12 Ways To Boost Willpower and Feel Great

by Dr. Brooke Kalanick ND | Follow on Twitter

And they don’t include “Fat Loss Secrets”.

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THE TRUTH IS, there is so much we still don’t know about how metabolism works in general, let alone every fat loss secret.

What I do know though is that I can arm a woman with the best info out there, review all her labs and thoroughly assess her symptoms and give her a really great plan to drop the fat… and it doesn’t always work.

Sure sometimes, it takes a little finesse – a tweak here or there until we get it all just right. Even then, the body often doesn’t work on our timetable. Instead the body takes a frustratingly long time to jump to and start dropping fat.

Today, I’m NOT talking about that scientific stuff – and I’m NOT talking about those rare few in my office who simply do exactly what I ask them to, no muss, no fuss… I’m talking about the rest of us.

Those of us that know what to do, but struggle to always do it.

I’ll admit, I fall victim to this at times as well. Some days it’s just plain hard to do what I need to do for myself.

When I can’t pull it off, I feel weak.

I feel like I’m failing.  I feel like,

“What the hell’s wrong with me??”

There is a huge gap between knowing what to do and actually being able to do it – let alone keep doing it, consistently.  And this my dears is the real fat loss secret.  Us experts make it sound really fancy at times talking about this hormone or that, but for the most part it’s doing a few simple things right, over and over that is actually the key to your fat loss success.

“It’s doing a few simple things right, over and over that is actually the key to your fat loss success.” –> TWEET THIS

So what’s going on when we’re wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?? Why can’t I just do what I need to do?”. We’re having a lapse in willpower.  The problem is that we don’t know it – we feel weak and like we’re failing, not that we’re just low in juice to keep going.

I’ve really turned my focus with the women I work with towards habit change and willpower. I’m trying to help them bridge this gap between knowing better and doing better.  That gap exists because diets focus on what to eat, what not to eat, how much to workout – no one’s talking about how you actually do it… especially when your resolve is in the tank.

There are things that drain your willpower and things that boost it.

Just knowing this should help you stop feeling weak or like you’re failing and rather that you’ve just never learned to manage your own willpower.  What comes to mind when you think of willpower?

I know, I know, that you don’t have enough of it.

Willpower is this vague, invisible thing that has a huge hold on how we feel about ourselves. When we have it we feel virtuous and when we lack it we feel like crap.

Shift your thinking at times of perceived weakness from it meaning something bad about you to it being simply a willpower failure. Although it feels like it, low willpower doesn’t mean that you’re failing, it means that you’re willpower is failing.

See the difference? Think of it like being unable to do that last pushup, that last lunge… you can’t, you’re just fully fatigued. Willpower works the same way.

That said, willpower failures can mean big trouble for you because when we start to feel bad, start to feel weak or like we’re failing, we tend to give up.  So while you may have simply been tired or hungry or otherwise zapped of willpower temporarily, you may throw in the towel all together instead of realizing your tank was simply out of gas. Little did you know, a fill up is just around the corner.

Learning to harness your willpower is like learning any new skill, it takes time, practice and learning from your mess ups. But, you can do it!

We now understand willpower a lot better.

It’s not something you lack and that girl has. It’s not that you are weak if you don’t have any right now. It’s not you have it or you don’t. This is truly one of your Superpowers and the one you’ll have to train the hardest to harness.

Don’t fret my Superhero in training, here are 12 of my favorite ways to boost willpower:

1. Reframe “I won’t” as “I will”.

If you are trying to drink more water and less soda, focus on the more water. I will drink more water keeps you out of the restriction mindset of no soda – and the water displaces the soda, as you can only drink so much liquid in a day.

To use this reframe for other habits, think of what you’d be doing instead. If you didn’t sleep in, would you meditate or be at the gym or packing healthy food for lunch?

Another example is reframing “I won’t skip a workout” to “I will be at the gym every MWF.”

2. Eliminate easy outs.

Find ways to eliminate easy routes to giving in, such as being out of food or not pre-paying your gym memberships. This doesn’t mean you still can’t get out of it, but putting any distance between you and temptation boosts willpower.

3. Flex and strengthen your willpower muscles.

Pick an un-emotionally charged exercise such as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand or not crossing your legs when you sit. Focus on this for one week, it will boost willpower in all areas. This trick is so cool. I can’t believe how well this works – doing better with this trick seems effortless and I love that!

