I heard a radio interview with Roy Baumeister, author of  Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, on NPR over the holiday weekend. Baumeister made some interesting comments about how to “use” willpower in order to stick to all those New Year’s resolutions or to achieve other goals.  So let’s kick off 2012 with a few of his suggestions on how to harness your self-control for success.

* You only have a limited amount of willpower. This means you have to be careful how you ration it. Trying to change five new behaviors simultaneously equates to doling out bits and pieces of willpower, as well as more rapidly depleting your “pool of power.”

SECRET FOR SUCCESS: Avoid multiple failures by conserving your willpower and focusing on one change/goal at a time.

* Willpower can be developed  like a muscle. Baumeister’s research with co-author John Tierney revealed that people can strengthen willpower through simple self-control activities such as sitting up straight, tracking daily food intake, saying “yes” instead of “yeah” or an other task that requires a mental effort.

SECRET FOR SUCCESS: Find small ways to exercise self-control to improve your willpower over all.

* Willpower can be overused and fatigued. Researchers refer to the process of exhausting one’s mental energy as “ego depletion.” When a person is experiencing ego depletion, it is more difficult to make decisions, focus attention, cope with frustration, resist cravings and apply effective self-control. Ego depletion can be avoided by limiting willpower drains and, surprisingly, Baumeister found that a (modest!) sugary pick-me-up can re-energize a depleted ego.

SECRET FOR SUCCESS: Not everything has to be a test. To avoid unnecessary willpower drains, put snack foods out of sight, plan your daily meals and exercise ahead of time, stay away from vending machines, avoid extreme dieting, etc. Also, confront your biggest challenges when you are fresh and energized, such as hitting the gym first thing in the morning.

For many people, willpower seems to be an elusive character trait, possessed by a few lucky souls. Baumeister’s research and suggestions demonstrate that by understanding the dynamics of self-control, we can all become more successful in whatever goals we undertake.

 

 

 

 

 

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According to a blurb I saw in the May 2011 issue of Oxygen magazine, the average person has 70,000 thoughts every day. That got me to wondering how many of those thoughts are about ourselves and whether the messages are negative or positive.

Can you imagine what your child’s self-esteem would be like if you told him even just 50 times, day after day, that he was a loser or that he was stupid or that he couldn’t achieve what he set out to do? No parent in their right mind tells their children these things even once! We want to empower and encourage our children to do their best, be their best and strive to accomplish their goals.

So what are you telling yourself? Especially about your struggle with weight.

Do you wake up and remind yourself it’s a new day and a new opportunity to eat nutritious foods and use your strong body or do you drag yourself over to the mirror and think, “Ee gads. You’re still here?!”

How many times a day do similar thoughts go through your head? According to the survey, you could be thinking as many as 70,000 harsh thoughts about yourself in one 24-hour period. Consider the cumulative effect of such thinking. No wonder you have no faith in yourself. No wonder you dismiss your accomplishments and linger over your failures. No wonder you don’t care better care of yourself — you don’t think you deserve it.

In an online article written by Remez Sasson entitled “The Power of Positive Thinking,” he defines positive thinking as “a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth, expansion and success. It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action.”

After years and years of negative thinking, it can be challenging to break out of that mindset. Here are a few tips to develop a gentler, kinder voice when speaking to yourself:

* Reframe how you think of yourself. Instead of fat and lazy and undisciplined, you are persistent, conscientious and dedicated to a healthy lifestyle.

* It will take some effort to change the way to talk to yourself. Wear a special colored band or bracelet to continuously remind you to eliminate negativity and criticism from  your internal dialogue and use more constructive, encouraging words.

* Speak to yourself as you would to a friend or loved one.

* Be honest and consider how you speak to others and how you react to the world around you. Are you defensive, pessimistic, judgmental? You might want to change your voice to be more accepting and tolerant, both internally and externally.

* Post positive affirmations around you. When I am in a difficult moment, I use affirmations to motivate me, such as repeating to myself, “I am strong and getting stronger” when my resolve to do a full 45 minutes on the eliptical is waning. Some of my favorites are:

I have the power to change my life.

I choose to eat well and take care of my body.

