Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Getting Healthy -- Finding Will Power

(The track at our gym)

The comment I hear from people more often than I can count is, “I can’t do what you do I don’t have the will power.”  Sadly these people actually mean this and that is the worst part of this.  I hear it so often that I decided that I needed to write something about it particularly this time of year when everyone is struggling to make healthy changes.

What is will power? 

Merriam-Webster defines will power as “energetic determination”.  However I prefer the definition at which says will power is “The strength of will to carry out one's decisions, wishes, or plans”.  When you look at will power as your ability to do what you need to do to make your dreams come true it seems far less daunting doesn’t it?

(I see change as climbing out of our old habits to a new wonderful vantage point on life)

How do you get will power?

Now this is one of my favorite questions because the answer is simple.  You get will power simply by deciding to do something.  Yes will power, or motivation whichever label you prefer to call it, is a choice. Will power isn’t something magical it is nothing more than a decision that you follow through on.  For example let’s say that you want to lose weight this year.  Are you sure?  If you are certain that this is important to you and you remind yourself that is important with each decision you make then now you have will power.  I know you are thinking it isn’t that easy.  However let me assure you it really is that easy.  Whenever I make food choices I ask myself, “what is the healthiest food option available that will satisfy me now?” and that is how I choose what I will eat in any moment.

What if you think you don’t have any will power?

My response to that is rubbish. Of course you have will power. Do you get up every morning and brush your teeth whether you feel like it or not?  Do you take a shower every day because you know that you should? Do you take out the trash when it is full?  Do you go to work even though you would prefer to stay home? See what I mean? There are some things that all of us do whether we feel like it or not and they all require will power.  Making healthy food choices is no different. Once you realize precisely why you need to change and how you need to change you will do it.

(One of chef Ian's special Veggie plates)

I have tried dieting before and fell off the wagon?

Whenever I hear someone say I tried to diet before but I couldn’t do it my response is that this is because you didn’t make the diet (or any behavioral change) important enough to you.  Now don’t get me wrong I am not a fan of diets because I think they don’t work because people see them as temporary.  However lifestyle changes I am all for those since they are permanent.  When someone comments on my diet I try to emphasis to them that I am not on a diet this is just how I live and I mean that.  I don’t think of how we eat as something that is temporary and I think that is the key to making it work. We don’t want to just be healthy today, this week or this month but rather we want to be as healthy as possible until we take our last breath.  It is similar to what I say to people when they ask me how long they have to eat healthy.  My answer is how long do you want to be healthy? When you stop doing things which are healthy (like eating right and exercising) this will lead to your health deteriorating.  You may not see it immediately but it is happening on a cellular level. Eventually those bad choices will make themselves seen either through chronic disease or weight gain.

Once you begin to see a new food plan as part of who you are it becomes easy.  For example when we go out I ask questions of the servers about what is in the food.  I make certain that the servers know that I don’t want any meat, milk, cheese, or eggs in my food.  When we were out in DC this weekend I very casually told the server that we were vegan.  Just to be certain he knew what that meant I asked specific questions about eggs and dairy where I thought they might be found in the items we were interested in trying.  When you are nice about your requests no one has a problem helping you.  The reason I say nice is that I have heard horror stories from server friends about other vegan customers being judgmental and calling meat murder and that isn’t going to make the server (who probably eats meat) want to help you.   I was a server in college and grad school and trust me they are in the back with your food. It pays to keep the servers on your good side in my opinion.

(Studies show that believing change is possible makes it more likely to happen)

How can I get motivated to change?

About now I can imagine some of you are saying well that is easy for you but I don’t have enough motivation to make it happen.  No one has been diagnosed with cancer at my house so I just can’t get motivated.  I am going to share an exercise that I give my clients to keep them pumped up and wanting to make healthy changes.

Get out a piece of paper and make a list of all the things you don’t like about being unhealthy/overweight. Don’t be shy here this is your list and no one will see it but you. What are the things that happen in your life that you don’t like?  Maybe you want to wear prettier clothes or you want to be able to play football with your boys.   Do you want to rock a bikini this summer and make the 20 something’s look flabby?  Possibly you just want to get back into a favorite piece of clothing.  Do you think that how you look is impacting your advancement at work?  Maybe you don’t want to be left out in social situations when all you fitter girlfriends are being hit on.   You could be like us and want to improve your health so that you can enjoy life as long as possible.  Whatever bothers you about being your current size and physical condition write it down.  Focus on making your list as extensive as you can. Nothing is too small to be included on your list.

Now I want you to imagine yourself as you would like to be. See yourself wearing something that you would love to wear.  Imagine yourself in any situation and how you would be behaving.  Do the issues that you listed above bother this new healthy you?   I bet the answer is that they don’t.

