The formation of habits is subtle. Day by day we may consciously or unconsciously move in directions that help or hinder our progress. Over time however, these choices become so much a part of who we are that trying to stray from them or change them becomes painful and seemingly impossible. Changing bad habits or creating new ones takes lots of practice. A big part of habit formation is willpower. The great news is that you can strengthen your willpower muscle just as you can build your strength in your physical muscles. In Duhigg’s book “Habit”, he talks about ways to build willpower. Here are my takeaways and how they can be applied to someone wanting to change over to a ketogenic diet:
Takeaway #1: Willpower has to be practiced.
Like learning anything, if you want to be good at it you have to constantly practice. Same thing goes for willpower. If you consistently practice delaying gratification, you can strengthen your willpower muscles.
How to apply it: Pick something related to your health goals that you are not doing that you would like to do. Start small or go big. Challenge yourself to do this thing regularly. For example, you may challenge yourself to cut your carbs to under 50 grams total carbs per day to start, then drop it to 40 grams, then 30 grams. Or you may commit to a month long challenge of restricting certain foods that you may suspect are negatively affecting your health. A workout challenge may require you to do a workout before you allow yourself to check social media in the morning.
Takeaway #2: Set up the habits requiring more discipline for earlier in the day.
As the day goes on, it becomes harder to flex your willpower muscles. If you pick multiple things that require you to be disciplined throughout the day, you may find it harder to stay committed as the day wears on. With this in mind, do the most important task requiring willpower early in the day.
How to apply it: If you are trying to restrict calories, consider intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting requires you to shorten your eating window, so you are may only be eating 1-2 meals per day. For one example you might fast until noon and save your calories for lunch and dinner. This may be easier to stick to then trying to eat less food over the course of three meals. You are using more discipline during the morning hours, when it is easier and eating later in the day, when restricting foods may be more difficult to do.
Takeaway #3: Be ready for worst-case scenarios.
If you are prepared for when the unplanned challenges occur, you will be more likely to stick to your goals. Finding yourself without well thought out options leaves you unprepared and more likely to succumb to temptations.
How to apply it: Plan out what you will eat for the day or even better, the week. Enter it into My Fitness Pal or Cronometer at the start of the day or beginning of the week. If someone brings donuts or a cake to work, or tempts you with eating out for lunch, you will already have your plan ready to go, and that should help you say, “No thank you!” with confidence.
These are just some takeaways from the book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. If you would like to read it for yourself, you can get it here.
Image: By fujikumo – http://f.hatena.ne.jp/fujikumo/20080606192311, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4214991