Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Willpower alone will not help

Temptations can slowly fade away with the help of willpower.

I have to admit over the past month or so, my eating habits have been all over the place.

Between holidays, stags, meeting up with friends home from abroad and the odd wee sneaky night out here and there, I found it hard to say no to a lot of unhealthy habits.

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I found that my own willpower, which used to serve me well, was no longer with me.

Eating extra servings of food, munching on chips with a healthy meal or snacking at night all started to creep into my diet… and stay there.

The problem, however, was not just my willpower. As we live in an environment with easy availability and access to unhealthy foods, it is no wonder that so many of us gain weight.

I’m not using this as an excuse, because on the other hand, resisting immediate urges is one of the most highly-adaptive qualities that humans have.

Resisting urges is why people can meet long-term health goals and it’s also the reason we get work done without consistently checking Facebook…

Well some of time, but we can do it.

When we inhibit the urge to engage in a behaviour that would be counterproductive to our long-term goal, we are expressing willpower. In other words, we have the ability to do it but it can be hard to sustain it.

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Researchers examining willpower have compared self-control to a muscle. The same as a muscle becomes fatigued with work, our ability to use self-control is exhausted with continuous use, and there may be a time when you break.

Once I broke, I found it hard to get back on track, but here are a few simple tips that will keep you from relying on willpower alone.

IF IT’S NOT THERE, YOU CAN’T EAT IT

I started off by either throwing away, or just having one last indulge of any unhealthy foods in my house. I followed this up by refilling my cupboards with healthy foods that I knew I would eat.

If you do decide to carry out this method, then don’t go on an all out health craze and buy foods you don’t like (or can’t even pronounce in some cases).

HAVE A PLAN

After the holiday break, my focus is back on playing and training hard in preparation for the Tyrone Club Championship.

If I continued eating the way I did, then not only would I be adding on the pounds, I would not be fuelling and refuelling my body with the nutrients needed to train and perform week-in, week-out.

If you find yourself in a rut, then choose a goal and stick to it. Pick something you will be able to maintain to help you get back on track.

DON’T MAKE IT EASY

If you do bring unhealthy foods into the house, don’t put them somewhere you can easily see them every time you open the fridge or cupboard.

As well as putting them out of sight, set yourself a time or day that you are going to eat them.

Even dividing unhealthy foods into smaller serving bags may make it a lot less tempting to finish a whole big bar of chocolate at once, or munch down on a complete packet of biscuits.

YOU STILL NEED WILLPOWER

Even after following these simple steps you will still need some form of willpower. Those nights out with friends, access to unhealthy foods and curing the hangover are always going to be there.

But once you start following some simple rules, and with the use of willpower, these temptations will slowly fade away.

Read the full story in this week’s paper, available in your local newsagents today or subscribe to our Digital Edition by clicking below

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