Willpower vs. Rules

3 Jun

I don’t have willpower. There I said it, my big secret is out. I used to have it, or did I? I think what I had was a list of rules I followed and mistook that for willpower. They are eerily close and yet so not the same thing.

Willpower is when you can just say no when somebody offers you something you really really really want but shouldn’t have. Willpower is also when you can say “ok, I’ll just have one” and actually mean it. So, for example, someone puts a platter of your favourite dessert in front of you (say, lemon tarts), a person with willpower can go “no thanks, I’m ok” and mean it! They could also say “yeah sure, thanks, I’ll have one” and mean that too! They don’t go sneaking around and snagging a second, then a third, then a fourth, eating them guiltily when no one is watching. They can set a limit and stick with it.

Someone with rules has a set list of rules in their head in regards to food that they follow come hell or high water. This person, when offered the lemon tarts might say “no thanks, I can’t” then snag one (or some) when there is no one around to catch them. Or they might respond with “sure, screw the diet today!”, take two to start with and end up eating who knows how many by the end. Or! They might say “no” and end up eating something else later when they won’t get caught to make up for the missed treat. The other option of course, for the person with the rules is to say “nope, can’t thanks” and actually stick with it.

This is where the confusion between the two begins because outsiders mistake the saying “no” and sticking with it as willpower when really it was just the person sticking to their self-imposed rules.

Why do I think the saying no and sticking with it is different in those two cases? Because the person with willpower could say yes and eat just one whereas the person who is following rules can’t stop at one – they can’t say “yes” without going overboard with what they eat, they don’t have the willpower to stop. Only the rules keep them in line and if the rules are thrown out the window chaos ensues.

Maybe I am the only one who sees the difference?

The reason I see the difference is because while I was following Weight Watchers I got a lot of comments from people about my willpower, how it was so great, so strong, yadda yadda yadda. At the time I didn’t think about it, I think I usually responded with comments about how anybody can do it if I can type of thing because deep down I felt uncomfie with the term. I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable, I just did.

Lately though I think I partially figured it out…

I didn’t have willpower when I followed Weight Watchers, I had rules, rules they made up and I followed. As much as I hate following rules I chose to follow those ones, and having made that decision I followed them to the best I was able. Sure I had slip ups, mistakes with calculating my points, unexpected events that had me using flex points I wasn’t intending on using, days I forgot my lunch at home when I went to work so I had to buy something, things like that but I’d say that is fairly normal, and things like that didn’t happen all that often, shrug.

When I plateaued with Weight Watchers I didn’t know where to go, I was lost. For all that they had taught me portion control and I now had an idea of what the layout of my plate should be (half veggies, 1/4 protein, 1/4 carb if wanted) I still had no clue what I was doing. The rules had stopped working for me and I couldn’t survive without them, they were my beacon and it got turned off and I was left in the dark, on a dingy, slowly drifting farther and farther from shore. That plateau was the beginning of a screwy chunk of time for me food wise.

I stopped eating as much vegg and fruit as I used to, I didn’t make sure to get protein everyday. I started going all over the board with no rhyme or reason. Last summer a friend put me on a new track, a super strict track, a track with not many rules but the rules that were there were hard core. Everyone was surprised and impressed when I not only started following the plan but succeeding at it. Cutting out so many things seemed impractical but in my head I figured follow the plan until I get the final results I want then slowly incorporate some of the restricted foods back in to my eating plan as treats. I can do anything if I know it won’t be forever.

The super strict plan did work, I never got quite as small or as toned as I wanted but I got stronger, and there were changes, and I liked the changes.

Then life happened lol.

A severe restructuring of my schedule (I got a job!) messed with the super strict plan I was on, I started breaking from the eating plan more and more, and missing more and more gym days until I couldn’t say I followed any plan except an eat-whatever-I-choose-and-don’t-regularly-exercise-plan. During all this I was dragon boating, getting in to a relationship, moving, breaking up, and dealing with all the other random shit life throws at ya. *shakes fist at life* ๐Ÿ˜‰

I kept trying to get back on that super strict plan but it just isn’t livable, doable, manageable for a long period of time if you have my job/life/schedule. Or at least I never found a way to make it doable. And voila! My rules were gone. I had nothing in my head saying “don’t eat the dessert”, nothing stopping me from eating carbs (holy hell had I missed carbs!), nothing preventing me from ordering pizza multiple times in a month! I’m so disgusted with myself when I think of how off course I got…although, I suppose “off course” is the wrong term, I wasn’t on a course/eating plan anymore, I was left alone, drifting in that stupid dingy again with even less clue of how to get back. Because now I had failed twice over. Failed at Weight Watchers. Failed at the super strict plan my friend introduced me to.


But now I am trying a new way of thinking. I didn’t fail, not at Weight Watchers, I lost 35 freakin pounds on that plan! Sure, I plateaued and they couldn’t help me anymore but losing 35 pounds is not a failure! I find I have to keep reminding myself of that…I also have to keep reminding myself that I have kept that weight off, even with all my problems since then those 35 pounds stayed away, that’s not a failure, right? (although to be honest, I haven’t weighed myself in a loooooong time and I think I may have gained a couple pounds but all my clothes still fit and look good so it can’t be that much of a weight gain) And sure, I fell off the wagon with the super strict plan, but it was never meant to be a long long term plan, and sure, I’ve never been able to get myself back on it, but some healthy things I learned from it stuck with me. Like cutting out the carbs, and increasing my protein, and eating as little processed food as possible…things like that.

What I need to find is a balance, an eating plan I can stick with, that is healthy, that has reasonable rules. But! I need it to be flexible enough that when someone offers me a lemon tart I can start building up my willpower and say “no” because I don’t want it, and actually stick with the “no” and not be saying “no” because of rules I am following. I have to learn to create my own boundaries around what to eat and what not to eat, I need to learn to make my own rules and use those rules like training wheels while I build up my willpower. Does that even make sense? Probably not…

Regardless of if it makes sense to you, I have started coming up with an eating plan that is balanced, healthy, and manageable with my schedule. I can’t afford to go grocery shopping till Friday so I won’t be implementing the plan until I have bought groceries buuuuut I can modify what I already have to follow as close as I can the eating plan I am coming up with. Creating my own rules to help me build up my willpower.

With a plan in place this just might be doable! Yah! ๐Ÿ™‚

2 Responses to “Willpower vs. Rules”

  1. sarahmadeovermeal June 5, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I’ve recently hit a plateau with Weight Watchers and it’s freaking annoying. I’m following the rules but I’ve seen the same number for 6 weeks and it sucks. I’m just sticking to the rules because I’m optimistic that eventually I’ll pass the plateau.

    • shrinkingwmn June 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

      I had the same number on the scale for something like 4 months, it broke me, lol, just couldn’t take it anymore! It’s one thing to follow all the rules and see results, even if the results are slow in coming, but to work the program and get nothing in return? Nuh-uh, it was too hard. Good luck with getting through the plateau! I’ll cross my fingers for you it ends soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

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