This is an outstanding guest post from fellow trainer Mitch Calvert.
Read more about Mitch after you read the article. 🙂
Life is full of temptations.
Your willpower is tested in different forms throughout the day, be it chocolate bunnies, cigarettes or a casino trip.
Each temptation asks:
Do you have the strength to say no?
To make matters worse, those temptations intensify when you try to eliminate them.
The day after you start a diet, you will notice the donuts in the breakroom.
So what makes you exercise self-control in these situations?
Willpower is your ability to say no even when everything is telling you yes.
Often, the more you try not to think about reaching for that donut – the more likely you are to cave in.
In one study referenced in The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, participants tested two types of chocolate.
Before bringing in the chocolate, the researchers asked the participants to think out loud for five minutes.
One group had to suppress any thoughts about chocolate, while the other group was free to think about whatever they wanted.
In a cruel twist, the group that couldn’t think about chocolate ate twice as much.
When it comes to dieting, the more you try and resist a certain food, the more your mind becomes preoccupied by it.
We need to have an intelligent gameplan in order to reverse this trend.
Here are a few mindset shifts to help you out.
Add To Your Diet Instead of Restricting
When you’re on a diet, you shouldn’t focus on restricting yourself.
Instead of preoccupying yourself with what you “won’t” or “can’t” eat, focus on everything you “can” eat.
A decline in unhealthy food will inevitably follow as you fill up on the good stuff.
As Jordan Syatt of Syatt Fitness summed up:
Successful fat loss begins not with food restriction but the addition of various habits
Add more to your diet and lifestyle through the incorporation of more protein, more vegetables, more fluids, more sleep, and more self-awareness.
Bottom Line: Add to your lifestyle rather than restricting and a positive mindset and results will follow.
Conserve Your Willpower Wisely
The willpower you use to diet comes from the same finite pool that decides what socks you will wear.
Which habits are hurting your health and life the most?
Focus your willpower on eliminating those habits, and adding good habits to replace them.
Maybe that habit is your sedentary lifestyle. You feel sluggish and survive on caffeine and snacks to get through the day.
You need to get active – not just to feel better now but to be healthier in the future.
You’ll need to reduce the time spent on sedentary activities like TV and video games.
You need to replace your unhealthy habits with healthy ones – even if you don’t like them at the present moment.
These tasks are sometimes unpleasant, but they are necessary to achieve your goals.
Eventually, you may grow to enjoy training and eating right, but it takes time.
So what gets in the way of our best laid plans when we start changing habits?
Our vulnerability to instant gratification.
When a tempting object is staring at you, like that donut in the office lunchroom, the reward system in your brain kicks in.
That donut will give you a quick dopamine hit and the temptation is strong.
But temptation becomes weaker if it’s not within sight or smell.
In another study mentioned in The Willpower Instinct, office workers were shown candy either placed inside a desk drawer or on top of the table.
When the candy was in the drawer, the subjects’ consumption was 33% less.
Bottom Line: There’s only so much willpower to go around. Stop wasting it on trivial things like price shopping deodorant brands, and focus it instead on the big rocks that’ll move your life forward.
So now you’ve got a handle on how to make the most of the willpower you currently have, but how do you make it stronger?
5 Tips To Make Your Diet “Stick”:
===>#1: Blackmail Yourself
I remember the moment when I hit rock bottom.
It was in gym class back in 2002, and the teacher was one of those “rah rah” guys who favoured the athletic kids and made the awkward kids run laps after class.
One day, he planned to use a bodyfat measurement device on us.
I tried to avoid the test with an extended stay in the bathroom, but I was outed by a classmate.
The results told me everything I already knew – I was fat.
The reading came up at 36% body fat – the worst score among the guys in the class.
He told me I needed to change, but I didn’t know where to start.
That was until my brother came home with a massive bag of protein powder and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pumping Iron on DVD.
Knowing my younger brother was getting in shape inspired me to do the same.
