Most of us believe we don’t have enough willpower. In the American Psychological Association’s annual surveys on stress, people regularly cite lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through on changes that would improve their lives. And willpower is a limited resource (just like fuel in your gas tank). Study after study shows 1) we deplete our willpower reserves as we call upon them and 2) we call upon willpower constantly. Well, shit.
Every act of willpower draws on the same tank of gas, leaving us with less to expend on the next self-control challenge. And we exert willpower dozens of times a day, when we repress an impulse (say, to curse the driver who cut us off) and filter out distractions like the construction racket outside our office. It takes willpower to control thoughts and feelings and stay alert during a long meeting. What’s more, the same energy used for self-control is spent in making decisions, even inconsequential ones. You expend willpower when pondering which yogurt to buy from among 40 varieties offered. Willpower is not a cheap resource. Exerting self-control is one of the brain’s most energy-expensive tasks, sapping more blood sugar, or glucose, than memory or language chores. Double shit.
When it comes to energy expenditure, one defense against a willpower scarcity is to avoid glucose dips. So it's important to maintain stable blood sugar with a diet of low-glycemic foods such as non-starchy veggies, fruit, nuts, beans and whole-grain products. Eating well plays a major factor in your ability to exercise willpower!
Reducing the number of "withdrawals" can also keep you from burning out. Simple actions like owning less clothing to reduce your choice of what to wear each morning. Or laying out your workout clothes the night before. Paring down the number of decisions you need to make in a day will help keep your reserves at an optimal level. Another willpowering-conserving technique is using "if-then" thinking that sets up a mental plan to deal with probable temptation. "If they serve cake, then I'll stick with fruit." Or you can use this same thinking to pre-commit to goals. "When the alarm goes off at 6am, I'll get into the clothes I laid out the night before and head to the gym." The idea behind this strategy is to make as many behaviours as possible automatic.
Studies have also shown that you can actually cultivate the gray matter needed for self-discipline (a.k.a. building a bigger gas tank). Meditation and physical exercise are two simple ways to train your brain and it's decision-making centres to make a better choice in the moment. Meditation trains your brain to let go of thoughts which in turn leads to a better ability to set aside temptation in other areas of your life. Lastly, willpower also has a spillover effect. If you practice self-control in one area, you’ll probably experience improved self-discipline in others. Hooray!
While you may be desperately wanting to create something new for your life (I am constantly working toward the things I want in my life - i.e. goals), the question you may need to ask yourself is, are you willing to do what it takes to get it? Leverage some of the strategies here to flex that willpower, build it up, and get yourself moving consistently toward your goals!
You may already be employing my 4 Strategies to Handle The Long Weekend Like a Boss - all of those are still recommended. For some specifics on this weekend, read on.
Look ahead. How many brunches, dinners, parties etc. do you have planned this weekend? Knowing what you're in for is the first step. Get your mind right about when and where your meals are taking place so you can work with it. If you're having turkey dinners on Sunday and Monday this weekend, consider making a lighter lunch and dinner at home on Friday night and Saturday. If you're traveling and will be eating out a lot, use the ol' Google machine and look up some places that have the kinds of foods you like and that fit with your usual healthy eating, and suggest these places for your lunches/dinners out.
Chip in. Can you offer to bring a healthy version of a traditional dish to the festivities? You'll feel good about contributing and not showing up empty-handed, and you'll know what's in at least some of your food.
Location, location, location. If I stand anywhere near a buffet of appetizers and treats, it is guaranteed I will take down way too much food before we even get to our actual meal. Remove yourself from temptation, and pick a spot farther than arms-reach to park yourself to socialize before sitting down for dinner.
Choose wisely. Guess what? Turkey and all the fixins aren't necessarily bad for you. It's the amount you eat that gets people feeling sluggish and regretful once they awake from their tryptophan and sugar induced coma. Quality over quantity my friends! Try taking a little bit of everything OR lots of the healthier options available, but take only what you need to feel full. This is not rocket science, you eat every day, you'll figure it out.
