Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is Your Will Keeping You From Losing Weight?

One of the topics that's been turning over and over in my head is the notion of will or willpower vs. discipline.

All dieters at some point talk about an increased need for willpower or discipline to help them in their weight loss quest.

But I had a revelation about this recently. I've come to realize that not understanding the difference between willpower and discipline is preceisely what hems up a lot of people who sincerely want to make a change in their weight/health/fitness.

In fact, not having clarity on this difference impacts the ability of people to accomplish just about any goal in life. (Boy, I wish I'd gotten this revelation about 20 years ago!)

Roget's Thesaurus classifies "willpower" under the main topic of "decision". It defines willpower as "unwavering firmness of character, action, or will". Synonyms include determination, discipline, drive, grit, self-control, decidedness, resoluteness, resolve, toughness, will.

I love Roget's Thesaurus but on this one, they've got it only partially right.

Unfortunately, just as many of us do, Roget's is intermingling two completely different terms.

Will and willpower are not the same as discipline.

When I look up "discipline", there are all kinds of references to punishment. We'll ignore those because there's nothing healthy about perceiving activities to increase one's health and fitness as "punishment".

But other definitions include:
  • training to act in accordance with rules
  • the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.
  • behavior and order maintained by training and control
  • to train by instruction and exercise
  • to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control
What it all boils down to is this: having the will or willpower to do something simple deals with your desire. What do I want? What would I like to have? What do I envision for myself?

The truth is most dieters have willpower, or the desire to lose weight, in leaps and bounds. We overdose on willpower. We never stop wanting to lose weight, not even when we're plunging our hands into a bag of extra large potato chips sure to add a few lbs to our hips or when we're salivating over the buffet table for our second or third plate of food despite having a full stomach or when we're laying on our butts watching exercise shows on TV and thinking about all the exercise we should be doing.

We've got will. For some folks, the will is weak and they never do more than think about what they desire. For others of us, it's strong enough to push us into action.

So we start a new diet or a new exercise program or some other activity designed to help us lose weight.

But is our willpower, our desire, strong enough to keep us doing what we know we need to do to get the job done and the pounds to come off?

Nope. It's only strong enough to keep us adding to our personal lists of "new starts". We try something for a little while. When we start out, we're excited. This time will be different! We're going to finally achieve our goal!

But then, a little while later, we take stock of ourselves and realize we've slacked off or given up all together. We still desire to lose weight but something happened to knock us off course.

Remember all those New Year's resolutions?

Because we still have a strong desire, we then decide it must have been the program or regimen we tried. Yes, it worked for others but since it didn't work for us, something must be wrong with it. It's just not the right thing for us.

So we find another program and the cycle starts all over again.

Don't get me wrong. All diet and exercise regimens are not created equal. Some are in fact dangerous while others seem to provide minimal results at best.

Bottomline, there is one thing takes us from desire to result. It's not education or knowledge. It's not the support of family and friends. It's not even the ideal environment, be that a paid-in-full gym membership, an in-home personal trainer, a personal chef, a spa retreat, or any other things that we dream about, wrongly believing "if I only had..."

That one thing is discipline.

In the next couple of days, we'll examine the concept of discipline and how to develop it in order to push our health and fitness routines over the top.


Peace & Blessings,


Chicki said...

So true! Most perpetual dieters know more about nutrition and exercise than the average person, but haven't had the DISCIPLINE to put all of that knowledge to work.

Also, I think we tend to get weary quickly and let things slip after a certain period of time.

Hang in there with me, girl. I need the encouragement.

Patricia W. said...

Wow! I didn't realize how long this post was when I wrote it.

But I had a lot I needed to say.

Hang in there with me, Chicki. We're going to get each other thru this!