Which person do you want to be the one you imagined or the one you are now?  Keep this in mind when you are deciding what to eat.  Keep this in mind when you are choosing between the couch and putting on your running shoes.  When you remember your goal and why it matters then you will naturally make better choices.

(One of chef Ian's grilled veggie wraps with hummus that he makes specially for us)

I also suggest that my clients write down their goals in a specific way.   I make certain their goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).  By having SMART goals and tracking them you can tell where you are making progress and where you are falling short.  An example of a smart goal would be:  I will be eating 6 servings of vegetables every day (specific, measurable and attainable) by the last day of January (timely). This goal would make sense if you currently eat 4 servings then 6 is both attainable and realistic.  However if you are currently eating the SAD (standard American diet) of 1.5 produce servings per day then 6 is not realistic.  Does that make sense?

Now you need to figure out how to make changes so that you reach those goals.  Let’s assume your goal is to eat those 6 servings of vegetables and/or fruits per day.  First you have to know what a serving is which may take some research. Next produce has to be available for you to eat.  You will have to plan what produce you want to eat each day.  In order to get the 6 servings into your meals you should plan how you will do it.  For example will you have two servings with each meal? A meal plan and grocery list will be in order as will a trip to the grocery store.  Possibly you will want to prep the next day’s produce for your lunch the night before if you aren’t a morning person. Maybe you will decide to order a salad from place near your office.  Whatever you decide to do having a plan makes it happen.  Conversely not having a plan we all tend to naturally gravitate back to your old habits. 

I also want you think about all those things that are problem situations for you.  Using the same example of 6 servings of veggies per day I will give you some examples.  Maybe you have friends with unhealthy habits and all they want to do is go to the bar or pizza joint where you can’t find healthy food.  What can you do to change this? You could do a little research and find place that have both unhealthy and healthy offerings and start meeting your friends there. What if you significant other is the problem, now what? This can be trickier but also you have more leverage. This person should want what is best for you. By talking to them about what is important to you and why you want to change they may more easily support you than your friends.  The important thing is to list your problem situations so that you brainstorm solutions.

In conclusion changing any unhealthy habit is not magical it just takes a little thought and planning initially.  After a month or so your new habits will become routine and you won’t find them difficult or time consuming. However please be aware that initially making changes will seem like a lot of work.  That is because changing habits takes you out of your routine which requires thought. The good news is that once you change those new healthy habits also become very easy to maintain.  Trust on me on this one. I went from a very hedonist omnivore lifestyle to what you see now and I hardly give it a thought these days.  My healthy vegan life has just become what I do. It is part of who I am.

(homemade vegan mozzarella with garlic scape pesto)

Happy thoughts:
  1. What a good Monday I had.  I love having time to myself to relax.  Let’s hear a woo hoo for down time.  J  I am not sure why but being off or on vacation always means I need extra time to get back into my routine.  What is that all about?
  2. The 2.2 pounds that I gained eating out twice on Sunday are more than half gone.  While I know that this is mostly due to water retention it is still frustrating even for me.  I wanted everyone to know that this happens to everyone and it is normal.  The pounds will disappear once we get back into our healthy routine.  Momentary lapses from your normally healthy diet don’t have to derail your health.  The key is not to get too far away from your typical intake and don’t let the indulgence last long. On Sunday we had lunch at Zaytinya and dinner at Jaleo.  Both of our meals were vegan so we didn’t get far from our plan. However we did eat olive oil and salt and I had an adult beverage (Dan was good). Those three things were my indulgence for the day and they showed on the scale the following day.  However I bet all those pounds are gone by tomorrow.
  3. I am so psyched for the weekend. We are expecting the temperature to reach 67 on Sunday. You know we will outside enjoying the warmth. I can definitely see some marina time in my future.  *woo hoo*
  4. Today I am very thankful for my juicer (Omega 8006) since I seriously need the energy boost I get from green juice. When I don’t get a full 8 hours of sleep I am a bit of a zombie.  I shouldn’t leave out my other juicer (Omega VRT) which my hubby got me as an early Christmas present.  One of these will be living on the boat next season.  I am very fortunate to have them.  J  Let’s not forget the farmers’ market near the marina on Saturday.  Woo hoo for extremely fresh local produce to juice.  *happy dance*  BTW there really is a happy dance which my husband will attest to and I do it every day usually multiple times per day.  I hope you also find joy in the little things in life.
  5. Currently it is a little cool outside (50 degrees) which means I am grateful for veggie chili.  I put some in the pressure cooker a little while ago and am looking forward to having it in the refrigerator for Dan’s lunch for the next few days.  As usual I seasoned it with:  chipotle in adobo, cumin, espresso powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, oregano and smoked paprika.  Can’t you just imagine the aroma and flavor?  Delicious!  J  I just love well seasoned food. 

