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No Willpower? How to Get More Now

Someone brings in a box of doughnuts, a tray of cookies, or a beautifully decorated cake. How’s your willpower? Even if you’re not hungry, even when the treat isn't necessarily your favorite…can you resist?

Or maybe you can resist those morning sweets. You even eat a healthy lunch…but around mid-afternoon the cravings come. Think you're addicted to sugar? 

Or maybe you’re totally focused at work all day – and nothing can distract you. But, when you get home, your plan of a well-balanced dinner turns into just chips and dip, followed by chocolate candy.

Ever wonder why those tasty temptations put an irresistible spell on you? Why is it that sometimes you have lots of willpower – and other times, you have none at all? And, more importantly, what can you do about it?

Here are Six Suggestions to Increase Willpower:

When it comes to willpower, people tend to think they were either blessed with it…or not. But, that’s not true. There are some very simple things you can do to develop more willpower. Here are some ways to break that spell:

  1. Get more sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, it's more difficult to make the right decisions. It’s well-known that people who get less sleep than they need tend to be weigh more than well-rested individuals. There are a lot of factors to consider as to the reason – including having more awake time to eat. But, research studies have shown that insufficient sleep also increases hunger signals by changing the hormones that control hunger and fullness. 
  2. Eat on a regular basis. It's not just muscles that burn calories. The brain burns about 500 calories a day coordinating all the body’s activities and our thought processes, including willpower. While much of the body can run off of our fat stores, the brain requires glucose - which comes from food. So, eat on a regular basis (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). 
  3. Don’t let yourself get overly hungry. You know the feeling…when you get too hungry, your body screams for food NOW. And, not always the healthiest food. Low blood glucose can cause us to reach for sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. (And hit the couch instead of the gym). So, plan your meals (and snacks, perhaps) so you never get that hungry. 
  4. Eat more protein. Protein is more satiating than carbs or fats. That’s why eating 20-35g of protein at each meal is recommended to ward off hunger. If you want to avoid temptations, switch your breakfast from cereal to eggs, add some grilled chicken to your lunchtime green salad, and snack on apples and cheese instead of chips.
  5. Quit the “clean plate club”. Have you noticed that sometimes, when you’ve had a full meal, dessert seems even more attractive? Perhaps it’s your brain saying, “Come on, you’ve blown it already…let’s go all the way. We can always start eating healthy tomorrow.” Stop eating when your body feels satisfied – not full.
  6. Walk away. Just like magnets have less pull when they are moved farther away from each other, you’ll feel less pull if you move away from the temptations. Don't buy the stuff you can't resist. Perhaps move that temptation to the office break room – and away from your desk. Or move yourself to another location?
  7. Give yourself permission. How many times have you said to yourself, “No more ________ ever!” And, how long does that last? Prohibiting yourself from eating your favorite foods might work for a while, but eventually, it only increases the urge. Instead, allow yourself to have your absolute favorite every week. Some people give themselves permission to have a small bit every day. There’s no reason to binge when you give yourself permission to enjoy it.
  8. Simplify your life. It’s been said that adults make around 35,000 decisions in a day. Everything from what time to get up, what to wear, eat, say, do…And, it’s exhausting! You know how your muscles get weaker after working out, so does our willpower. As we make more and more decisions throughout the day, our willpower runs out. And, we end up falling back to our old habits. So, simplify your life. Use a meal planner. Plan out a weekly workout schedule - with all the details of what to do and when to do it. Simplify your wardrobe so early morning decisions don’t stress you. Have sleep and rest rituals, too – like taking a recovery break every 90 minutes or so. In other words, create healthy habits that don’t require willpower. Save your willpower for the most important decisions of the day.

Perhaps you’ll never be “perfect” (no one is). But, with a bit of practice you can definitely develop more willpower.

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