Hello my friends! We are getting so close to Spring. My plants are starting to wake up and the color is going to start slowly returning. In Utah, as we transition seasons you never no really because one day it’s 60 degrees and the next it’ll be snowing. But I think that’s also part of the adventure in living here.
Today I’m going to talk about willpower. Although I may talk about using willpower with eating, anytime I say food or something else, just think about the thing that you think you feel you’d like to get better control over and it will apply the same.
I’ve heard willpower described like the talking stick. Remember the idea of the talking stick where whoever has the talking stick, is in control. So when you go on a diet and start restricting, between the angel and the devil, whoever has the talking stick, wins. So when we go on a diet, the food angel says we’re going to only eat healthy things and then something happens and in a moment of weakness the food devil grabs the stick and says cake, cookies, ice-cream, soda.
Do you find yourself trying to talk yourself out of food? Oh, that cake looks so good. I shouldn’t have it. Oh the ice-cream, the chocolate. Whatever you typically crave and then say no, I can’t have it, then you’re using willpower.
Willpower has such a negative connotation. It is looked at as a means of restraint. When I think of restraint I think of sacrifice or maybe something that I don’t want to do. Willpower is doing something against your will. I thought about it and the only time I would use willpower is when I’m trying to not do something that I actually want. Thinking about it deeper, it’s only going against something that we want right now, in the moment. Because if I’m seeing a donut and I want it, I personally am wanting it for the way it will taste and that dopamine hit it’ll give me. But is it something I’m going to wish I ate 15-20 minutes after consuming it? By then, I’m probably not feeling super strong and healthy in my body so, I might be wishing I didn’t eat it, which means I’m definitely not wanting it now. So willpower is going against what we want in the moment and telling ourselves no. I’ve never met anyone who loves to be told no, have you?
I think about a toddler in a grocery store in the checkout line and… what’s there? All kinds of candies and snacks and little toys. It’s really quite mean that they do that to parents. But a toddler wants it and hasn’t learned emotional regulation so when the parent says no, what does the toddler do? Starts to whine. And if that’s not getting him what he wants then he surely doesn’t give up. He gets louder! And what he has learned is if he gets loud enough, mommy or daddy might just get embarrassed enough or impatient enough to give in and hand it over.
Our toddler brains are the same way. We may not be able to talk logically to our toddlers, but we do have that option to logically talk to our lower brains. But what would we say? No we can’t have that, and move on? Have we paused enough to consider why we really don’t want it?
What I would like to offer you is a different perspective of willpower, turning this word on its head. I’d like to offer a space. I mean a literal space like we are looking at will power on the screen and we’re putting the cursor right in between the L and the P and hitting the spacebar making two words will and power. Changing its meaning to this is something I will do. I will choose these foods and that will give me the power I need for the goals I have.
Will space power. What will you do? Will you want this after you’ve had it? Will you love yourself regardless of the outcome? Will you decide your future self is worth more than the few minutes of pleasure? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it doesn’t have to be a matter of willpower. It comes down to slowing down enough to take power into your own hands and decide what will you do? What do you truly want?
The problem with willpower is it only lasts so long. Willpower is like if there’s a thief at your door and starts by slowing knocking. Then they ring the doorbell a few times, then they start pounding. If you still haven’t let them in, they decide they’re going to turn the knob and open the door themselves. So you rush to keep it closed. Now there’s a physical fight back forth. We all know that when we are mentally drained, our bodies feel drained too. So it’s you trying to keep them out as they are trying to force their way in. Eventually you decide you’re done. You’re too tired. And it usually comes when you’re already exhausted and some event happens and you don’t have the mind power to fight any longer so you give in and just have it.
Last night, I didn’t get as much sleep as I usually do. I went to bed later than normal and then my dog kept whining in her crate. My husband took her out when he got up and then put her back in, but a little later she was whining again. So, I got up and to take her out and when I opened my bedroom door, I could hear my daughter’s dog down the hall whining and scratching at the door to get out. My daughter went to St George with her friend, so I told her I’d puppy sit. This is the dog that likes to pee on my floor still, so I locked her in my daughter’s room for the night because she’s not crate trained and I didn’t want to wake up and step on any surprises on my floor.