Signing out:

Thank goodness I wrote most of this Monday as I didn’t sleep well at all Monday night and Tuesday is busy for me.  This girl is dragging today.  Nothing will knock me down quite like lack of sleep.  :-P

Since I am dragging today I decided to start my morning with juice for the added energy.  Today I had kale, green apple, lemon, ginger and kiwi.  Boy was this stuff green.  :-)

I hope that you slept much better than I did and that your day is fantastic. Chat with you again soon. Ciao for now.  J


  1. GREAT post! This sums it up perfectly- I especially like comparing it to taking out the rubbish and brushing your teeth, I think this will really get through to people.
    I'm not sure if you'd be into it but I'd love to hear more about how you deal with (and enjoy?) making the best possible decisions at the time... I know this isn't rational but I have trouble allowing myself treats without the negative mindset creeping in and wanting to 'undo' it at the gym or it slipping out of my control and becoming a treat day rather than sharing one meal out etc.

    1. Good morning Claire,

      Thanks, I am so glad that you liked it. ;-)

      I love your idea of how to allow yourself to enjoy treats. That is a brilliant suggestion. I struggled with that for a while too so I know exactly why you are asking for the post. I will definitely write about how I do that very soon. Thank you so much for the idea! :-)

      Hope you have a wonderful day,

  2. All I can say is UGH!
    I woke up and I feel like a zombie.....blah
    I am getting my remicade today and last night I decided that I was nibbly so I ate some chickpea salad and I feel every bite of it...gross
    So, now I am attempting to get in tons of water so my veins will puff up and my stomach will calm down. I am grateful, do not get me wrong, it has been over a month past when I should have gotten my remicade. My body got all squanky on me in November and stayed that way all through till this past week.
    I think what you wrote about will power is true, and that alot of people will tell themselves that they cannot do something and so it becomes fact. We must always push ourselves to the limit to go forward and continue pushing, or we will never see the benefit of our own power. Now if I could just push myself out the front door into the cold everyday...LOL Soon that will happen too, as soon as I get a winter face mask!!! The bridge of my nose is too thin and the cold kills me!
    I hope your day begins and ends with a happy dance!

    1. Good morning Brandi!

      Plumping up those veins in a great idea. We do that here too before getting stuck. Wow a whole extra month longer since you last remicade. Go you! :-) Sounds like you are definitely doing what you need to do. We won't mention the chickpea salad. ;-)

      I agree with you completely on people telling themselves that they can't do something and then it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. It is so sad when that happens.

      I hear you on not getting out in the cold. Dan and I got neck gaiters, fleece headbands with built in ear coverings and hats for Xmas and I still don't go out when it is cold. I have become such a cold weather wuss. No one would believe that I grew up in the snow belt. LOL

      thanks sweetheart I hope you have many things to do the happy dance about at your house too,

  3. Love it. SMART goals is awesome and knowing that what seems like huge changes becomes routine makes such great sense. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks Matt!

      I appreciate you commenting and letting me know. If anyone had told me years ago that eating like this was easy I would have thought they were crazy. But it really does just become normal.

      Long story but I have taken a doctoral level course in goal setting. If you search goals and/or goal setting on my blog you will find another post on setting goals.

      chat with you soon,

  4. Another great post! I'm working on writing weekly menus and listing the things I need to do each night for the next day. Hopefully at some point it will become automatic, but for now having it written out is really helping.

    You had mentioned a while back that you would post about your electric pressure cooker, so I just wanted to mention that I would love that. We are using canned beans, and I know it would be so much better to use the dried ones (as you said in the previous post). I was looking at them online last night, and one thing I was wondering about was which size. It's just the two of us, and I'm trying to make smaller portions of things now so I don't lose things in the fridge. I got a smaller crockpot and food processor, and that's working out really well. I saw mostly the 6-quart pressure cooker online, and I don't have a feel for how small a portion I could make with that?

    1. Hi Statch,

      Thank you so much for letting me know. I am so glad you liked it. :-) Your menu idea should work well. Good planning. Love that!

      I use a Cuisinart which I think is 6.5 but could be 6 quart. For two of use that works out well. I wouldn't want one any smaller. You need to leave room in the cooker when you use it. This size allows you to make a pound of beans if you choose. When I do that I freeze half of them in 1 3/4 to 2 cup amounts which is equivalent to a 15 ounce can. Additionally you can always make less in your pressure cooker. I hope that helped you in case you want to buy something before my pressure cooker post.


  5. I'm definitely going to wait for your pressure cooker post! No pressure :->...


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