I am strong and beautiful.

To get you started, here are some kind words from me to you: Joy is found not in accomplishment but in overcoming the obstacles between you and your goal. Go and be well!

The “F” Word

August 28, 2010

Fat.

It’s the “F” word that’s almost as bad as the other “F” word.  What other three-letter combo is equally  insulting, humiliating, embarrassing and derogatory?

It is more painful to admit you are fat than it is to squeeze a size 9 foot into a size 4 stiletto. Believe me, I’d rather work a 12-hour shift at Denny’s in those shoes than apply the “F” word as a self-descriptor.

Yet, whether you avoid referencing the issue all together or apply more gentle euphemisms like pleasantly plump, stocky, chunky, overweight, large, heavy, portly or big boned, the fact remains that extra poundage = fat.

While I would have been mortified to hear someone call me fat or even use that phrase myself 70 pounds ago, I’ve discovered a degree of satisfaction in being able to say out loud, “I was fat.” It’s a relief to no longer have to tiptoe around the elephant in the room, and it’s liberating to finally be able to share the gut-wrenching impact being fat has on one’s whole existence.

While it may seem a small feat, being able to vocalize the “F” word, what it really means is that I’m no longer inhibited by the label or the weight. But even more powerful than being able to say the “F” word is being able to say the “W” word: I was fat.

‘How did you do it?’

March 26, 2010

As more and more people are noticing my almost-40-LB weight loss, the one question I get asked over and over is, “How did you do it?”

That’s a loaded query.

The short answer is that I quit eating lunch at Krystal Burgers three times a week and I got my arse off the sofa. Really and truly, there is no magic formula — it’s as simple as eating less and moving more.

But I think what people really want to know when they ask, “How did you do it?” is how I broke the cycle of compulsive eating and the inability to take proper care of myself.

Again, it’s simple — I found something I wanted more than the numbing comfort of a Krispy Kreme donut or the ease of not having to drag myself to the gym.

It doesn’t matter what my “something” is because each person’s “something” will be different. For one it might be looking great for a special event. For another individual, it might be preventing health complications. The key is to find some thing that fills your spirit with excitement and positive energy — it might be a career change, taking up a new hobby, traveling to an exotic destination or re-entering the dating scene.

My “something” was sufficient inspiration to get the transformation started. Three months and 40 pounds later, the momentum of feeling more energetic, looking better in my clothes, admiration from my friends and family, and the knowledge that I can overcome compulsive eating and an abhorrence for exercise is what keeps me going.

I won’t lie.

It isn’t easy.

There are days that I use food as a crutch and days that I drive to the YMCA, only to turn around and drive home. Three months ago, that would have occurred every single day. Now it happens less and less frequently.

I just keep trying and focus on my “something.”

And that’s how I do it.

Seems like every time January rolls around, I decide this is going to be the year I lose weight, get fit and take control of my eating issues.  Well, 45 Januarys later, I’m still making that resolution but not achieving that resolution.

This year I never got around to making any resolutions. It was a hectic December that merged into an even crazier January. Somewhere in there my Number One Son (only #1 by virtual of his birth order – I’ve got a Number Two, a Number Three and a Number Four, too), home from college, nagged me into going to the YMCA with him to work out.  So, I went a couple times. Then I was so busy I missed a couple of meals, and low and behold, one day I noticed my jeans were a little looser. I stepped on the scale and screamed.

Accustomized to my brash personality and dramatic outbursts, my husband and all four sons ignored me. I called the three people I can always count on to understand (Mammy Jammy, sister ShaSha and BFF Shannon) and shared the astounding news with them.

By gosh, it felt so good — and I hadn’t really even been trying to lose weight — that I decided to put some effort into it to see what might happen.

Six weeks into 2010 and I’m down 22 LBs. And that was with me trying! I’ve realized it’s not too late to make a New Year resolution, so here I am. This is going to be The Year. The Year of wonderful things, including feeling better, trying harder, communicating more openly, moving with purpose, building a health relationship with food and living with gusto, gumption, grace and good deeds.

Join me, won’t you? Even if you don’t have any weight to lose, there are always new lessons to be learned and wisdom to be shared.