It’s a common question I get: how to graciously decline the proudly presented delicacy, the traditional or long-labored sweet, the celebratory dessert. Like it or not, desserts are woven into our cultural doings and gatherings. As one reader put it recently, “I’ve been trying to go quasi-primal for about 6 months and have had very good results. A challenging situation that I’ve experienced is declining dessert offers from friends who LOVE to bake. How do I politely decline a chef’s generosity without offending them?”
I’ve been following the blog for a couple of months now and have been trying to get into a regular exercise routine like you describe. Unfortunately, I get some fitness momentum going and then lose my willpower once I hit stressful or busy times. I feel like it’s a game of two steps forward, one step back (at least). What do you say to someone who’s trying to hit a fitness stride but keeps backsliding? Do you have advice on how to boost willpower? Thanks!
Your question is a timely one. Much was made over a recent study (PDF) that demonstrated willpower as a limited resource. The crux was this: we have a finite amount of willpower in a day (so to speak), and when it’s used up, that’s it. In a given day we might defend against donut cravings at the office all morning, force ourselves to keep our head off the desk in an afternoon slump, resist the opportunity to chew out the neighbor for letting his dog poop on our lawn yet again, and make ourselves go out into the rain to set out recycling and put the kids’ bikes in the garage. Finally, we push ourselves to stay up late in order to finish a company project. Surely, we can be proud of our resolve, our diligence, our commitment to family, work and neighborhood accord. Nonetheless, we’ve left ourselves with neither the time nor remaining willpower to pick up the weight set. Too many tasks, too little energy and too much frustration have zapped our self-discipline, and the balance is zero when we go to direct some toward the day’s workout. The research says this: as much as we’d wish otherwise, we don’t have separate willpower accounts for different areas of life.
Anyone who’s ever followed the Primal eating plan for a significant length of time has probably made a few compromises along the way. If you live, work, or otherwise commiserate with regular folks, you’re bound to be exposed to grains, sugary desserts, and sodas, and austere abstinence can be difficult to maintain in these situations. It’s not even as if the food itself is necessarily tempting; it’s more accurate to say the social pressure to comply and dig in can be overwhelming. If your boss gets you a cake for your birthday, you’re probably going to have a piece regardless.
When you find yourself suddenly sitting in the dust, a bit dazed, a bit dirty, your confidence shaken and your pride a tad bruised, it can be disheartening. Is it your first trip off the wagon? Your umpteenth? As we enter the second half of our August Primal Challenge, this scenario might sound a little familiar to some of you out there. Anyone happen to be dusting off their britches right now?
Whether you took your tumble this weekend or the second day of the Challenge, the experience of falling off the wagon can be frustrating, humbling, and downright dispiriting. You had high hopes. You put time and sweat and maybe money into the endeavor. Perhaps you told people and felt embarrassed about admitting the setback. Particularly if you’ve found yourself in this position before (with the Primal approach or another diet or fitness program), the stumble can incite feelings of personal failure or precipitate a wave of excuses (“I gave it my best shot. It’s just not doable.”). But hold on there for a moment. We say the story hasn’t been written yet. The proverbial fat lady hasn’t sung. Before you abandon the whole endeavor, take a look at the big picture.
Dear readers, it’s time to get real.
I realize that most of you probably don’t think you need a lecture. You may not need any further motivation. You’re eating good, whole foods, getting daily exercise, and things are going well. For the most part, Grok gazes upon you with twinkling, approving eyes. But what of newcomers? What of the average doughy citizen happily bumbling along in blissful ignorance, unaware that his or her dietary habits and devotion to Conventional Wisdom might actually be counterproductive to those goals implicit in all forms of life, great or small? Survival, contentedness, and prosperity. Surely he deserves a harsh check of reality.
We thought this might be a good time to check in with newer folks who have taken on the 2009 Primal Challenge. (With four weeks in, how’s everyone doing?)
But the truth is, the title has bearing for all of us. Old hat or not, a healthy lifestyle always encounters challenges at some point. External pressures – heavier work load, added family responsibilities, etc. – can suddenly shift the ground we thought was solid and stable. Internal factors – stress, injury, illness– can creep up on us and make us realize we’ve taken our motivation a little for granted lately.