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Self Control Isn’t Working Anymore

Full disclosure, I hate reading self-help books. In my 670 library I think there are only 4 such books. That all said this post was spurred on from such a book.

As many may know I’ve been on a health journey for more than a few years now. And to say I’ve been taking the seismic route is just a polite way of saying “five steps forward four steps back”.

Self control has been my main method all this time, despite reading, more than once, willpower is a finite resource. And it’s true, least for me. As the day goes on it gets harder and harder to saying no to the temptations all around.

So if will power and self-control aren’t the answer what is? That’s kinda where I am just now, working out what the solution is, and why I’ve been reading this book; Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy.

According to his book

A lot of the basic research in psychology says that your willpower is essentially an exhaustive resource,


It’s not unlimited; it runs out very fast.

Since that matches my experience I can relate, and that’s probably the only reason I keep reading.

Hardy goes on to say our behaviors are out sourced to our environment. His premise is most things are addictions, either for types of food or simply short-term rewards.

It sounded strange to me at first but the more I think about it the more it makes some sense. I know when crave sugar and sweets I’m at work. At home it never crosses my mind. Over the weekend my diet, for the most part, is better. Far from perfect but better all the same.

Where are my problem areas

Sat-Sun I don’t feel the need to eat breakfast at all. Mon-Fri I wake up and no matter how hard I tell my self to have the Weetabix I go for the peanut butter on toast.

I get to work and there’s a constant barrage of sweets, baskets and crisps all around. So I’m ether saying no to people offering them or no to myself wanting them.

On a good day I make it to lunch time but after that I don’t seem able to say no anymore, on a bad day – and I have more bad day than good. Today I haven’t make it till 11am before I’m eating anything that comes within eye shot.

So what should I do?

Hardy talks about removing temptation from your environment. If you’ve got temptation all around you’ll be relying on self-control all day, and when it runs out the inevitable ensues.

Now for the hard part, how do you alter your environment when the work canteen is your trigger?

To be honest, I’m not sure but I have ideas.

At work the temptation is the canteen, and the plan there is not to bring more than £2 to work on any given day. While I’ll still have enough for a bottle of water or chewing gum if needed. If want give much room for junk food.

As for the team, well that’s more tricky. I’ve spoken to the guy whose always offering me stuff but I don’t see him stopping. He’s doing it on instinct and thinks he’s being polite. At best all I can expect on that front is he’ll start offer something then remember and make a big fuss about offering when he was asked not too. But I’m not sitting here looking at the sweetie tin anymore so that’s a bonus.

At home I think the biggest problem is the will power to cook and stick to a meal plan. I don’t want to waste the money, or food, on a week shop full of great meals if when it comes down the cooking I don’t fancy any of them.

As for evening snacking on crisps and chocolate, trying to talk myself out of them isn’t working. But if the house is (mostly) chocolate, Pringle and Doritos free I want to go looking for them. I can take or leave any other type of crisps so their not a temptation. How I go about walking round Morrison’s and stop myself from buying them in the first place is a challenge!

Finally take aways! I don’t know how to say no. I’ve tried every time and despite my best intentions I keep hear the word “yes please” coming out my mouth, I’ve no idea how it got there. Or I start with no and change it too yes, ether way the voice in my head is screaming “why? You know you wont enjoy it afterwards”

It’s not that I have them that bothers me, its possibly that we’re having them too often or having them cause we can’t be bothered cooking anything else. So maybe setting it aside as a treat will change the way I think about having a take-away – less of a cheat or copout and more of a decision.

Nothing is so simple

With the most obvious temptation, if not taken care of at least planned for. I would need to think of other areas where I fall short.

Another thing Hardy talks a lot about is journalling.

Recording your history is a crucial component of journal writing. It provides context to your ideas, goals and plans.

From my previous journalling sessions I know I can benefit from this too. I’ve just got to work out how to structure it into my day so it doesn’t become a chore, instead becoming what its supposed to be; a chance to reflect and refocus.

What are your temptations? Use the comments below to tell me about your what temps you and drains your will power

Stuart McCulloch Anderson

For over a decade and a half Stuart has been in love with all things science fiction or technology and for almost fourteen of those years his operating system of choice has been one breed of Linux or another and despite some brief trips back into the world of Windows Stuart has never found him self wanting anything else.

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