Picking up my diploma for my PhD in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition was a great moment because this achievement required over 10 years of college education along with a lot of self-discipline and willpower. And it got me thinking about something I want to tell you…one thing we know is that when it comes to creating healthier habits, simply relying on willpower is not effective.
The reason for this is pretty clear if you think about how we live. We’ve got so many obligations in life that we’re constantly having to tend to; our emotional bank for willing ourselves to do stuff is pretty tapped out. And this is even more extreme for firefighters; you’re regularly sacrificing sleep, meals, and physical and emotional strain for the benefit of others. Especially at the end of that 24 or 48 hour shift, your will to go out of your way to exercise and eat healthy is likely drained.
The key to overcoming this issue is not having to go out of your way. Rather, implement strategies or systems so that healthy habits are a part of your life that you don’t have to will yourself to do. Here are a few examples from my own life. Contrary to popular belief, I do not love to exercise; I mostly do it because I know how good it is for me. So, every term at Oregon State University I request to teach a group exercise class in addition to my Exercise Science courses. That way it’s a part of my schedule, I don’t have a choice to skip it, and I’m motivated to be there because I’m getting paid. I also make sure that I teach a form of exercise that I like (and don’t hate), which is another important strategy. There’s more about that topic in this blog post.
A second strategy of mine is I learned to cook well. That way, I can easily make healthy food taste delicious, so I don’t have to try and use willpower each and every meal in order to eat healthy.
My husband signs himself up for a soccer league year round. Since he likes to play soccer, and he’s paying to play, he knows he’ll be motivated to go, rather than having to force himself to get in that workout.
Maybe you need to get realistic about your strategies. If you’re constantly skipping your workout or eating crap, maybe you need to reconsider your system. Are you always having to rely on willpower, or are healthy habits automatic and easy? It just takes a little thought and strategizing.
If you already do have healthy habits, think about what strategies you have in place and share them. You could really help someone else!
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