If you want to make significant changes to your body (or to any other area of your life, in fact), you will need willpower to stay on track. Willpower is basically the ability to withstand immediate impulses and temptations for the sake of a more long-term goal. With diet and exercise, you will need to fight your carb cravings, and perhaps sometimes force yourself to exercise when you don’t feel like it. Unfortunately, there is just no way around it. If you want to get that body you want, you will need to put in the work.
Willpower is like a muscle
Willpower works like a muscle – it can be developed, but only if you exercise it. So don’t give up on yourself by saying that you have no willpower. Even if that’s the case, you can develop it, if you put your mind to it. Remember that every time you manage to overcome your impulses, your willpower grows stronger.
There are also exercises you can do. For example, you can try 5-minute meditation sessions every day. (You don’t need to chant or sit in a lotus position for this one). Simply sit down somewhere you won’t be disturbed, close your eyes and stay still for 5 minutes. The focus of the exercise is to keep your mind clear for this period of time. You will keep getting random thoughts and memories – every time that happens, just stop them and try again. Chances are, you will find this a surprisingly difficult exercise. But if you try it every day and do the best you can, it will help to develop your willpower.
Willpower gets “tired” throughout the day
Just like a muscle, your willpower gets tired if you had to rely on it a lot during that day. For example, if you are having a dinner out after a long working day, and your friends are all eating high carb meals, you might say “No” to bread and fries, but your resolve will weaken by the end of the meal, and you might find yourself ordering a sugary dessert. Every time you manage to withstand your impulses, the next time that day it is going to be a bit harder (but will be good for your willpower overall).
This setting seems to get “reset” after you’ve rested, so you start from scratch every morning. So you have better chances of success in the morning. If you find it difficult to exercise in the evening after a long day, consider fitting them in first thing in the morning.
Stress and strong emotions weaken your willpower
If you are feeling stressed or over-emotional about something, it will be more difficult to exercise your willpower. If you can, try to minimise your exposure to temptations if you are feeling that way – for example, if you are really upset or annoyed about something, it might be better to stay in rather than go out for or a drink or dinner. This bit of advice assumes we are still talking about small stuff – on the scale where you would still consciously consider your diet to be more important.
If there are any major changes or stressful events happening in your life, and you are in an emotional turmoil, this is not the best time to be on a diet, as it creates an additional stress factor. You have to put your emotional health and wellbeing first. For example, if you are moving house or just started a new job, it would be better to wait until things settle down. However, your immediate short-term impulses might try to claim that having an annoying day at work is an excuse enough to ditch the diet just for one evening. So be honest with yourself when you evaluate your situation.
Abundance of choice also weakens your willpower
Having to choose from multiple options can also weaken your willpower during the day. So if you spend a lot of time making decisions at work, or even trying to decide on a purchase, for example, which new TV should you buy, this will also have a negative effect on your willpower.
If you would like to learn more about willpower, check out the following books:
Maximum Willpower: How to master the new science of self-control
Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength