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Three of the Most Misunderstood Words in Health and Wellness: Part 1

March 6, 2012
Are You as Happy to Eat the Fruit as the Smiling Fruit Is?

Image: nixxphotography / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the next few blog posts, I will be discussing three of the most commonly despised, yet misunderstood words in the health and wellness field.  These words have been used so much in the field that either myths about their meaning have arisen or the images associated with their use creates a sense of dread in those who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle.  But when we dig down into their origins and true meanings, we’ll see that the words themselves can provide a renewed sense of meaning to our journey towards eating better and becoming or staying physically active.

Today’s word: Willpower

For some reason many people view “willpower” as this mythic ability that certain people have and others don’t.  Some see willpower as this form of supreme “control” that people must exert on themselves to stay “in-line” and keep from going overboard.  But if you ask a person who seems to have lots of willpower about their healthy eating and activity decisions, odds are they will tell you it’s not hard at all.  In fact, they may even say it’s the easiest part of their day and they feel horrible when they don’t eat well or make it to the gym! They love eating healthy and being active…it makes them feel good! And that’s why they would never give it up for anything in the world!

Can you see how the tasks are the same (eat better and move more), but the perception and attitude towards those tasks are completely different between the two people? In actuality, willpower just boils down to motivation and choice. We choose to eat better or be more active because we are motivated to do it. Why?

  1. Because we want to do it.
  2. Because we know we can do it.
  3. Because we know how to do it. Or can learn how. Or can get better at it.
  4. Because we enjoy how it feels.
  5. Because we value our commitment to doing it.
  6. Because we like doing it.

Does anything in that list involve negative reinforcement such as guilt tripping (placing a sign on your fridge that says, “You’re fat.”) or restriction (no carbs or sugar…ever! If I eat a carb, I’m a loser! I’ve failed!). In fact, those kinds of strategies tend to lead to resentment and relapse. Willpower is a result of having positive thoughts and feelings above about a choice we will be making and then taking steps to make sure we follow through on that choice.  The key is finding those positive motivators.  Take a moment and consider WHY you want to live more healthfully and write those reasons down.  Those are better things to place around the house and office to motivate you.

This is the essence of willpower. It’s not about having to stare down a free cookie when you are hungry or avoiding airport food if you travel a lot. It’s about having the motivation to develop a strategy to make sure that you either are not around the free cookies, have a better, satisfying snack available to keep you from being hungry around that free cookie or planning your own meals/determining the healthy airport food options available to you before you get there! And then practicing those strategies repeatedly until they become a part of you and you know longer have to think about them. You just do them.

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3 Comments
  1. Ronnie permalink

    Yes, this absolutely makes sense to me. I know that there will be occasions when I can’t go to the gym, or when I will not have the best food choices…either because they are not available, or because I have made a conscious decision to “treat” myself to a food item that is not in my usual diet…but I know that I feel better when I am on my healthy diet and exercise regimes, and I don’t want to make the less healthy choices on a regular basis. The most important thing for me is that I try to not make myself feel that I am a failure, or that I am “bad”, but rather that due to circumstances of life, or my choosing, I did something unusual, and I’m still OK.

  2. I agree with your comment

    ” It’s about having the motivation to develop a strategy to make sure that you either are not around the free cookies, have a better, satisfying snack available to keep you from being hungry around that free cookie or planning your own meals/determining the healthy airport food options available to you before you get there!”

    Its true that to quit alchol, going to a bar during Happy Hour is not a good idea, yet we dont do that for diets . Its ironic, we need to plan for diets as well.

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  1. Mind Article – Willpower Part III | mindbeingfit

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