March 18

The Myth of Willpower

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle

Most of my clients think that WILLPOWER is the essential ingredient to change. It isn't. A lot of people don't even begin to try because they think they don't have sufficient willpower to change their lifestyle. According to the New York Times, no one has endless willpower. Research has demonstrated that willpower is ineffective as it wears down over the course of the day, somewhat like a muscle becomes fatigued when exercising. So how do some people successfully maintain their healthy lifestyle with such ease?....HABITS, the key to LONG TERM success. The theory is that it takes 28 – 30 days to build a habit and after that it becomes part of your daily routine. In other words, requires no effort.

But how do you make something a habit?

The 3 Rs of Habit Formation 

1) Reminder – The cue or trigger that starts the habit
2) Routine – The action you take, the habit – Implement a different or new routine, rather than just abstaining. Change one thing at a time.
3) Reward –  The benefit you gain from doing the habit.

To create a habit we need to follow a basic pattern. Start with an easy habit – that’s just so easy you can’t say no. Then choose a trigger that already exists – maybe brushing your teeth. So when you brush your teeth and if you add the habit you want to do to the routine you will associate the two - this is your reminder. Then you think of the benefits you are going to get from doing that habit. That’s your reward. If the reward is positive you will have a desire to repeat the action the next time, and this repetition will form the basis of your new habit.

I know myself that I have fallen into some terrible habits from time to time. For example when I let myself become too hungry (trigger) I was having processed noodles because they are so quick and easy to prepare (routine/habit). But I thought to myself, what can I replace these with that are a healthy option (reward) but doesn't require much time, a simple swap. There's plenty! Fruit or nuts just takes a second, I just have to make sure they're in the kitchen. Or cous cous takes the same time to absorb the water but has more protein. Or I could have something ready to reheat in the fridge. So it's just a matter of replacing one bad habit with a healthier habit. This was quite easy for me to do, it was well worth it and I keep that in mind.

That's an example of breaking a bad habit but what about adding healthy behaviours? Would you like to add a walk or Pilates to your day? Or cooking healthy meals? Choose something that already exists, like getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, watching the news or getting home from work. Find a reminder. For example, my latest habit is to have a green smoothie straight away when I get up. I can't avoid that reminder. You could then add on, get up (reminder), have smoothie (routine), brush teeth (reminder), get out for a walk (routine) and enjoy a healthy start to your day (reward).
Then in the evening your reminder is getting home from work, your routine could be getting stuck into cooking a healthy dinner straight away or getting changed and heading straight back out the door for a walk. Your rewards are a healthy routine and having more of the evening to relax.

Focus more on the positive instead by adding more healthy actions to your day, instead of taking away. Getting out for a walk, add Pilates to your day or adding an extra portion of vegetables to your diet? You could also be in the habit of cooking the same meals because they're what you usually cook but could you replace these with a healthier version of the same or a whole new easy to prepare meal? Could you swap frying for grilling or roasting, boiling for steaming? If it's easy to do, then why not? Always focus on the positive reason why you are doing something. I always think about the good I am doing for my long term health when I am eating. Super fit at eighty is the goal 😉

Why not try out the 3 Rs to help you form a new healthy habit?

Check out my Pinterest Board with all of my other blog posts here.

Emma x 

The Myth of Willpower

Meet Emma

Hi, I am Emma McAtasney, a NCEHS Personal Trainer since 2009. I earned my Pilates credentials through BASI Pilates, a highly respected college-level Pilates teacher training programme which aim is to create and maintain professional standards for the teaching of the Pilates Method to the highest calibre.

In addition, I am a prenatal and postnatal exercise specialist, nutritionist and founder of a boutique Pilates studio in Dundalk, Ireland.

I help my clients eat healthier, ditch fad diets and lose weight for good by guiding them to make small manageable changes that long term have a huge impact on their quality of life!

You may also like

Macro Balance €9.99

Macro Balance €9.99
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}