Posts Tagged ‘Commitment’

Make your New Year commitments now

December 16, 2010

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The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they are usually reactive and rarely work. By reactive, I mean they tend to be the result of a feeling that “I have overindulged” or “been bad” last year, so I will make amends this year.  This kind of thinking is self-defeating.  Diets don’t work, and Resolutions don’t work.

What does work is a full time commitment to practicing specific, realistic behaviors, such as setting a goal to walk 30 minutes a day, or to stop buying fat-and-sugar-laden snack foods to keep in the pantry.  An annual review and re-commitment can be helpful, but I suggest the best time to do this might be December rather than January.

Here is an excerpt from Weight Management for Your Life that may give you some idea why I think December, with all of its “special occasions,” would be a good time to review and renew your healthy-living plan:

If you have been successfully working on changing your eating and exercise patterns for some time, you will encounter situations where someone will say to you “This is a special occasion, so go ahead and eat that cake!” The cake is not the issue, but the implication behind the statement is. People observing your healthier lifestyle will assume you are in a constant state of self-deprivation, and will want to see you “loosen up.” It is important to them to feel okay about their own “indulgences.” The problem with your buying into that theory is that it discounts the fact that you already are eating (and exercising) the way you want to. You are not depriving yourself – in fact, by doing what you want, you are indulging yourself. Your ongoing healthy lifestyle is its own reward.
Another problem with going back to old unhealthy habits, even temporarily, is that such “special occasions” come up frequently: out-of-town trips, weddings, graduations, birthdays, holidays, cruises, office parties, etc. etc.  Add the special occasions with their special “indulgences” or “rewards” up over the course of a year and you have put on an unwanted five to ten pounds. … Special occasions are even more special when they don’t throw you off your chosen path.

Happy new year!

What is the role of willpower in losing weight?

May 23, 2008

Perhaps no single issue in the ongoing debate about how best to maintain a desired weight, and generally live a healthy life, is more controversial than the role of willpower. Many “experts” avoid the term altogether, and assure their readers and potential customers that willpower is an evil concept which blames the victim of unhealthy habits. I was very surprised, therefore, when I saw this article on willpower in the New York Times (“Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind” April 2, 2008). Could it be there is something positive to say about the concept?

Here is an excerpt from Weight Managemet for Your Life regarding the role of willpower in weight management (pp. 26-27):

While it is beyond the scope of this book to discuss the many meanings over time of the terms “free will” and “intentionality,” and whether human beings actually possess any, I believe we are able to exercise freedom of choice and, in varying degrees, make unique decisions and valid commitments. Neuroimaging studies (“functional MRIs” which show brain activity as we perform tasks) demonstrate that conscious decision-making accounts for from twenty to fifty percent of brain activity, depending on the novelty and complexity of the task. Many of our everyday decisions are made in the pre-conscious mind – outside our immediate awareness, but readily brought into awareness. Thus, our willpower (also referred to as conscious volition, intentionality, or self-control) is a force we can call upon when necessary, and with some degree of freedom.

When people hear the term “willpower,” many envision Sisyphus, from Greek mythology, who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. That is because we usually only pay attention to our own willpower when we are having problems applying it to a difficult task. The majority of the time we use it without even being aware of it, such as when we decide to watch TV instead of reading, or vice versa. In the following sections, I will suggest ways to make willpower more accessible in order to increase your effectiveness in getting what you really want out of life.