I go to let her out and as I open the door, oh my gosh, she went to town! She peed, she pooped, she got ahold of a brown Pac Sun shopping bag and literally shredded it. She got in my daughter’s bag of clothes and pulled out everything, including the socks and shoes. By the way, she has a shoe fetish like my daughter. They were meant to be. Although, my daughter likes to buy expensive shoes and her dog likes to chew on them. I didn’t examine the, what looked to be brand new Nikes too closely, but I think they made it out unscathed. In all fairness though, I love shoes too. Anyways, it looked like a tornado hit. A category 4 puppy tornado.
I didn’t dare put her back in the room so I could go back to sleep, so I took my pillow and blanket and laid on the couch as the two dogs wrestled and played and finally settled back down. My husband calls to say good morning as he’s on his way to get his employees breakfast. He’s really a good boss.
Anyways, I’m lying on the couch, tired and frazzled from cleaning up the dog tornado and he mentions he’s going to get them breakfast burritos. I haven’t had a breakfast burrito for a least a couple years, but since I was tired and frazzled, when he said that, my mind started thinking, hey that sounds good. Instead of telling myself no, I decided to use my will power and said, I will have that for lunch. My brain instantly started to settle down because I made the decision that I could have it. Then when I was going to make it, I decided, I will have everything, but the tortilla since it’s refined carbs; and if you haven’t heard, refined carbs stimulate appetite. So using my will power, I was good with that. But if I wasn’t, then I would have the tortilla, but before I did, I’d look at the nutrition facts on the back of the package and the ingredients and decide, is this something I really want? Will I be okay with myself later for choosing this? What will…. I….. do? Nothing I decided was against my will. I used my will power to slow down and decide what I wanted now and would still work for the future me as well.
So whether our desires are for food or spending money or drinking or whatever else you may feel like is having a negative effect in your life, whether they feel like a trapped dog just trying to escape or like a screaming toddler in the grocery store we can use our will power to our advantage as long as we’re willing to give ourselves enough space to slow down and really think about what we truly want.
If you want to bring back a certain food, bring it back. When you do, pay attention to how each bite tastes. Is it really as good as you remembered? Did each bite, from the first to the last, taste the same? Odds are, no. Science shows that it’s only the first few bites that actually taste the best and then from there, the intensity lessens with each subsequent bite. And a lot of times the way we imagine how a food will taste is way better than the actual eating of it. Wouldn’t you rather give up a food because you want to instead of because you think you have to? Increase your consciousness around the way you eat.
Your toddler brain will always be the one who suggests something not good for your overall benefit, but do all toddlers get what they want? I salute the mothers who use a little tough love in the grocery line and try to explain to their screaming toddler why they can’t have the candy. They know it’s not healthy and they want a better result for their child. The toddler doesn’t care. He wants what he wants, but the adult knows better and the toddler learns that not every time I scream and whine will mommy give in.
Luckily your toddler brain and adult brain can work together for your overall well-being. Give yourself the freedom to choose to eat or not eat a food. Drink or not drink, spend or not spend, consume or not consume. When people are afraid they will lose their freedom around their consumption, they think I’ll never be able to stop, but when they start using their will power and realizing why they are making the choices they are, they realize, this is their choice.
I have so many friends who can’t go without their diet Coke or Dr. Pepper throughout the day and I’m not judging them for that because I have my own things I’m working on, but I’m using this example because it’ll hit home for a lot of you. For a moment, imagine something you think you just couldn’t live without. Is there freedom in that? It’s just good to know. Sometimes, we’re just trading one freedom for another. And you get to choose which freedom you want to enjoy most. If you want to consume something, whatever it is, as long as you like your reasons and you’re understanding that it is something that you’re choosing, then go for it! Me telling you no, or you just telling yourself no, will make you want it more. But you telling yourself, I can have that and I know this is what I’m signing up for and I’m good with that, will empower you to start taking control of what you want most in your life.
So go out and start using your will power to make the change you’ve been looking for. If you haven’t followed or rated my podcast, please do so. It’s how others will find me. And share, share, share these episodes with everyone you think could benefit.
Until next time, have a brilliant week!
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