I'm a psychotherapist and wellness coach, and founder of The Calm & Happy Gut Solution. I specialise in gut directed hypnotherapy and CBT for IBS, helping my clients to beat their symptoms without restrictive diets or being medicated the rest of their lives.
Perhaps you can relate to this scenario.
It’s Sunday evening. You’re lying in bed ready to fall asleep and you’re thinking back through all the ‘bad’ food choices you’ve made this weekend.
You’re over squeezing yourself into your clothes every Monday, and you’re over feeling lethargic and full of brain fog.
So you make a promise to yourself. As you sink into the soft pillows, you decide that tomorrow is the day everything changes. This time will be different. This time you are going to kick this sugar habit for good. No more chocolate, no more biscuits, no more mid-morning muffins. This time you are going to conquer these cravings once and for all.
And as you drift off to sleep, you feel excited about this new promise and the promising new future waiting for you…
But there’s just one problem.
You’re (very likely) going to be relying on your willpower.
So if this is you, and you can relate to this all too common scenario, I want you to hold your horses for just a moment ok?
Because there are some things you need to know about willpower, and why relying on it to cut back or eliminate the sugar in your life may not be such a good idea.
In the beginning you feel unstoppable. You made a promise to yourself. You set a goal. You’re fired up and this time you are ready to make it happen.
But half a day goes by of saying no and resisting the sugar and you’re already struggling. Saying no all the time is HARD.
Your initial motivation is starting to wane. Why?
Because it takes consistent effort to restrain yourself. It uses up your mental mental.
You start to get frustrated.
And because you are so focused on saying no, it’s all you can think about. In fact when you are actively avoiding something, you tend to think of it a whole lot more than you did before you made the decision to avoid it.
The key therefore is to switch your mindset, and instead of motivating yourself to stop something, use your motivation aka willpower to start something.
Which leads me onto the second thing you need to know about using your willpower to curb your sugar cravings.
Here’s the thing about willpower, or will. It’s a lot better at helping you start something, as opposed to helping you stop something.
Too many people focus their energy on the things they don’t want, and on the things that they want to stop doing.
I want to stop eating chocolate…
I want to stop snacking between meals…
I want to to cut out the icecream after my evening meal…
Whilst that’s all well and good, let me ask you what you do want? If weren’t doing those things, what would you be doing instead?
How can you structure your day and your routine to support what you do want?
Harness that initial motivation and momentum, and use it to help you create new habits in your brain. Spend your energy moving in the direction you want to be travelling in and let your mind work with you.
Which leads us onto how your mind is actually structured.
You have two parts to your mind – your subconscious mind and your conscious mind.
Why is this important?
Because one of these is significantly more powerful than the other. In fact your subconcious mind is estimated to be 30,000 times more powerful than the conscious part of your mind.
And guess where your willpower comes from? Yep, the conscious part of your mind. This is also where your rational and logical thinking comes from, and is the part of your mind reading this post.
Your subconscious mind on the other hand controls your habits, emotions, long-term thinking, protective reactions and beliefs.
This is why emotions and feelings usually win out over logical thinking, and why willpower is only effective in the short term.
Relying on willpower is simply not the most effective way to change a deeply rooted habit or belief.
Your subconscious mind will generally overtake any of your efforts supported by mere will power alone. It’s simply not as powerful, and this is the reason why so many people fail to keep the promises they make to themselves.
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