Developing Willpower to Consistently Eat Healthy Foods

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One of the biggest keys to long-term health and fat loss is being consistently good with your nutrition. Many people know this, yet they often struggle to find the motivation or willpower to consistently eat healthy. This causes people to fluctuate between eating right and going through periods of overeating or eating unhealthy foods. Until these behaviors change and healthy eating become the norm, long-term success will remain elusive. Fortunately there is something you can do to improve your ability to consistently eat the right foods and keep progressing with your health and fitness.

I can’t count the number of times people have said things to me such as, “I wish I had your motivation” or “I just don’t have that much willpower.” These comments were generally made because I eat healthy the vast majority of the time and have exercised consistently for over 15 years. I can see why people could make those types of comments, but the reality is my motivation and willpower are probably not any better than those of the average person.

Like most people, if there is a lot of junk food sitting around at home I will feel tempted and probably eat some or maybe even a lot of whatever is around. Of course, to avoid this type of problem, I rarely have junk food around the house. This is a simple example of the secret to developing the willpower to succeed. The truth is that problems attributed to a lack of willpower generally have very little to do with willpower and are actually related to your environment and how well you prepare yourself for success. In other words, the better your preparation, the greater your willpower.

By not having junk food around the house, I prepare myself for success by not having the opportunity to make poor nutritional choices. It may seem as though I have the willpower to eat healthy most of the time, but this only happens because my environment is set up to ensure I make healthy eating choices. Since I am home most of the time, this means I have very few opportunities eat unhealthy foods. Of course, there are times when I don’t want to eat the foods I have at home, but since there are no other alternatives, I end up with something healthy and have essentially taken willpower out of the equation.

Naturally, this is easier to do if you spend most of your time at home in an environment you control, but it can be done almost anywhere. For instance, I used to work at a chain store that was surrounded by fast food restaurants, had a grocery store 2 doors down, and we sold junk food in the store. There were temptations all around me, but every day I brought 3 small meals and 48 ounces of water to work with me that I had previously prepared at home, often the night before. This ensured that no matter what happened during the day, I could eat healthy until I got back home.

I’ll admit this preparation did take a little effort, but this relatively small amount of effort resulted in always having something healthy to eat, so I never had to decide what I was going to eat when I was hungry. This is important, because people typically make unhealthy food choices when they are hungry or having food cravings. My success in sticking with my nutritional program did not come as a result of actively turning down bad foods around me, which would take more effort. Instead, all I had to do was choose to eat the foods I already had with me, which was much easier than seeking out healthy foods among numerous choices.

If I didn’t bring healthy foods to work with me, I would not have been able to stick to my nutritional program while I was at work. Am certain of this, because there were a few days when I forgot to bring my food with me and the food I ate those days was never as healthy as what I left at home. I strongly believe that if you don’t have any idea about what you are going to eat during the day and you try to decide what you want when you are hungry, you will probably run into problems and make unhealthily choices.

You don’t necessarily have to plan every specific detail of what and when you are going to eat, but you should know what your options will be during any given day. For example, if you know that there are no healthy sources of food around where you work, then you should bring healthy foods with you. Also, some business events happen at restaurants and you may be forced to eat at unhealthy places, but you still have some control over the situation. For instance, you can ask them to prepare a dish in a healthier way. Most restaurants are happy to accommodate any reasonable request.

The point I want to make is that you have the ability to create an environment that will help you succeed, but you have to take an active role in planning your day and not just react to different situations as they occur. Many people feel as though they are a slave to their schedule, but there are always at least some things you can do to shape your environment to support a healthy lifestyle. When it comes down to it, you are responsible for how you plan your day as well as the choices you make during the day.

If you buy unhealthy or fattening foods that you know you have a hard time resisting and keep them around the house on a regular basis, that is a choice you are making. If those foods are in your house you will probably eat them and that is a problem not caused by a lack of willpower. The problem is buying the unhealthy foods in the first place, which can be avoided by planning what you will buy and making the conscious decision not to buy unhealthy foods that you have a hard time resisting. If you need to, make a list of what you will buy before you go to the store and promise yourself not to buy anything that’s not on the list.

When it comes to eating healthy and consistently sticking to your nutritional program, whether at home, work, or anywhere else, it’s up to you to be prepared for whatever situations you encounter. Of course, you don’t have to eat perfectly all of the time and you can certainly take the occasional meals off and just enjoy some tasty food, but ideally these meals will have some preparation as well.

