The Difficulty With Willpower

Today’s blog is a combination of two recent articles/presentations by the American Psychological Association (APA).  I’ve combined both an article and a video, as together they provide strong support for the structure and content of our online program, Feeling Focused™, designed to help challenge Emotional Eating, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder.

Our program combines CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) and Mindfulness, to help you combat your emotional eating and overeating.  Within the CBT section (the first four sessions), we cover goal setting over two full sessions, putting you on the right path for working towards stronger willpower and healthier, more positive goal setting.  Have a read of the following article, and watch the video, both from the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org).

Willpower and Living Healthy – From the American Psychological Association

Willpower is tested every day, whether it is hitting the snooze button rather than taking your early morning run or choosing an apple over a cupcake at lunchtime. The decisions that lead to a healthier life are often difficult, and the American Psychological Association’s most recent Stress in America survey revealed that not having enough willpower was the top reason people cited for being unable to make healthy lifestyle changes.

In the most recent Stress in America survey, 57% of respondents reported losing weight as a goal for the next year, and 50% wanted to eat a healthier diet, with the majority saying they wanted to take these steps in order to be healthier and feel better. However, in reality, people don’t always achieve their goals, and APA’s Stress in America survey showed that fewer than 1 in 5 adults report being successful at making health-related improvements.

Part of the explanation for this may be that people struggle with having enough willpower. Willpower is the ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. One reason adopting healthy behaviors may be so difficult is that resisting temptation can take a mental toll. In fact, some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse. The good news is that, like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened to help achieve lifestyle-related goals, such as eating healthy or losing weight.

If you feel that a lack of willpower is holding you back from achieving healthy goals, there are techniques that can help you strengthen your self-control.

    • Focus on one goal at a time: Psychologists have found that it is more effective to focus on a single, clear goal rather than attacking a list of goals at once. Succeeding at the first goal will free up your willpower so it can then be devoted to the next goal. Focus on changing one health habit first whether it’s exercising more during the week or eating smaller food portions daily.
    • Monitor your behavior toward your goal: Don’t let a slip-up take you off track. Make a reasonable plan to meet your goal and recommit each day to making progress toward that goal. If weight loss or healthy eating is your aim, track what you eat. Research shows that people who track their daily food intake are more likely to succeed at weight loss
    • Seek support: Research shows that having support systems can help you reach your goals. Surround yourself with people you trust and who you know will be supportive of your goals and willing to help you succeed.

 

Video from the American Psychological Association on what works for weight loss.

http://youtu.be/yaYyAICZ1nI

(Willpower Article Courtesy of http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower-living.aspx.  Accessed 26 Feb 2013).

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