you? Ask for their support and if they are good friends they should be willing to give it.
Finally, when you’ve given in to a sugary snack and you’re beating yourself up because you think your willpower has failed you, ask yourself what you ate last. Was it high sugar? All too often my clients beat themselves up for giving in to temptation when in fact they’ve been battling a blood sugar low which has made it pretty much impossible to resist more sugar. If you have a high carbohydrate snack or meal, don’t be surprised if shortly afterwards your energy levels slump and your mind turns to food – the food you chose gave you a blood sugar spike followed by a low, which then causes cravings which you translate as a lack of willpower. Just realising this has helped many of my clients stop feeling guilty about their sugar cravings, and once they’ve been able to stop beating themselves up they’ve been able to think more clearly about their food choices.
If you think blood sugar fluctuations might be your problem, try protein-based breakfasts. This will give you a stable start to your day, which may be all it takes to break the cycle of craving and giving in to unhealthy snacks.
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