Developing Willpower to Consistently Eat Healthy Foods

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Wed, 04/21/10 | Ross Harrison

Do You Have Willpower?


One of the biggest keys to long-term health and fat loss is being consistently good with your nutrition. Many people know this, yet they often struggle to find the motivation or willpower to consistently eat healthy. This causes people to fluctuate between eating right and going through periods of overeating or eating unhealthy foods. Until these behaviors change and healthy eating become the norm, long-term success will remain elusive. Fortunately there is something you can do to improve your ability to consistently eat the right foods and keep progressing with your health and fitness.


     I can’t count the number of times people have said things to me such as, “I wish I had your motivation” or “I just don’t have that much willpower.” These comments were generally made because I eat healthy the vast majority of the time and have exercised consistently for over 15 years. I can see why people could make those types of comments, but the reality is my motivation and willpower are probably not any better than those of the average person.


     Like most people, if there is a lot of junk food sitting around at home I will feel tempted and probably eat some or maybe even a lot of whatever is around. Of course, to avoid this type of problem, I rarely have junk food around the house. This is a simple example of the secret to developing the willpower to succeed. The truth is that problems attributed to a lack of willpower generally have very little to do with willpower and are actually related to your environment and how well you prepare yourself for success. In other words, the better your preparation, the greater your willpower.


     By not having junk food around the house, I prepare myself for success by not having the opportunity to make poor nutritional choices. It may seem as though I have the willpower to eat healthy most of the time, but this only happens because my environment is set up to ensure I make healthy eating choices. Since I am home most of the time, this means I have very few opportunities eat unhealthy foods. Of course, there are times when I don’t want to eat the foods I have at home, but since there are no other alternatives, I end up with something healthy and have essentially taken willpower out of the equation.


     Naturally, this is easier to do if you spend most of your time at home in an environment you control, but it can be done almost anywhere. For instance, I used to work at a chain store that was surrounded by fast food restaurants, had a grocery store 2 doors down, and we sold junk food in the store. There were temptations all around me, but every day I brought 3 small meals and 48 ounces of water to work with me that I had previously prepared at home, often the night before. This ensured that no matter what happened during the day, I could eat healthy until I got back home.


     I’ll admit this preparation did take a little effort, but this relatively small amount of effort resulted in always having something healthy to eat, so I never had to decide what I was going to eat when I was hungry. This is important, because people typically make unhealthy food choices when they are hungry or having food cravings. My success in sticking with my nutritional program did not come as a result of actively turning down bad foods around me, which would take more effort. Instead, all I had to do was choose to eat the foods I already had with me, which was much easier than seeking out healthy foods among numerous choices.


     If I didn’t bring healthy foods to work with me, I would not have been able to stick to my nutritional program while I was at work. Am certain of this, because there were a few days when I forgot to bring my food with me and the food I ate those days was never as healthy as what I left at home. I strongly believe that if you don’t have any idea about what you are going to eat during the day and you try to decide what you want when you are hungry, you will probably run into problems and make unhealthily choices.


     You don’t necessarily have to plan every specific detail of what and when you are going to eat, but you should know what your options will be during any given day. For example, if you know that there are no healthy sources of food around where you work, then you should bring healthy foods with you. Also, some business events happen at restaurants and you may be forced to eat at unhealthy places, but you still have some control over the situation. For instance, you can ask them to prepare a dish in a healthier way. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate any reasonable request.


     The point I want to make is that you have the ability to create an environment that will help you succeed, but you have to take an active role in planning your day and not just react to different situations as they occur. Many people feel as though they are a slave to their schedule, but there are always at least some things you can do to shape your environment to support a healthy lifestyle. When it comes down to it, you are responsible for how you plan your day as well as the choices you make during the day.


     If you buy unhealthy or fattening foods that you know you have a hard time resisting and keep them around the house on a regular basis, that is a choice you are making. If those foods are in your house you will probably eat them and that is a problem not caused by a lack of willpower. The problem is buying the unhealthy foods in the first place, which can be avoided by planning what you will buy and making the conscious decision not to buy unhealthy foods that you have a hard time resisting. If you need to, make a list of what you will buy before you go to the store and promise yourself not to buy anything that’s not on the list.


     When it comes to eating healthy and consistently sticking to your nutritional program, whether at home, work, or anywhere else, it’s up to you to be prepared for whatever situations you encounter. Of course, you don’t have to eat perfectly all of the time and you can certainly take the occasional meals off and just enjoy some tasty food, but ideally these meals will have some preparation as well.


     If you know you are going out to eat on a certain day and don’t want to think about eating healthy, that’s no problem, as long as you keep your overall calorie consumption within reason (no 1000+ calorie meals). However, if you know you will be bad on a certain day, it means you should make even more of an effort to be good on the days around the day you know you will eat unhealthy. People often use unhealthy meals as a springboard to worse eating behaviors. Just remember that an occasional unhealthy meal isn’t too bad, but consistently eating unhealthy will bring any progress to a halt.


     Being able to consistently eat healthy may seem like an impossible task, but it can be done if you take the time to plan around your schedule and prepare meals in advance to ensure you can eat healthy throughout the day. I will be the first to admit this planning and preparation does take a little time and effort, but it always takes effort and generally some sacrifice to develop a healthy body. Fortunately, over time it becomes much easier to consistently eat healthy, but you have to work on planning and developing good eating habits first.


     Eating healthy can be a challenge and there are always unhealthy foods you may want to eat more than the foods you should eat, but adequate preparation will make things much easier. Give it a try and see how it works. You don’t have to plan your entire eating schedule right away, but a good place to start is by planning and preparing for the time of day when you tend to have the unhealthiest eating habits.



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