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Guest Post | How to Boost Your Willpower With These 3 Steps

April 19, 2018

This week we have Lucy Hayhurst, a Licensed and Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and the owner of Well Balanced Nutrition on the blog. She’s discussing how willpower is related to our health and what we can be doing to boost our willpower in three easy steps. While she specifically relates these steps to our health, these tips on willpower can be applied to many more situations. Read more below!

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Lucy Hayhurst Guest Post


Have you ever thought to yourself ‘If only I had more willpower, then I could be healthy and lose weight?’

If so, you’re not alone. At Well Balanced Nutrition, Kristen and I talk to many people who assume they are weak and that’s why they haven’t been able to stop going to Chick-fil-A after work or stop eating after one handful of mixed nuts… instead of half the container.

To better understand willpower, we need to start with the understanding that willpower is an unreliable resource affected by the number of decisions we’ve made, temptations we face, and even the mood we are in. We explain willpower as a tank. It’s dependent on the quality of fuel we put in and how we are driving – in other words our lifestyle choices and eating habits. Maintaining steady blood-glucose levels by eating regular healthy meals and snacks, may help prevent the effects of willpower depletion.

For instance, if someone arrives to work without eating breakfast and finds themselves at a meeting with free biscuits they are more likely to grab the free food. On the flip side, another coworker who routinely eats a Well-Balanced breakfast consisting of an egg sandwich and an apple is less likely to feel tempted by the same biscuits.

We can keep the willpower tank full by:

  1.  Setting cruise control/autopilot: creating healthy attainable habits and not relying on willpower alone to achieve your goals.
  2. Selecting high-quality fuel: including a positive self-image and attitude, as well as, incorporating good nutrition.
  3. Avoid rough roads that use more fuel: with the right motivation, you can persevere even when your willpower strength has been depleted.

Food for thought

Sometimes willpower is the tool you need in the moment. More often, we need to find another way to make healthy choices.

When do you notice yourself using willpower? Take this quiz to find out where you stand with willpower and get additional strategies for making the healthier choice more often.

What happens when willpower runs low

Before going out to for Italian food with friends, Lisa thought she would order the baked chicken parmesan with a salad. Once at the restaurant, hungry and exhausted from an overwhelming workweek, she ordered the ooey gooey cheesy lasagna and ate it all. Then, Lisa woke up the next morning two pounds heavier and feeling shame and guilt wash over her. If you found yourself relying on willpower to make your healthy food choices you may have had a similar experience.

This article, by the American Psychological Association, reviews the concept of the willpower tank. At the beginning of each day, most of us wake up feeling confident and determined today’s the day I’m going to be healthy! As we go throughout the day making thousands of decisions and using our mental and physical energy, our tank may get depleted. That is when you find yourself craving something crunchy, salty or sweet around 3 PM (or if you’re like me it’s at 9 PM). Either way, we know willpower is not the solution to living a healthy Well-Balanced life.

3 steps to keep your tank full

  1. Notice when you’re relying on willpower. Recognize that little voice in your head saying; no, I won’t eat the free bagels in the break room today. Yep, that is good old willpower going to work for you. There is some evidence that states, I won’t statements deplete our willpower more rapidly. First, notice when you are denying yourself something that your brain is craving. Kristen describes it as riding the crave wave. It is okay because most cravings pass.
  2. Replace ‘I won’t’ with ‘I want.’ Once you’ve noticed the I won’t, you can start to change your thoughts to include ‘I want [something better that will help me reach my goals].’ For instance, if your brain saying I won’t eat the leftover cake that someone brought to work, instead, I want my delicious egg muffins and fruit smoothie, because it gives me the energy I need to do my job. Or simply I want to eat Well-Balanced and I know those donuts will just lead me to a sugar crash and make me feel awful later.
  3. Create a new normal – aka automation. Research claims up to 95% of all we do is subconscious. Think about the last time you took a shower. Did you stop and think ‘now I pour the soap, now I wash my hair, now I shave my legs…’ Unlikely! It just happens, right? Same goes for food. Our brains are designed to keep us alive, not help us reach our ultimate health and well-being. When the brain senses energy-dense foods, like cheese and French fries, it sends signals to keep eating in case you experience scarcity or famine. Setting up healthier habits, such as packing a sandwich with baby carrots and an orange for lunch instead of relying on whatever you can find near the office will take away the task of making another decision.

About the Author

Lucy Hayhurst is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and the owner of Well Balanced Nutrition. It’s her mission to improve lives by teaching, empowering, and connecting people one wellness adventure at a time.

Lucy combines her enthusiasm for fitness and playing in nature with her love for nutritious food and the result is a fun and interactive adventure for her clients. Lucy can light up a room and inspire a crowd. In addition to individual counseling, she enjoys opportunities to speak on wellness for large and small groups.

When not at work, you’ll find her walking in the woods, practicing yoga and meditation, making new friends, and helping in her community. She enjoys the many state and national parks in NC and loves a great backpacking adventure. You can find Well Balanced NNutritionon Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.



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