Willpower or Won't-power: What works for weight loss?
How can you resist?
Most dieters start out buzzing with enthusiasm, determined to meet their weight-loss goals. Healthy eating and avoiding temptations top the menu - and fueled with their new-found "willpower", they're convinced they'll stick to their goals. But as the days and weeks go by, willpower diminishes and junk food and other diet-disasters find their way onto the menu once again; the kilos refuse to budge anywhere but upwards. Feelings of disappointment and failure become overwhelming. To add to the punch, most dieters then get mad with themselves for lacking discipline and not having enough willpower to see their challenges through. If this sounds like you - take heart. The fact is, willpower is simply a weak ally in the war against temptation. It's not you that lacks staying power, it's willpower itself.
Read on to find out why willpower is not your best bet when it comes to avoiding temptation foods and learn what you can do instead.
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What is willpower?
Willpower is defined as "energetic determination." It's a state of mind born of a desire to improve or change something we do, and that can be a good thing. But it's all too easy to treat willpower like a magic spell - just believe that your state of mind is enough to make you change behaviors or resist temptation and "poof!" all desire to eat that bag of Doritos disappears. (We wish!)
We also tend to overestimate the idea of willpower, thinking it's the be-all and end-all of dieting success and that if we don't have enough of it, we're doomed. Think about the last time you decided to cut back on junk food. Did you think that "energetic determination" (better known as willpower) would help you stay on course? When you failed, did you think "I just don't have enough willpower"?
Actually, your willpower was never going to be enough in the first place; a different approach is needed. And here's why.
Willpower is a diminishing resource
Studies testing the durability and dependability of willpower to change behaviors, to avoid temptations, or to tackle major projects have shown that willpower is a diminishing resource.
Through a number of tests in a variety of situations, researchers at Case Western Reserve University concluded that you cannot use willpower for too long or for too many tasks because it does not remain constant, but in fact weakens with use. They showed that the strength of willpower reduces in direct proportion to how much it is used and that the more an individual relies on willpower, the less available it becomes. Given these findings, it is easy to see why the ability to consistently say no is so short-lived.
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