I told myself if I didn’t get in shape, I’d quit playing video games for a year (a BIG deal to me at the time) and wrote a sticky note on my computer monitor.
Sure enough, I lost the weight and now, 14 years later, I’m still living healthy and coaching others to do the same.
This strategy is outlined in The Blackmail Diet, an obscure book by John Bear.
The author battles obesity and comes up with a plan: he signs a contract with a lawyer and puts $5,000 in escrow.
The contract states that if in a year’s time he doesn’t lose 70 pounds, the lawyer must give all the money to the American Nazi Party.
As expected, a year later he had lost the 70 pounds.
Mike Vacanti, fitness coach and owner of On The Regimen, took this a step further, vowing to publish one blog a week or he’d give all his business earnings to his biological father (who he doesn’t speak to).
Last I checked, he’s kept to that schedule.
Bottom Line: Blackmailing yourself gives you incentive to keep going when the motivation wanes — which it inevitably will.
===>#2: Build A Support System
Research shows that having a close friend or family member lose weight increases your chances of doing the same.
A weight-loss program at the University of Pittsburgh understands this premise – requiring people to enroll with a partner.
The participants are then encouraged to support one another throughout the process.
In the end, 66 percent of the participants had maintained their weight loss when checked on ten months later.
In contrast, the control group – the participants that did not join with a partner – saw only 24 percent maintain their weight loss.
Bottom Line: Increase your chances of success by enlisting a workout partner.
===>#3: Test Your Willpower To Make It Stronger
Ever had one of those days where everything went wrong?
At the end of the day you’re stressed out and ready to dive head first into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Your willpower is drained on days like this, much the same way a taxing workout burns out your muscles.
But if you hit the willpower gym, you could improve the strength of your willpower muscle.
Test your willpower through little challenges on your good days.
If you aren’t in a supportive environment at home, I suggest these willpower challenges take place at work when your willpower is strongest in the early parts of the day.
Test yourself by avoiding treats brought in by co-workers or ordering a salad for lunch when others around you are eating a burger and fries.
Bottom Line: By performing small but regular willpower challenges you can improve your self control. Then at home at night, ask your spouse to keep the treats hidden away so you can conserve what’s left.
===>#4: Reduce Stress To Build Willpower
Stress is one of the biggest threats to your willpower because of the cravings it creates.
So how can you overcome this?
When you feel stressed, don’t give in to immediate cravings.
Instead try out stress-relieving strategies, like exercise or meditation.
These activities might involve more effort, but will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction, not guilt.
Bottom Line: Replace temporary stress relieving activities (smoking or eating) with sustainable ones, like exercise or meditation.
===>#5: Give Yourself Small Wins And Gain Momentum
When people reach a low point in their lives, like facing a massive weight loss goal, they often decide to drastically change their life over night.
For example, you might jump on some fad diet and resolve to cut out all sugars and never cheat.
That’s a big change and is setting you up for failure.
Instead, focus on small wins.
Achieving small habitual changes help you believe that change is possible, starting a cascade of positive changes as you go along.
Bottom Line: Focus on just one new habit at a time, and they’ll become second nature. Start with just 10 minutes of exercise each day and only progress up from there when 10 minutes is a part of your daily routine.
About The Author:
Mitch Calvert holds a degree in communications and is a certified personal trainer and fat-loss coach. He discovered his love for fitness while eating himself to 240lb and has dedicated the last 14 years of his life to fitness – working specifically with men like his former self who have weight to lose and confidence to gain.
If you’re approaching 30 (or north of it) you can download this free 10 step cheat sheet to boost your testosterone the natural way – no expensive supplements or illegal stuff necessary:
But, most importantly, Mitch has a wife of two years, a six-month old daughter named Quinn and a loveable cat named Chelsea who is affectionately known as Boobie (yes, she’s understandably confused).
He also hosts Mansformation Challenges for guys looking to get over the fat-loss hump for life, and which should come as little surprise, you can find him online at mitchcalvert.com or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.