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Before I get into the proper content of this journal, I wanted to share my results of my first Cheat Day. After a healthy, Slow-Carb breakfast, I ended up eating a ton of Burger King, Pizza Hut, and other junk throughout the day for a whopping total of 6,032 calories--over 3 times what MyFitnessPal recommends as my daily intake. My starting weight yesterday morning was 266.5 lbs. I weighed myself this morning to discover a grand total of 268.0 lbs, and body measurements showed no real change in size or body fat between yesterday and today. So, I DID gain a little, but not nearly as much as I suspect I would have had I not followed the protocols I outlined in yesterday's journal. I'm still only 3 pounds shy of my DietBet goal, and I still have until mid-April to get there, so I'm far from concerned. Now! Onto today's topic:

Path to Health - Day 7: The Myths of Willpower

You'll remember on Day 3, I talked about The CHEEP Way to understand behavior, listing the top 5 most common explanations to why we do what we do. And you'll also note that willpower is conspicuously not on that list. How many times have you told yourself, "Man, if I just had the willpower, I would exercise more!" or "I just need the willpower to quit eating crap"? We put WAAAY too much stock in willpower without understanding just how limiting it truly is. We look at highly successful people in life and think, "Man, they must have a ton of willpower to accomplish such things!"

But reality couldn't be further from the truth. The top performers in the world don't get born lucky with extra willpower than the rest of us, and people who lose weight didn't accidentally trip over a secret spring of willpower, either. In fact, willpower is a highly finite resource, just like your daily energy. And just like your normal working energy, your willpower generally gets replenished when you sleep a solid 6-8 hours.

Think of willpower as if you started each day with $100. We'll call this Willpower Money, and label it as $100W. Now, for breakfast, you're faced with a decision of eating something healthy like a spinach and tomato omelet with a fruit cup, or some donuts and chocolate milk. Making this decision costs you Willpower Money: the healthy breakfast costs you $25W, and the unhealthy breakfast costs $0W--it's a freebie, because you'd be caving into what you immediately want. When you're faced with a decision where instant gratification is one of the choices, you can think of that option as costing $0W.

But for this illustration, let's say you choose the healthy option and spend your $25W. Now you've only got $75W left to make it through the rest of the day (and yes, these are numbers I'm pulling completely out of my ass, but it's to make a point, so follow along). Lunchtime comes, and a bunch of your friends at work want to go out to the local fast food joint--which happens to have some of your favorite food--to eat, and they're pressuring you to come along. Or you could stay in the office, alone, missing out on the company of your friends, and find something healthier to eat. This is a heavier decision, because you want the fun, delicious food AND the company of your friends, so to resist is going to cost you $55W.

You politely turn down your friends and enjoy a grilled chicken salad by yourself, with only $20W left for the rest of the day. Fast forward to dinnertime, and your family is pestering you to order pizza for dinner. You love your family and hate saying "no" to them. You feel outvoted by them. You justify pizza by telling yourself how well you ate earlier today. And besides, you don't even know whether or not you'd have to drive to the grocery store just to pick up ingredients to cook dinner because you need to take stock of your kitchen's current stores. Plus there's cleaning up afterwards if you would really just be so much easier...

...But the reality is that you don't have the $60W to resist this temptation, put your foot down, and make a healthy dinner for the whole household--you've only got $20W left because what you spent for breakfast and lunch. You cave.

And this doesn't even begin to factor in all the other decisions you have to make throughout the day, such as whether or not to exercise, decisions you have to make related to your job, whether or not to buy that new smartphone you've been eying for the last month, and whatever else is going on in your life. All these are decisions that require some of that Willpower Money, meaning less and less to spend on decisions to eat healthy.

So willpower alone isn't enough. If you've been guilty of making poor decisions (and who hasn't?), don't beat yourself up over not having enough willpower. Tomorrow, I'll start explaining some tactics you can use to set yourself up for success instead of failure by following what we've learned about behavior through The CHEEP Way. Stay tuned.