Marsh column: Willpower

Published 7:50 pm Sunday, January 18, 2015

It is exciting to see so many people starting the new year off with a bang. I really do hope that you continue this active and healthy lifestyle and not become, what one of my awesome staff calls, a “tourist.” As I have said, it isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be healthy and in shape. All kinds of things can and will get in the way. My soldier daughter surprised me this past weekend by an unexpected visit. She is trying to start a running program since its mandatory in the Army to hit certain running times and it’s one of many ways to lose weight. She is very good at all other things except for running and the high-calorie Army food has been a bit challenging for her weight. But, she is determined to get better at running and to lose some of the unwanted pounds she has gained. She just finished week two from “couch to 5K” which is a free smartphone app. Because it has been so cold, she really didn’t feel like running but decided to run anyway because she made that commitment to herself. I am super proud of her. If I could sell determination and motivation in a bottle, I would be a billionaire. Actually, the weight loss industry is making billions selling the latest pills, shakes, powders and so much more to assist you with weight loss. But then you read, or listen to, each one of them and they all mention to eat sensibly and exercise. So wouldn’t that alone make you lose weight and get in shape?

It all comes down to eating a balanced diet. For weight loss, you need exercise and eat fewer calories than consumed. Easy right? We wish.

Eating the correct foods and making sure you eat less than you burn are the hardest things to do for anyone in the Western world. An abundance of foods readily available, the conveniences of drive thru everything, lots of food at any gathering you participate in — a disaster ready to happen.

So first, stop beating yourself up for not having the willpower. Start telling yourself you do have it. Your chance of success is so much better when you start telling yourself, and eventually believe, you have the willpower. When you really start believing that, the mind can do amazing things. Positive reinforcement works a lot better than negative thoughts, comments and feelings.

Plan ahead each week for your breakfast, lunch and dinners and exercise routines. If you like snacks, choose snacks that are nutritious for you. Watch your calories and exercise. When you go shopping with your prepared list, make sure you have eaten first. I can tell a huge difference when I am hungry and I go grocery shopping! Lots of not-so-healthy snacks and more food than I intended ends up in my cart. Also, why torture yourself by buying foods you know you have a problem resisting when the willpower is down. I consider myself someone who has enough willpower to eat foods that my body needs and say no when it doesn’t need more. But, even I will buckle at the knees when my favorite forbidden foods are in the house.

Knowing your weakness is a weapon you can use to strengthen your willpower. Don’t put yourself into situations when you pretty much know you will lose the battle. And there is nothing wrong with the rest of the family making better choices when eating. Just because someone is skinny does not mean they are healthy.

Plan your meals; take your list to the grocery store, don’t buy the foods you know you are not being able to resist, stick to your exercise routine (even on the days when you don’t feel like it) and you are on your way to willpower.

And, when you fall of your willpower wagon, climb back on.

Ester H Marsh ACSM Cpt