If you know you are going out to eat on a certain day and don’t want to think about eating healthy, that’s no problem, as long as you keep your overall calorie consumption within reason (no 1000+ calorie meals). However, if you know you will be bad on a certain day, it means you should make even more of an effort to be good on the days around the day you know you will eat unhealthy. People often use unhealthy meals as a springboard to worse eating behaviors. Just remember that an occasional unhealthy meal isn’t too bad, but consistently eating unhealthy will bring any progress to a halt.

Being able to consistently eat healthy may seem like an impossible task, but it can be done if you take the time to plan around your schedule and prepare meals in advance to ensure you can eat healthy throughout the day. I will be the first to admit this planning and preparation does take a little time and effort, but it always takes effort and generally some sacrifice to develop a healthy body. Fortunately, over time it becomes much easier to consistently eat healthy, but you have to work on planning and developing good eating habits first.

Eating healthy can be a challenge and there are always unhealthy foods you may want to eat more than the foods you should eat, but adequate preparation will make things much easier. Give it a try and see how it works. You don’t have to plan your entire eating schedule right away, but a good place to start is by planning and preparing for the time of day when you tend to have the unhealthiest eating habits.

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About Ross Harrison 14 Articles

Hi, my name is Ross Harrison and I am a personal trainer in Austin, TX. I have been a certified personal trainer (NSCA) since 1996 and I am also a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), nutritional consultant, and I have completed numerous other courses and certifications over the years. I also have a degree in psychology from Grinnell College. Over the course of my career I have been an independent personal trainer working with  clients in their homes or various other locations, as well as a trainer at a large gym. I also have experience working in a privately owned health food store  and a large chain supplement store.

After almost a decade in the health and fitness industry, I became frustrated and discouraged by the way many personal trainers and gyms were so focused on making money, even at the expense of their client’s success. As a result, I decided the only way for me to feel good about being a personal trainer would be to start my own business. That way I could create my own policies and make sure I stayed true to what I believe a personal trainer should  be. Then in 2005, I did just that when I started my personal training business called Precision Health & Fitness.

I chose to name my business Precision Health & Fitness, because it accurately reflects the approach I take as a personal trainer. I believe personal training should be completely focused on the client and since every person is different, every program should be precisely designed to reflect that individual’s specific goals, needs, abilities, and lifestyle. I know many
personal trainers say this, but more and more trainers are just repeating the same programs with numerous clients or using tools, such as computer programs,  to self-generate “custom” workouts or nutritional programs for their clients. In my mind these are examples of mass-produced training programs, not personal training.

I also feel that many conventional personal training practices, such as making clients sign contracts, not allowing refunds for purchased sessions, and even paying by the hour, ultimately take the focus off the client’s needs. Therefore, I made the conscious decision to stay away from any policy or practice that I felt detracted from focusing on my clients, even though other people have told me I am limiting my income or discounting the value of my services too much.

For example, my clients pay session prices instead of an hourly rate. This may not sound like a big difference, but it means I can spend more time with my clients when they need it. Many of the people I work with are just starting to exercise or have never been taught proper exercise technique. By having a set time limit on my sessions, I can take the extra time to ensure my clients learning to perform exercises correctly. This not only ensures their safety, but also leads to more effective workouts and better long-term results. Of course, if a client has a set schedule or a limited amount of time, then I will make sure the workouts I create fit those time constraints.

Another benefit of not having timed sessions is it gives clients the opportunity to talk or ask questions about health and fitness or their workout routine. I have never been a big fan of trainers who take the “do it because I said so” approach to health and fitness. I encourage clients to ask questions and I believe that becoming more educated about exercise and nutrition and
learning how your actions affect your results is an important component of health and fitness programs. By making a link between your actions and your results, it will help motivate you to stick to your  program.

This is just one example of how I my business is focused my clients, but there are also other ways Precision Health & Fitness stands out from other trainers and gyms. For instance, I do not have clients sign contracts and they are free to discontinue their training program at any time. I even let my clients determine their own payment plan, which they can change at any time.
Some clients pay for a number of sessions in advance, some pay after each session, and some pay after they have completed a number of sessions. It is all about trying to make things as easy and convenient for my clients as  possible.