Pace yourself. One thing's for sure, you're eating this weekend. So take your time to enjoy every last bite of what you have put on your plate. Eating slowly is good for you. Put your fork down between bites, and actually have a conversation with a friend or family member without talking with your mouth full. Take a sip of wine between bites. Give thanks for the fact that you can actually take this time sit down and eat a meal with your people. Soak it all in. It's a holiday weekend, so let yourself relax and enjoy it.
Happy Thanksgiving y'all!
Let's talk about your actual plate, when you sit down to eat. I believe that eating well and eating to fuel yourself for all your life endeavours is important. I also believe that it's one of the more difficult things to do, and building habits around food are some of the toughest because you NEED food. You will likely eat every day, at least 3-5 times, which makes for way more opportunity to misstep. The good news is that same opportunity is also a chance to build a new healthy habit (yay!). One of the foundational habits in Precision Nutrition Coaching is EAT SLOWLY. Yep, that's it, eat slowly. It's so simple that anyone can do it, and you can always come back to it.
Notice here there is no mention of what to eat slowly, just eat whatever you would normally eat, at a slower pace. Eating slowly will have you actually tasting your food, which leads to higher satiety (satisfaction), and enjoyment of your meal. Which leads me to the next reason to eat slowly: relaxation. Mindfully slowing down to eat will help you relax and will aid in the digestion of whatever you are eating because your stress levels will be reduced, and your body and guts love a manageable stress level. Lastly, slowing down to eat typically results in noticing when you are actually full and when your food needs have been met. If you are eating more slowly and are more relaxed, you will be able to listen more closely to your body and be less likely to overeat.
Each time you eat today, take a few extra minutes to just pause.
Put the fork or spoon or whatever is in your hand down between each bite. Breathe.
Swallow your food completely before picking up your utensils and going in for another bite.
When you take a bite, notice and enjoy the taste and texture of your food.
Put down those utensils again, take another breath or a sip of water.
Wait a few more moments before picking up your utensils again.
Use a timer: This may sound like overkill, but it's worth a try! Eat at your normal pace and time yourself. Note how long a typical meal takes for you to eat. At your next meal, follow the above slow-eating steps and try to add a minute or more to your meal time. Even if you only take an extra minute or two, that is progress!
Eliminate distractions: Eating while working at your computer or watching TV or youtube videos is a great way to eat quickly and unconsciously. By eliminating distractions, you are better setting yourself up to slow down and taste and enjoy your food.
Drink water: Pour yourself a glass of water before you sit down to eat. Try to take a sip of water between every bite. This is a sure way to slow your meal down.
Have a good week and slow your roll, son.
I headed for the mountains and stayed in Banff's iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It's a magical place that is a giant castle with everything you could ever need and the best best best damn service I've ever experienced. There were dozens of great little hiding places to get some work done, huddle up with a good book, or just enjoy the view with a glass of wine. Here's how it went down.
Headed out from Calgary around 3:45pm on Friday. Stopped in Canmore to pick up my fave Pad Thai (no egg, no tofu, add chicken and extra veggies thankyouverymuch) from Communitea to-go (for consumption along with my Pinot Grigio upon arrival at the hotel). Also made a quick pit stop at the best candy store on earth (as far as I know) on Banff Ave. to indulge in some of my fave 5 centers over the weekend (hot lips and blue whales anyone?).
Arrived at the castle around 6pm to check in and head to my room for the big Pad Thai take down. Poured myself [a couple] glasses of wine and answered a few e-mails before heading to the pool for a soak in the hot tub and a float on a foam noodle in the outdoor pool to Spanish guitar music (heaven). A long luxurious hot shower with only the best complimentary soaps, lotions, and potions from Le Labo - one of my favourite scent/candle brands (très fancy). A couple [more] glasses of wine and a facial mask (cue laughter from my closest friends) before How to Get Away with Murder and bed. Day 1 complete.
