Thought vs. Willpower
Which one wins in the battle of the bulge?
For those of us with weight challenges summer seems to amplify the issue. Let’s face it; summer food is, in my opinion, almost irresistible. To me, there is nothing better than a juicy, thick rib-eye steak cooked on the grill, with baby red potatoes and corn on the cob slathered in butter. And since us New Englanders only have 5 or 6 months to our grilling season, it’s all the more reason to indulge… right?
Well that depends. My thoughts (and therefore my senses) are telling me to go find the biggest, juiciest steak I can find, and while I'm at it perhaps dive into a tub of freshly made potato salad from the local deli too... so where is my willpower when I need it? Why isn’t my willpower doing anything about this? Does this mean I have no willpower? Hmmm… time to take a deep dive (in thought- not the potato salad!).
If you or anyone you know is dieting, there’s no doubt that the phrase “I have no willpower” has come up a time or two. But what exactly is willpower, and how do I turn it on?
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines willpower as “energetic determination,” and the verb “will” as “to determine by an act of choice.” And there you have it; willpower is determination by choice. And since it takes thought to be determined, I’d say that “thought” and “willpower” are the magic combination that provokes the realization of, well; any and all desires, including changing our bodies. But let’s get back to the steak…
Even though we know we have to exert energetic determination via our thoughts to elicit change, there’s those “other” thoughts that seem to want to take us down; derailing our weight-loss efforts like clockwork. Even when we experience dangerous repercussions from our bad eating habits such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, aches and pains, inflammation, etc… we STILL can’t seem to get a grip. So what does it take? How can we effectively use thought to bolster our willpower and get a grip on our diets? Our bodies? Our LIVES?
The good news is that, using willpower, we can “train our brains” to do just about anything- including getting a grip on our eating habits. Easier said than done right? Read on…
The bad news is that our brains are currently wired to keep us stuck in our old patterns. That’s right. Our thoughts operate on the “Law of Association,” which means that our brains automatically retain thoughts that mirror the current “thought patterns” we have built over years and years of programming. Humans have between 65,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day, but only about 2000 of them get stored in our memory- and yup; you guessed it… our mind chooses to retain thoughts that match our existing thought patterns (memory); you know- the ones that love steak (or chips, or ice cream, or pizza, or whatever!).
More bad news… (Please! No More!), our thoughts are processed at night while we sleep. Our subconscious mind takes over and does all the work for us; leaving us at its mercy (side note; this is why hypnosis is so effective. Healthy suggestions are made while you are deeply relaxed, mirroring your natural thought-retention process essentially controlling what gets stored). But the good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to untangle all that past programming. By building new, healthy thought patterns we strengthen our willpower- and the old wiring eventually falls apart. This takes that “energetic determination” we were introduced to earlier, and when we begin to “train our brain” to use food as nutrition and not as a habit, we begin to progress.
A few highly effective techniques that can help you are:
Hypnosis. As mentioned earlier, hypnosis facilitates the retention of good, healthy thoughts and emotions by utilizing a suggestive format while you are deeply relaxed. This essentially mirrors your natural thought-retention process, which is why it is so successful.
Weight-loss affirmations. Repeating supportive weight-loss statements to yourself throughout the day supports the creation of new, healthy networks. Consistency and repetition are key!
Calming techniques such as breathing and engaging in a creative project act as natural relaxants that balance our energies and emotions without reaching for food.
Avoiding habits associated with snacking. For instance, if you snack while watching TV at night, find something else to occupy your time such as reading a book or taking a walk; and if you must watch your favorite show, pop a piece of very strong peppermint gum in your mouth before sitting down.
Brush your teeth shortly after dinner. Most of us are already programmed not to eat after we’ve brushed our teeth at night- so this is a great habit to get into.
Reframe impulsive thoughts immediately. When we come face-to-face with the steak, or the cupcake, or the ice cream… BACK AWAY, count to 10, then ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Remember that you are adding unwanted fat and calories to your existing fat stores, essentially making them grow- this nasty little thought always works for me!
The bottom line is that we will not lose weight unless we take in less than our body needs to sustain its current weight every day. Our thoughts rule the roost in this realm, and the only way to effect change is to manage them. By feeding ourselves healthy thoughts and healthy foods in moderate proportions, we gain back control of our weight, our bodies, our minds and our lives. Once we master the art of “thinking thin,” our thoughts and our willpower are working harmoniously together to keep us healthy, trim and happy!
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