One could make a biblical analogy here – something about an apple and a he-said she-said about who bit what – but when it comes to having the discipline to stick to resolutions, we often run into difficulty. And that slippery fish called willpower can be, well, slippery. As John Ortberg wrote, “Willpower is trying very hard not to do something you want to do very much.”
Queendom assessed 230 men and women’s level of willpower on their road to a healthy lifestyle. For everything from food to exercise, we attempted to determine which of the two groups were more likely to stick to their health resolutions, particularly in the face of temptation…delicious, lazy temptation. Queendom’s study reveals that men outscored women on willpower 65 to 61 (on a scale from 0 to 100). Women however, seemed to be prepared for defeat, as only 46% of them rated their willpower as “good,” compared to 61% of men. Other tidbits from our study:
- 19% of women said that their discipline is rock solid…that they almost never give in to temptation. 70% admitted that their discipline tends to fluctuate, where some days they are “good,” other days they are “bad.” On the men’s side, 33% stated they their discipline is rock solid, while 60% admitted to having some ups and downs.
- 26% of women admitted that they would temporarily break their resolution to eat healthier and opt for comfort food if they went through a stressful week at work, while 18% of men would do this. 40% of men would look for healthier ways to reduce their stress, compared to 24% of women.
- If pressured by a friend to “pig out” (after eating healthy for an entire week), 7% of women would totally give in, 46% would only share some of their friend’s junk food, and 47% would stay disciplined and eat healthy. For men, 8% would give in, 41% would share, and 51% would stay disciplined.
- 65% of women said that they would be willing to join a gym by themselves, compared to 79% of men.
- After being given a strict boot camp workout by a trainer, 23% of women said they would stick to it faithfully, 62% said they would reduce the intensity and exercise at a slower pace, and 14% said they would cut the workout by half, and put in less of an effort. 49% of men said they would stick to it, 41% said they would reduce the intensity, 10% said they would cut their workout by half.
- When asked whether they can name 3 things that motivate them to work hard and be a better person, 54% of women had a clear set of motivators compared to 61% of men.
- 57% of women said that their motivation to be healthier involves a mix of aesthetic reasons (to look good) and health reasons (to feel better). 36% cited strictly health reasons, while 7% said they just want to look good. 41% of men are motivated by a mix of aesthetic and health reasons, 53% strictly for health reasons, and 6% strictly for aesthetic reasons.
Basically, this information tells us that neither men nor women totally embrace change, especially when it comes to altering so-called “bad” habits. Women did seem to struggle more than men did (don’t judge…we love our comfort food!), but in my opinion, as long as we keep getting up after falling off the bandwagon, that’s really all that matters.
Here are some tips to help you keep those health-related resolutions:
- Remember, exercise does NOT need to be extreme. It’s the sweat-inducing, high-intensity exercise that often discourages people. The bottom line is, the best exercise routine is one that you’ll stick to. So if you find that you need to drag yourself to the gym or your treadmill at home, it’s time for a change in your routine. There are many exercise options that are fun and can help you stay fit, like swimming, belly dancing, spinning, kickboxing, nature walks, and step classes. You can also look into the latest advances in interactive video games. And remember, start small. Begin with 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week, and then add a day and 10 additional minutes every 3-4 weeks.
- Find a supportive weight loss buddy. Whether it’s someone in your life now, or someone you meet online on a weight loss website, find someone you can share your weight loss journey with and offer each other mutual support. This isn’t to say that you can’t lose weight alone, but it’s always great to have someone to turn to when you feel your motivation faltering.
- Learn to identify when you are really hungry. One critical component to ending a cycle of emotional eating is re-learning to recognize your body’s signals for hunger and satiety. This innate response has been lost on a lot of people! Try not to eat according to the clock or because other people are eating. That stage when your stomach first starts to rumble should be your cue – just don’t wait until your absolutely famished.
- Stock up on healthy food. According to a study by London researchers, the only difference between emotional eaters and non-emotional eaters isn’t the quantity of food they eat, it’s the quality. Emotional eaters are more likely to eat fattening, high-calorie food. Keep healthy but delicious snacks in your house. You’ll be less likely to want to indulge if you have to go out and get something or go through the hassle of ordering in.
- You don’t have to give up your favorite foods! Just eat them less often. This doesn’t mean spending an entire day binging on your beloved chocolate cake, or having nothing but fast food. It means eating healthy most of the time, and allowing a moderate indulgence for one meal. Weight loss author Tom Venuto recommends a “90/10 compliance rule,” where 90% of your meals are healthy, and the remaining 10% are your “free meals” (rather than “cheat meals”).
- Accept that change takes time. Years of unhealthy habits (physical, physiological, and emotional) are not going to be erased overnight. Hard to hear, but it’s true. The good news is, 30 days is all you need for new, healthy habits to stick. Once you get used to going to the gym on a frequent basis, it’ll actually feel weird not to go! Breaking unhealthy food addictions will also be so much easier if given time to take root. After a while, the cravings won’t be as strong. Bottom line: give yourself time to change. And remember, falling off the bandwagon isn’t a big deal! Just get back up again and keep going.
How is your willpower? Do you have any tips? Share your comments below!
Join me for next week’s discussion attachment styles!