Screw Your Willpower: The Secret to Long Term Success

Category: Motivation / Training Tips

Think you can make a major lifestyle change without a support system?

Think again.

Don’t get me wrong, some people can achieve this, but they are far and few between.  The average Joe will not have much success by going at it alone. The phrase ‘it takes a village’ could not be more accurate here.

Whether you are starting a new exercise program or trying to incorporate more healthy foods into your diet; these are all trained behaviors that will require effort, energy and attention. The sooner we can understand this, the quicker to achieving our health goals!

Over the last decade I have coached all walks of life on how to successfully make healthier lifestyle changes. Things like incorporating a morning gym routine into their schedule or increasing their daily veggies. No matter how big or small, one thing remains constant: Those that have a support system, succeed.

I like to use smoking as an example. If you have ever been a smoker (and you are now a non-smoker), you went through a major behavior change to become just that. The cycle goes something like this: Buying cigarettes, smoking them, cravings, repeat. 

Do you remember the process of quitting smoking?

Was it hard? 

Let’s say all your friends were smokers and you have just begun your quitting process.  You might still accompany them outside for the smoke breaks to be social but have to resist being around the highly addictive nicotine. You may go to hug a friend goodbye and smell the smoke on their clothes, which then triggers your desire to light up.

Do you think you would have a hard time resisting after a while?

How would this look different if there was a support system in place?

Now let’s translate this into adapting a healthy eating habit.  I will use my client Carlee (name changed for privacy) as a real-life example.  Carlee lives with MS and wants to lose weight.  She lives with her husband and two young kids. Through Ocean Insider Club we are working on small habit changes that can lead to weight loss.

After looking at Carlee’s food diary, we discovered that her biggest pitfall is after dinner snacking. During movie time with her family after dinner, her husband loves to bring out a big bowl of chips with dip as well as the occasional candy bar or two. With Carlee’s limited mobility (she is in a power chair), her husband helps her out by setting a bowl up of chips and dip right next to her during the movie so that she can have as much as she wants, whenever she wants.  

Alright, this is where we talk about willpower.  I absolutely love the book SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard written by authors Dan and Chip Heath.  This book explains how everyone has will power but everyone’s will power will eventually run out.  It is a mental process that eventually becomes exhausted, more so every time we are put in a situation where we have to ‘resist’ something.

In Carlee’s situation, by the time she has sat through a 2-hour movie with chips and dip next to her, she had no will power left.  She would then give in which derails her from her habit changing goal.

What can we do to create a more external support system for Carlee to succeed?

Carlee’s family is awesome at supporting her workouts.  Her husband drives her to all her training appointments, and he pays for her sessions.  Her kids even bought her boxing gloves for Christmas. There is no doubt that her family wants to see Carlee succeed: Which is why I knew that making this environmental change for Carlee would make all the difference.

After Carlee and I discussed a plan, she asked for a meeting with her family.  She explained to them all that although her progress was going well with her workouts, she also needed some support at home.  She asked if they could brainstorm some new snacks to have for the family movie nights.  Instead of bringing home chips dip and candy, they all agreed on having popcorn, carrot sticks and hummus. The kids could have their candy bar but would be shared for the two of them.

There is the anomalous person who has the willpower of diamond.  But for the majority, success will come much easier with the help of a village. So, say “screw you!” to that will power and see to it that you have a support system in place. To connect with me with online support, please click here.

Your coach,

Megan Williamson

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