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What is the secret to willpower?

You can still resist temptations. It takes more willpower to resist temptations.

It’s one thing to set your environment up for healthy habits. But helping your conscious mind make the right decisions to promote health is another. There are some key points that often get overlooked in the story of willpower being key to our dietary success.

Why can’t I will anything?

First, energy regulation cannot be controlled by us. We regulate our appetite to regulate how much energy/fuel we consume. The hypothalamus, which is located in the reptile brain, controls all of this. A brain that is intuitively aware of what it needs, and doesn’t have to think about it, is vital for our survival on this planet. Our appetite hormones are not controlled by us. The brain will adjust our appetite hormones on a subtle level. Your genetics will also determine how you see the differences in the appetites of different people.

Research has shown that participants who are told that a milkshake has different calories will have different levels of Berlin. The appetite hormone Gherlin was 3-fold higher in those who were told that the milkshake was low-calorie. This is primal stuff and not conscious. Your primal brain cannot be outthought.

Why is dieting so difficult?

Add to that the chronic under-fuelling that calorie restriction causes and primal signals dig even deeper.

While the slimming club may tell you to continue or work harder, your body will fight back. It’s possible that you are binging or feeling like you’re losing the fight with the biscuit tin. It’s not that you are failing, it’s your body protecting your survival.

A slimming club that relies on weight to measure progress will eventually find its strategy flawed. Because the scale won’t accept math that someone has done on their calculator. Because the human body is smarter than any mathematical equation or app, especially when it comes to ensuring our survival.

What can you do to increase your willpower?

When we talk about willpower, we are actually referring to our ability to make human choices that are in our best interest. Our pre-frontal cortex, which is the human part of our brain that drives willpower, is the main driver.

We can pause, take a deep breath and think rationally about the things that our future selves will be grateful for. It is also easier to understand our needs. Sometimes, that need is food. Other times it might not be. But we must tune in to find out.

Lack of sleep or stress can also cause primal instincts. It is worth addressing these issues rather than just starting a new diet.

Self-compassion is something that the human brain can cultivate. This is the part that allows us to think about our thoughts.

Our primal brain is there to protect us and do what it believes is best for us. We shouldn’t be harsh on ourselves. Our human brain can guide us if we take a moment to pause. It can warn us if there is a threat and reduce cortisol levels. This will help us make better choices for our survival.

You can be more compassionate and less judgmental about the reasons we make certain food or lifestyle choices. To come up with a new plan, we need to think critically and solve problems. We can’t stay ‘judges’ and engage the human brain to its full potential.

A word of caution: If you aren’t getting enough fuel, you will feel primal. This is because you have a fundamental need that is not being met and should be on alert. Cortisol levels are also increased by diet, which makes us feel stressed and triggers the primal response to take control.

We are told to keep going and not to stop. Be tough on yourself to encourage you to work harder. I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and allow your brain to make the best decisions for you.

You can learn more about how to tune into your body and create a relationship that is healthy for you by visiting the online programs I support people.



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