Self-Control Secrets - Tips To Overcome Diet and
is one of the most sought after yet least understood aspects within
our fitness culture. We all strive for it and we all want more of
it. Many people blame a lack of self-control as the reason why they
can't stick to a diet or exercise program.
I too have struggled with self-control through much of my fitness
career. I also learned that I would lose control just when I thought
I had it all figured out. Just when I thought I had an iron clad
grip on my diet and exercise program I would binge on junk food
and skip workouts for days on end.
This would then result in a stronger resolve to improve my self-control
and never lose that control again. I would be fine for a while only
to then lose control once more and the whole cycle would keep repeating
itself. Such a cycle can be a very draining and frustrating experience.
You work so hard for so long only to somehow have it slip through
your fingers and send you back a few paces.
This cycle takes up time, money, resources and not to mention the
pride and confidence that is essential towards achieving your fitness
goals. The good news is that it is possible to achieve a very high
level of self-control. It is possible to break the cycle and instead
of going around and around in endless revolutions, you keep progressing
year after year.
How To Harness The Power of Self-control
The first thing you must learn is the purpose of self-control.
I know on the surface it may seem like self-control is about not
eating that candy bar or getting to the gym on time. But there is
a much deeper reason why we believe we need self-control.
The heart of self-control centers on the myth that you have to
control your own self to succeed in reaching your fitness goals.
This can bring up the image that we humans are an out of control
and unruly bunch of animals by nature. Therefore our animal tendencies
must be controlled or else we will all turn into fat and lazy slobs.
This sort of thinking is what drives the You vs Yourself mentality
in our fitness culture. So many folks claim that we are our own
worst enemy or that you must defeat yourself to win. I couldn't
disagree more with this idea. The fact of the matter is that getting
in shape isn't about fighting yourself. If anything, that's the
most certain road to failure.
Just imagine what happens when an army fights itself or when a
board of directors fight themselves within the same business. Such
self conflict causes a lot of stress and wasted energy that drags
down the very folks who are trying to win. As they say, you can't
hold a man down without staying down with them. As I always say,
you cannot fight yourself and win.
of the failures within our fitness culture can be directly linked
to someone fighting themselves. In fact, most folks who fail to
reach their goals do so because they are fighting their own self.
Unfortunately, our fitness culture is largely based upon the idea
that you need to fight yourself. Our media and advertisers take
dead aim at the notion that something is not right with you and
thus something must be wrong with you. Therefore you need to fight
these aspects of yourself like a demon that possesses your soul.
If people can convince you that you have to fight yourself then
they can convince you that you need some sort of help. You'll need
to buy some sort of product to fight your inner self that wants
to do nothing but sit on the couch and eat junk food. So the natural
course of action is to recommend following a program or plan that
goes against that "evil self" and you must exert self-control
in order to control yourself and stick to the program.
It makes sense in practice. We do have cravings for chocolate cake
after all. We all feel like skipping out on a workout from time
to time. We all feel the desire to give into that evil self that
must be controlled. The great mistake is in believing that the desire
to stray is coming from within our own self.
Here is an example for what I'm talking about. Get down on the
floor and start doing some push ups. Keep doing them even though
your muscles burn and your breathing may become labored. As your
body starts to protest, just keep going. Keep fighting all the way
until your absolute breaking point. After you collapse on the floor,
rest for a few minutes and then do just a few more pushups once
you've regained some strength.
The purpose of this exercise is to teach you that you're not the
one supplying the challenge. As your body grew tired and weary,
you were not fighting yourself. You were fighting fatigue! I know
this because after you rested a bit and did just a few more push
ups, you were able to do them a whole lot easier. You were the same
person both when you were struggling and when the pushups were easy.
Nothing about you was actually different except for the level of
fatigue brought on by the exercise.
The key to winning the battle for a fit body is in understanding
exactly what adversary you need to fight. Imagine the army fighting
itself. As it's fighting within its ranks, the other country just
comes right in and contours the territory. If the army stopped fighting
itself and fought the invading army, they would have won. Instead,
they spent too much effort fighting itself and they were easy pickings.
The same thing happens when we fight ourselves. We talk negatively
to ourselves and beat ourselves down. We use a lot of effort to
struggle within ourselves and meanwhile the forces around us blow
our behaviors around like a trash can in a hurricane.
Know what you should really be fighting against! Don't fight yourself
while working out. Fight distractions, boredom, fatigue and poor
technique. When you crave the chocolate cake, you're not fighting
that "evil self" that wants the cake. You're fighting
hunger, stress, boredom, deprivation and anxiety. These are not
things that are coming from you. They are simply reactions you have
towards external elements. They are not a reason to fight your self.
believe real self-control isn't about being in control of your self.
It's about your self being in control. This sort of idea often gets
confused with obedience. When someone follows a strict diet or exercise
program to the letter, they are being obedient. They are not fully
in control because the program they are on is calling the shots.
Let's say you want to be a race car driver. You have little sense
of control and all you want to do is just put the pedal to the floor
and go as fast as possible. So on your first day out you hit the
gas and drive right off the track and crash. Obviously you were
not in control! So you hear about a safe driving program and you
go take it. After all you don't want to crash and burn any more
In this program, Dr. Nevagonnacrash talks about the evils of speed
and how even walking into a tree at 5mph can cause significant injury.
He talks about how the brake pedal is more important than the gas
and how using it more will improve your chances of safety. So during
the next day on the track the start light goes green and you hit
the brake. You just sit there pressing that brake pedal as hard
as you can. You may feel like you're in control. You feel safe and
secure. But you're not really in control. You're just obeying an
ideal that someone else imparted upon you.
You know something isn't right. You don't want to just sit there
and mash the brake but what can you do? If you let go of the brake
and hit the gas you're going to fly right into the wall. So now
you're fighting yourself. You're conflicted between your desire
for speed and the desire to stay safe. You believe you must choose
between either flying at top speed or staying on the brake. One
offers safety and security but it doesn't satisfy the desire for
speed. The other satisfies the desire for speed but there is no
This is the You vs. Yourself cycle that so many people can become
trapped in for years all the while believing they are struggling
for self-control. The reality is that the struggle will never end
because neither side is true self-control. One is unrestrained action
and the other is a self imposed prison. Neither is an option that
places you in complete control.
The solution of course is to drive the car with skill and timing.
Apply the brake when it's time to brake and hit the gas when it's
time to go. Through practice and time you'll learn just the right
time and the right amount of pressure to put on each. When you need
to restrain more you restrain more and when you want to release
more you release more. That is real self-control my friend. That
is when you are calling your own shots and making your own calls.
You don't need to control your self because your self is in control
and it's doing a great job.
Of course such self-control isn't a black and white issue. It will
take time and practice to know just how much you should and should
not do. Most of all, no one else on earth can know exactly what
you should and should not be doing. I don't know your body or your
life in the necessary detail you do. I don't know if having a cookie
after dinner is the right call to make or not. Only you can know
that through time and practice.
Sure you'll make mistakes along the way. Sometimes you'll give
it a little more gas than you should have. Other times you may be
too conservative with the brake. It's okay. This is how you learn
to stop fighting yourself and you learn to trust yourself instead.
For there are plenty of challenges you'll face on your path to a
fitter body. Those challenges are a hell of a lot easier to face
when your self is in control and you are your own best ally instead
of your biggest adversary.