Sugar and the Myth of Magical Willpower
People often tell me, “Wow. You have amazing willpower,” or, “I wish I could be as strong as you around sweets.”
You can. It’s not beyond you. In fact, the power is in you right now. You just don’t know it. Or you refuse to accept the responsibility.
It’s much easier to say, “The ice cream made me eat it.”
When people ask how I manage to stay off sugar they don’t want to hear that I just do it. They want to learn the secret, hear about a magic pill, or find out that there’s some kind of special physical technique that involves pressure points.
What is so unusual about a person setting out to do something and then doing it? It happens all the time.
If you decide you’re going to move from the east side to the west and you do it, people don’t say, “Wow, you have amazing willpower.” They certainly could. Moving is a huge endeavor. You have to find a place, pack up the old one, say goodbye to friends and family and embrace a whole new lifestyle in the new location. That takes will and power.
What stops you from simply not showing up to work everyday? It’s not willpower. It is outside factors that influence your behavior.
If a dog can not attack a cat or can balance a hot dog on its nose without giving in, then there must be a reason, right? We don’t think that the dogs were imbued with a magical, god-given sense of willpower. In fact we know that there must be an external force influencing the dog. The dogs in these photos must care more about how their owners would react to their behavior than they care to eat or attack. When nobody is looking we could expect the dog to eat up the hot dog in an instant. He’d probably eat the whole package if it were available. People are quite the same.
When you’re alone and there’s a box of your favorite sweets staring at you, there are no external forces to stop you from eating. On the flip side, if you’ve given up eating sugar it can often be external forces that inspire (or pressure) you into eating the junk. Either way it’s up to you.
It all comes down to a matter of choice. The next time you find yourself choosing between sweets or no sweets, take a good hard look at the external factors that surround your decision. If you don’t deal with the external forces in your life you will always have a hard time changing your sweet and sugary habits. No wonder we end up doing the same thing over and over and over.
For more information on this subject, read Where’s Your Willpower? by Casey Schwartz. It’s an article about the myth of willpower and dieting.