4. Find a role model.

Thinking of someone who you think has willpower can it increase yours. (Here’s who boosts mine.) But be careful of envy, this is creates a negative feeling of comparison, the only person you’re in competition with is your old self.

How much better are YOU doing than you would’ve done before? That’s the only question to answer.

5. Stay with a craving or urge for 30 seconds.

Psychologists call this surfing the urge. Just feel the feeling, but don’t act on it – just accept it. Notice its fluctuations, intensity, where you feel the urge in your body. Trust that you can have a craving, a thought or a feeling and not act on it. Try to surf it for longer than 30 seconds if you can.

Even if you give in at the end of surfing, this exercise builds stamina and increase willpower if you do it regularly. Remember, willpower is like a muscle – keep working it, it will get stronger.

6. Rest!

Even just lying down, comfortably for 10 minutes can rejuvenate your willpower.  As can little pick-me ups like buying yourself fresh flowers, thinking back to a recent success, listening to great music and laughing. I am a huge fan of buying myself flowers and I married a comedian – I should have boundless willpower huh??!

7. Choose pride over shame.

When faced with temptation, imagine the pride of holding your ground. Studies show when thinking of feeling guilty after eating cheesecake, only 10% of subjects avoiding eating it.

Four times more people were able to not give in if they instead focused on feeling proud for not eating it.

8. Exercise.

One of the best willpower boosters is to get some exercise.

Exercise gets blood to the brain and nourishes your willpower centers. You may be even more renewed after a quick blast of activity outside or even a walk around the block – being outside also increase willpower.  At the very least, get to a window and breath in some fresh air.

9.Watch your blood sugar.

Keeping your blood sugar level (think eating well + exercise) will actually boost willpower. So truly the more you do it right, the more you can do it right. Proving that is does get easier!

Making good food choices will make it easier to make more good food choices. Low blood sugar puts willpower in the tank.

10. Look to the future.

Thinking of your better lifestyle as being easier in the future will also boost willpower. Don’t dwell in how hard it is, imagine as you hone your skills it will get easier and easier. Sorta like #8, the more you get it right the easier it is to get it right the next time.

11. Give yourself a 10 min rule.

Your brain doesn’t really know the difference between 10 minutes and 10 years, and a time delay gets your mind out of the immediate urge. After 10 minutes, see how you feel – you can always add on time.

During this 10 minutes, don’t stuff your anxiety or urges or feelings down… feel them.  You don’t have to act on them, just feel them.  Feelings aren’t necessarily true, they just are how you feel in that moment.

As these feelings bubble up, without judgment wrap them in a bubble (like those cartoon conversation bubbles in a comic strip). Watch the feeling float away.  You could also think of a feeling as a cloud, and let it drift across the sky.  Either way, just feel it and watch it fade away as you create a time gap.

12. Don’t lose it.

We really hate losing something we already have. If we can reframe giving into a craving as a loss, we’re more successful at holding our ground.

But what you tend to do is think of it as a gain – you gain the immediate treat. But consider every give-in as a loss of your future great body and your bigger WANT instead.

This means anchoring to your WHY as soon as temptation strikes because we tend to justify the thing we focus on first (meaning if we think of our WANT first we’re more likely to choose it than if we start thinking about the treat first.) Another reason to have a way to anchor to your WHY always at the ready.

So stay connect to your WANT and WHY.

Pick one of these 12 tools and start to us it.

You will find some of them work better for you than others, use what works for you – there is no need to do all 12 all the time (or at all!).

But they all work and they are all here for you should you want to try another, the important thing is to find the tools that boost your willpower and use them everyday.

About the Author
Dr. Brooke Kalanick ND

A recognized expert and author in the field of natural medicine and fitness, Dr Brooke is a licensed naturopathic doctor devoted to helping women achieve a healthy weight and a happy state of well being through her integrative and holistic approach to health. Using tailored nutrition therapy, coaching and a comprehensive naturopathic and functional medicine approach, she helps women heal their metabolism and restore their hormonal balance. Her book, Ultimate You, co-authored with celebrity trainer Joe Dowdell, offers the latest in nutritional and exercise science to help women lose body fat by understanding their hormones.