Self-control, discipline, will power. A lack of these is a common excuse for anyone who isn’t achieving their health and fitness goals. But do fit, healthy people really have more self-control, discipline and will power than those who are not fit and healthy? I say no! From my personal experience I can down a whole tub of Haagen Dazs with the best of them. Leave me alone in a room long enough with a bowl of 5 cent candies and they will be gone in no time. Give me a bag of those crack-laden Doritos and it will be empty before you can say Doritos. So if healthy, fit people don’t have any more will power than the average person, how do they stay in shape?
First I would say healthy and fit people have their values in order. Once you determine what you value, or another way of saying it is once you determine what you love, then making the correct choices becomes easier. Logically it makes sense to value your health as it is the foundation for all human experience, and when you lose it you end up losing so much more. Nothing is as depressing as losing your independence and freedom because of a health condition. I often say that if I could give someone a pill that would make them feel the way a fit and healthy person feels for even just one hour then they would be hooked for life. Like the old saying goes, you don’t know how shitty you feel until you start to feel better. Charles Poliquin recently wrote a blog on this very topic from his Strength Sensei website entitled The Myth of Discipline.
Second I would say that exclusively relying on discipline and self-control is doomed for failure. Think of will power like a muscle, you can only work a muscle for so long before it becomes too fatigued and requires rest. If you think your will power will hold out forever then you’re sadly mistaken. If you surround yourself with negative temptations like junk food then it’s only a matter of time before your self-control will get fatigued and when that happens you’ll find yourself giving in to temptation. So what should be done then to ensure success? I’m a firm believer that the answer lies in creating systems for yourself. For example, when I go to the grocery store I memorize which isles contain the junk food and then I avoid them like the plague. I also don’t go to the grocery store hungry as I’m more likely to make bad decisions. And I also don’t buy junk food to keep in my house because if it’s convenient for me to access it then it’s too convenient for me to eat. You must remove the negative stimuli. I made a deal with myself, if I want junk food then I have to get up off the couch, go outside and walk to the store. Often the fact that I have to put in that much effort to get the junk food in the first place discourages me from doing it. Only if the craving is strong enough will I go get it, and then at least I get in some physical activity with the walk to help balance the crap I’m about to eat.
Here’s an article about this topic from the Brain Pickings website called The Psychology of Self-Control. So stop beating yourself up for not having enough self-control, discipline or will power. Instead align your values and what you love to do with health and fitness and come up with systems that help to remove the negative stimuli. You’re not super human so start loving yourself again and start making the small changes that will lead to big successes.
Besides being a regular contributor to the Function Health Club blog, Jeff Doyle is also the co-owner of Function Health Club as well as a Personal Trainer, BCRPA Trainer of Fitness Leaders, Agatsu Kettlebell Instructor and Older Adult Wellness Practitioner. He also has a Bachelor of Human Kinetics. You can contact Jeff directly at jeff@FunctionHandF.com.