That is not to say the workouts themselves are easy, because every workout is designed to be challenging, so it will create a stimulus for improvement. At the same time, I never design workouts that are designed to make  people stiff and sore for a week or have trouble walking up stairs. I know some  people like those workouts because they think the harder they work, the better  their results will be, but that is only true up to a point. It is definitely  possible to exercise too hard or too much and excessively challenging workouts  are almost always counterproductive over the long-run.

When you really think about it, shouldn’t long-term health and fitness improvements be the goal of a personal training program? I believe that it certainly is, although I know there are people who would disagree with me. However, for the people who just want to push themselves as hard as possible regardless of the long-term consequences, there is not shortage of personal trainers who are willing to do just that. My background and personal experiences  have made me believe that long-term health and success should never be sacrificed for short-term gain and that is the philosophy I apply to my personal  training programs.

Speaking of my background and personal experiences, exercise and nutrition have both been very important parts of my life since I was young. When  I was seven, I developed a serious hip infection that destroyed the femur head  (ball that connects to the hip) in my right leg and left me with a fused right  hip. At the time I was told there was almost no chance that I would ever
walk again, but by working hard and keeping up with my exercises, I was able to regain the ability to walk and eventually allowed to play most sports and participate in almost any other activity I wanted.

However, even with continued exercise, I still experienced hip pain that increased over the years. Then when I was 30 I was finally old enough to get a total hip replacement, which resulted in an almost complete reduction in my pain, but I was also left with a new set of restrictions. Since hip replacements  wear out over time, it means the more stress I put on my hip by doing things  like playing sports or running, the sooner I will need a new hip replacement.  Needless to say, my activities have drastically changed since my hip replacement  and I no longer play sports, but I still exercise regularly to remain healthy  and stay in shape.

As for nutrition, it has played an equally important role in my life. When I was younger, I had very unhealthy eating habits, was overweight (or husky  as my clothes were called), constantly felt run down, and got sick frequently.  By the time I was 18 I was trying to eat healthier, but I had already caused my  body and immune system enough distress to be hospitalized for
pneumonia and I  developed a bad case of ulcerative colitis, which is an incurable intestinal  condition where treatment involves just trying to keep it in remission. Simply  put, I had a lot of health issues for a teenager.

Fortunately for me, I became more educated about nutrition and I made eating healthier a priority in my life. My improvements were not immediate, but over time my energy level increased and my immune system improved to the point where I rarely ever get sick anymore. Also I have been able to keep my ulcerative issues to a minimum just by eating healthy (it is generally kept in remission through medication) and by working on managing my stress level. Due to  my improved nutritional habits, I can easily say that I am far healthier and feel much better in my mid 30’s than I ever did as a teenager.

The reason I included all this information is because it explains what motivates me as a trainer and why I care so much about health and fitness. My personal history has also shaped my training philosophy and it is the reason why I always focus on the long-term outcome of a training program, instead just thinking about short-term improvement. It is also why I try to get people to shift their priority from what they can do to look better and think more about what they can do to make their body feel better throughout their lifetime.

If you eat healthy, exercise properly, and do other things that make your body feel better, you will be doing the same things you need to make your body look better. On the other hand, if your sole focus is on making your body look better, it does guarantee that your training program will make your body feel better years down the road. Workout programs that cause you to perform
exercises incorrectly, use poor posture, or develop muscle imbalances can still result in you looking better, but they can also lead to premature muscle and joint aches and pains years later.

It is completely natural to be focus on the present and the immediate future, but people frequently do not think enough about how they want their body  to feel in 20 or 30 years down the road, at least not until they start developing some health related problems. Personal training success is often measured my how much weight is lost or how much muscle is gained, but I believe that is not the best way to think about success. Even if you lose fat, if you are frequently sore or in pain, I would not consider that to be successful, except maybe if you are a competitive athlete or someone who is required to push  your body to the limit.

Personal training and health and fitness in general, should be about creating a better overall quality of life and not only about looking better. Of course, looking better is almost always a primary goal, but it should not the only focus of a program. I know from first hand experience how much of a positive impact a well-designed exercise and nutrition program can have on virtually every aspect of your life. All too often, people accept aches and pains as normal consequences of aging, but in most cases you can make a significant improvement in how you feel.

I want to leave you with a final thought, regardless of your current situation, you are capable of improvement and you probably capable of achieving much more than you might think. I wish you success in all your health and  fitness endeavors and please contact me at ross@precisionhealth-fitness.com  or (512) 537-3377 if you have any comments or questions.

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