Weekends were my downfall. I felt I had no willpower Friday night through Sunday night. Weekdays I would prep food, plan workouts and execute my plan with utmost perfection. I would be so compliant that by Friday when I got on the scale, most of the time I would lose weight.
I’d have a planned cheat meal with family on Friday nights, which again, I timed and implemented as a part of my “really cool and scientific” carbohydrate-cycling plan.
I knew all the nutrition tricks.
I knew how to time different nutrients and cycle calories and carbs to make my body respond in ways that would supercharge progress. My nutrition education and my time as a fitness competitor taught me many things about how the human body responds to nutrition, and I soaked up that knowledge. Anything to get me to my goals faster.
But, after that Friday cheat meal, my willpower went down every weekend. One taste of the “good stuff” and it was a slippery slope into excess calories, snacking with abandonment, and overeating more than I wanted because I figured I “blew it anyway.”
“Why can’t I have more willpower?”
As a fat loss coach, I’ve heard the willpower struggle in many forms. Mine was mainly with weekend eating, but I also struggled with sweets and peanut butter.
Other clients struggled with salty foods, fast food or what they would label “junk food.” Some told me they had no willpower around foods that were “bad” for them, and struggled to eat foods that were “good” for them.
WHAT CAUSES THE WILLPOWER STRUGGLE?
When coaching clients, many would tell me they’ve always struggled with willpower. They’d say, “As long as I could remember I would overeat _____ food.” (whatever the food was). But, the interesting thing was if we dug deeper, many of them told me the struggles didn’t really start until after they heard someone label the food as “bad,”
Most times the struggles with willpower began after their first diet. Usually their first diet went well, but then they fell off the wagon and regained the weight. After failing at that diet, they were always trying to “get back on track” again. The only problem was they couldn’t replicate their level compliance to the diet. They figured it was lack of willpower.
IS LACK OF WILLPOWER REALLY THE PROBLEM?
The interesting thing about willpower is it can be directly correlated to how deprived we feel. The less satisfied we feel on our diets, the more we are prone to overeating.
The more restrictions and guilt we place on our actions, the more this rebound effect happens. Think about times you did a 21-day cleanse or sugar detox. We often feel great up front, but eventually we are unable to keep up this complete restriction around sweet stuff long term, and again – blame it on “lack of willpower.”
We think the answer is to get more strict and deprive ourselves further to “build” our willpower, BUT studies show (and you’ve probably experienced), this doesn’t work long term.
HOW DO WE FIX THIS? USE YOUR “INNER-SATISFACTION CHECK-IN”
I have what I call, “Inner-Satisfaction Check-ins” throughout the day. It’s a quick couple seconds where I make sure I feel like I’m looking forward to my food for the day. I check to make sure whatever I’m planning to eat will be satisfying to me. I check-in with myself to make sure cravings don’t feel too out of control.
If my inner-satisfaction check-in alerts me that I’m feeling a bit deprived, I take action. I may change my food plans to something still healthy, but more satisfying. Sometimes those changes may not be as “perfect” as my first choice, but foods that won’t derail me either. Like adding a little cheese to my salad, or a little butter to my veggies.
Or I add what I call a “built-in treat,” in my day. Like 2 squares of dark chocolate I purposefully build into my day each evening to take the edge off and increase my satisfaction level again. Built-in treats in small amounts each day do NOT ruin fat loss.
Aim to always feel on track with your ‘inner satisfaction-check.”