Day 2 (the one I was most excited for). Slept in til a whopping 8:30am (thank you blackout curtains!), got dressed and headed for the epic buffet breakfast at the Bow Valley Grill. Even if you never stay at the hotel, the trip for the breakfast/brunch on a weekend is worth the trip, trust me. Crushed some bennies, fruit & granola and all the good breakfast things. Then out the door for a quick hike up Tunnel Mountain where mother nature treated me to a beautiful rainbow and ridiculously beautiful views of fall trees, rivers, and the surrounding mountains. It always astonishes me how getting outside in the fresh air and moving opens up perspective and widens the lens on things. Needless to say I basically floated the whole way back down the mountain, cheesing everyone I passed.
Back to the hotel to sit in a quiet lounge area by the fire and do some vision and goal setting for MAVEN (and myself), and plan for the next phases of programming and offerings (stay tuned!). As an introvert, this was the ideal setting for clearing space for new ideas, looking for some inspiration among peers online, and getting creative about how I can elevate what MAVEN can be for all the wonderful people it touches. After some trickle backs, scheduling, and to-do list writing, I was ready for my spa time. A little rub down followed by lunch in one of the stunning lounges had me saying "uhhhhh, na na na na."
Headed to my room to check in with bestie who was coming to meet me for dinner and sleepover shenanigans. I read Amy Schumer's new book (LOVE btw) by the fireplace while I waited for her to arrive. We ate sushi in between belly laughs and solved the worlds problems while soaking in the mineral pools at the spa. My bestie is also an ex-athlete like me, and soon-to-be naturopathic doctor so we will def be jamming on some collaborations in the future! We planted the seeds while drinking wine out of our Swell bottles in a spa at a fancy hotel if that gives you any indication of what kind of fun we will have in store for you.
We moved the party to the Rundle lounge for further wine and giggles, where we were abruptly approached by a gentleman I will call Trevor who thought we were with his party. Even though we weren't with him, when we called him over to chat again later in the evening, he full roundhoused (as in the gymnastic move) from one side of the room over to us without hesitation. Night made. To top it all off, I was inspired to attempt some roundhouses myself (in the middle of the fancy bar at the fancy hotel), and it turns out I can still do them and even gained some wedding-partygoers as fans. We eventually made our way back to the room, and en route found a room-service cart that we rode up and down the hallways like drunk college girls before finally retiring with our candy and popcorn in bed. Shout outs to Thomas the room-service delivery boy who we completely embarrassed, you held it together well.
Day 3. That's right, we didn't stop there. Semi-hungover buffet breakfast was the bomb.com on Sunday. Once we were human again via the magical powers of coffee and french toast, we walked around the hotel gardens and even visited the spot where my husband proposed :). Then we hit the road to Canmore for a lovely little hike around town with our chai lattes from Beamers and finished off the day with yet another Pad Thai to just bookend the whole weekend with noodley goodness. On the drive home we talked about our cheating college exes and how young and naive we once were and how we would never ever put up with that shit now (don't mess, we tough). Long drive conversations are one of my most cherished things in life. They often draw out larger perspective, big ideas and honesty in the most natural way. So if you want to know all my most embarrassing moments and life dreams, invite me on your next road trip.
So why the eff did I write this post? Like, it's not even about training or nutrition or health, and did she say candy AND wine?! I shared this weekend's adventures to inspire you to give yourself permission to do things for yourself every now and then. Carve out time for what you need, when you need it. Do your work your way. Get out of your same ol' routine and see what arises. The reality is, the laundry and groceries can [usually] wait, someone you know can step in to support you in taking some time off, and you will thank yourself for doing it. Period.
Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even this year, but is there something out there on the horizon that is calling to you? Is there something you know would feel just so damn good and help you reset and move forward more clearly? What is your version of my mountain getaway? Now go do it.