“I can’t lose fat, because my will power sucks!” As a nutrition coach I hear this pretty often. In fact it’s a very common statement. Is it true?
First, have you heard about the ‘Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’?
It was a series of studies on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards (i.e., a larger later reward) if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. (The reward was sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel.)
Mischel gave 10 children a marshmallow and gave them two options:
Option 1) Eat the marshmallow.
Option 2) Save the marshmallow and when I return I’ll give you a extra marshmallow, at that point you can have both.
So, when Mischel left the room and returned 15 minutes later, what do you think happened?
To simplify the results: 7 out of the 10 children could not resist temptation and ate the marshmallow before he returned. The average time between the sound of the door closing and the first bite of marshmallow was less than three minutes.
Some of the kids couldn’t even wait 30 seconds…
There were other outcomes of the experiment and a follow up as well. For the purpose of this post I just want to point out that will power is one unreliable partner.
As adults some of us display more will power than others. Some areas are easy for us, and some … not so much. “Why am I able to get up at the crack of dawn every day to go to work, but cannot for the life of me pass by that bowl of sweets at the office? My will power sucks!”
My will power is one unreliable partner!
Your will power does not suck. It is not your fault. It’s not lack of education about nutrition, for sure. You read the blogs, you watch YouTube videos. It is simply the lack of SKILLS needed to accomplish the goal.
When you want to learn to play a guitar, do you watch the ‘how to’ video and you are immediately transformed into Eric Clapton? Of course, not! It takes a crazy amount of time to learn how to read music, place your fingers on the right strings in the correct formation. Then there is the callous building process on your fingertips. It takes time, dedication, and r-e-p-e-t-i-t-i-o-n to play the guitar naturally and effortlessly.
The way I do it with my clients at Raw Fitness is:
– we establish the goal together
– we break it down into skills needed to achieve it
– we break down the skills into daily practices (habits)
– we give each habit two weeks to practice
– then we add another one on top of the first habit
and so on… you see where I’m going with this? Even though our brain knows what we need to do in order to achieve our goal, our bodies transform by practicing. And that takes time.
Good news is you don’t have to spend tons of time. You do something similar to what the strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline calls “Greasing the Groove”. The underlying principle is to train as often as possible while being as fresh as possible. Using this principle you can train yourself to perform 100 pushups or chin-ups, etc. You can get really strong!
You can get strong and skillful with your nutrition by taking opportunities during the day by putting your daily habits to practice. As a result, you reach your goal. Will you fail along the way? You bet. But you WILL get back up and keep going. Especially when you have a strong support team by your side. Whether it’s your coach, family members, fellow gym-goers. If you are 80% consistent, you are still moving ahead.
At the end you become the Eric Clapton of your own nutrition!