Just a little can’t hurt   Leave a comment

How many times this holiday season have you already told yourself “Well maybe just one…” and then one turns to two which turns to several. It happens to all of us.

This season tempts us in even more ways than usual. I know my mother makes some of the best pies in the world. And, man, do I love pie. I was the butt of a running joke in college because a waitress brought my piece of cherry pie to the table early, and I was so happy to see it I literally shrieked “PIE!!!” And yes, I have that level of excitement every time I see pie. It’s just my thing. So holidays are tough. Mom makes a killer apple AND pumpkin pie. How can I possibly choose, and how do I stop myself from eating the whole thing??

Here’s the good news and the bad news: will power is like a muscle. And it gets used in every area of your life, every time you make a choice. The more you use it the easier it gets and the reverse is true also. If you get out of a habit, it’s hard to start using it again.

Relying on willpower alone doesn’t work for long periods of time. Because just like a muscle, there is a point of exhaustion. We all know the feeling of “I…can’t…take…it…any longer!!” I know this feeling all too well. But a solution comes to us from Psychology Today contributor David Adler. Adler suggests to build willpower just like you build the other muscles in your body: incrementally and over time. He suggests that practicing willpower in small parts of your life will strengthen the muscle and this will carry over to the bigger parts that require more willpower. For example, wake up to your alarm instead of hitting snooze. This small habit will build the willpower muscle so it becomes easier for you to choose scrambled eggs with veggies for breakfast instead of a muffin. 

Here are some other helpful tips to practice willpower and to make your decisions easier.

The good news is that there are some easy tips and tricks to help you out.

  1. Remove temptations. Eat before you go to a party. Keep nuts handy in your car for snacks. Don’t take home leftover fudge or cookies. Studies prove if you don’t see it you are less likely to eat it (and vice versa).  A great rule from Michael Pollan is if you want to eat it you have to make it. From scratch.  That bag of Cheetos will look a little different if you start asking yourself “How in the world do I make that myself?” My mom took the sugar out of her pie recipe so I feel like eating a piece is not going to be the end of the world. (thanks, mom!)
  2. Acknowledge your good work by using an “If-then” plan.  Heidi Grant Halvorson suggests creating an easy way to reward your behavior when you stick to your plan. Tell yourself “If I do X, then I will do Y.” The linked article explains why this works, so I won’t go into scientific detail. Just think of how great you will feel if you set the goal to follow our 21 Day Meal Plan for the full 3 weeks and reward yourself with a new pair of jeans? Just be careful not to make your reward something that detracts from your positive work. Don’t choose a reward that detracts from all your hard work, donuts or taking a week off from classes would probably cause a backward slide with your willpower training. Instead think of something like new workout clothes, a pedicure, a new book that you will enjoy reading.  
  3. HAVE A PLAN and STICK TO IT. If you have a plan, you don’t have to think. You just follow. Maybe it’s a simple as planning your meals for the week. If you are following our 21 Day program you know the relief of not having to decide what to make for dinner. If you have a set schedule for acupuncture treatments or kettlebell classes you just follow the schedule. That simple!
  4. Be aware of your body’s response. Before making a choice that calls on your willpower, ask yourself “How will this make my body feel?” Next time you choose to eat that extra slice of pie, take note of what effect it has on your body. Do you feel nauseated, sluggish, unable to get out of bed the next day, etc.? Then, next time you are faced with the same choice recall how it made you feel. Ask yourself “how will this make my body feel?” and “Is it worth it?”


If you need help developing a plan, we’re here for you. Drop us an email at brightspotwellness@gmail.com so we can talk about what you’re working on, and how to make it less of a willpower choice and more of a daily pattern that can be integrated simply in your everyday life.

written by: Sarah Curnoles

Lead trainer- 39 Minute Workout


Posted December 15, 2011 by 39minuteworkout in Uncategorized

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