Willpower is not a long-term solution

I don’t like the word willpower when talking about weight loss. It has too many negative connotations for me.

The website dictionary.com defines willpower as “control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.” To me maintaining self-control equates to fighting against my natural urges – my natural urge being to eat the face off me!

The thing is, I don’t like this idea that I need to exert willpower in order to lose weight, because that’s just setting myself up for a fall. Anyone can resist against their impulses for a short period of time, but it’s not a long-term strategy. At some point the willpower is going to fail, and I’m going to ‘fall off the wagon’.

Put a box of donuts in front of me, and my self-control will hold out for a while, but eventually I will crack and scoff the lot!

And that’s the thing about willpower – it’s only temporary. Willpower requires us to resist an impulse, but does nothing to try and change the underlying impulse itself. If I could reprogram myself to address the impulse and modify it, then I wouldn’t need willpower at all!

So instead of using the word willpower, I prefer to use the word determined. I know it’s only a change of word, but to me it’s also a change in mind-set. When I am determined I have made a conscious and positive decision to follow a certain path. I’m not fighting against an impulse, I’m not resisting temptation, and I’m not “being good”. Instead I am making positive choices in my life to achieve my goal – to lose weight.

I’ve talked before about every little decision, and I’ll be the first to admit that many of my little decisions aren’t the right ones. I lose sight of my goals just as much as the next person. It’s hard to keep focus all the time. But hopefully by harnessing the positivity of being determined I can make a few more correct decisions in the future.

So when I look at the donuts in the future, instead of thinking to myself “I would really love to eat those donuts, but I will resist” (a negative emotion) I will instead try to think “I don’t want those donuts, because it will impact my weight loss” (a positive emotion). And by doing so, I hope to end up eating a lot fewer donuts!

The great unknown of eating out

Unless you’re a total social hermit and never go out, at some point you’re going to have to face the challenge of eating out!

The Slimming World app can help with the syn values of the food served by the major brands, but if you like to eat in more independent restaurants then you might be on your own.

Something as innocuous as a plate of vegetables might be swimming in oil or butter, so it can be a food optimising minefield. 

To try and minimise any damage I might cause to myself, I try to employ a number of coping strategies:

  1. Check the restaurant menu ahead of time. Most places have their menus online. I am able to check them in advance and decide what I’m going to have. It saves me from making panicked decisions (wrong decisions?) when ordering.
  2. Eat before going out. Yeah, I know this sounds kind-of strange – eating before going out to a restaurant. But if I know that the restaurant only serves very calorific food and that there are no healthy options available, then I eat before I get there. That way, I’ll not be hungry when I get there, and I’ll only want something small to eat like a starter. I can still socialise with my friends and family, but not lose control.
  3. Ask the waiter questions. Most restaurants will know or can find out how dish is cooked.  So if it’s not obvious I like to check if something is going to be fried, roasted or boiled. And I ask what ingredients are going to be added. It’s amazing – some places will even cook dishes without oil if I mention that I am on a low fat diet.
  4. Order off-menu. Some restaurant are more happy to accommodate this than others, but if you don’t ask you don’t get! If I think that a particular ingredient is going to be high in syns then I ask for it to be left out of my meal – or perhaps substitute it for some lovely speedy vegetables or a salad. And if there’s a sauce on the dish, I ask for it “on the side” so that I can determine how much or how little I put on the plate.

If all else fails, and I haven’t got the time or nerve in the middle of the restaurant to be checking all the ingredients on your Slimming World app, then I go with my gut instinct. I try to remember that lean meat or fish and vegetables are always a good option – as long as they are not cooked with half a pound of butter!

And it’s also worth remembering that the occasional controlled blow-out can’t cause that much damage. It’s only when I throw caution to the wind and ignore all the food optimising rules out the of the window that I spoil my weight loss. If I make semi-sensible decisions then I can usually avoid a shock result at the next weigh-in!

Every little decision

Every Little Decision

A few weeks ago I was in a bit of a slump, and not happy with my weight loss progress. But now I feel that I’ve reached a turning point.

After two weeks of getting just half-pound losses, I knocked it out of the park this week with a massive 5½ pound loss! And I couldn’t have been more delighted. Actually that’s not quite true. There was another lady in class who got a 6 pound loss, and snached the Slimmer of the Week from my grasp!

My big loss meant that not only did I get my 3½ Stone award this week, but I’m only a few pounds away from getting my 4 Stone award – which was my target for Christmas.

So how did I turn it around?

Well my new mantra of the moment is Every Little Decision. It’s the three words that I repeat to myself throughout the day, and help me make better decisions.

It’s all too easy to have a sneaky bite of something naughty. We tell ourselves “just this once” or “maybe just this little thing“, or the phase I love to use “well you’ve got to live“. But what I realised is that every sneaky bite I had was having an impact on my weight loss. I found that I couldn’t get away with having the odd little cheat every now and again. If I wanted to achieve the weight loss I desired, then I needed to question Every Little Decision.

Every time I looked in the cupboard, opened the fridge door, or walked past the chocolate in the supermarket, I had to remind myself that every little decision counts. And for me, I needed every little decision to be a right decision.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not given up on my syns. I still have them, and enjoy them. I love to have an oat bar with a cup of tea as I’m going to bed. And so I tend to save up my syns for the latter part of the day. But I’m not going without. I’m just being careful.

The problem was that I had got complacent. As an obese man, my losses when I started doing Slimming World were fairly easy. I could have the odd deviation from food optimising, and still get some weight loss on the scales. But now that I’m almost 4 stone lighted (yay!) the weight doesn’t shift quite as easily, and I need to be a bit more strict with myself.

Putting it into action

Last night, for example, I was attending a drinks reception and I decided to make good decisions. So when the plates of crisps, pastries and mince pies were put in front of me, I decided to say no thanks. They looked really tempting, and a few weeks ago I would have probably taken one or two things off the plate. But the thing is, it would have probably been on top of one or two other little treats that I would have eaten earlier in the day. And without realising it, I would have eaten probably an extra 30 syns in the day!

It’s no wonder I wasn’t losing weight!

So for now, I’m going to keep repeating my Every Little Decision mantra until it annoys the hell out of everyone I know!

Mince pies are the devil’s food!

Did you know that a single mince pie is between 11 and 13 syns!?!

According to the Syns Online database, a mince pie from the Marks & Spencer in-store bakery is 19½ syns! Are they even that nice? And are they really worth all those syn?

Most people I know don’t really like mince pies that much, but eat them anyway because people traditionally give them out at this time of year.