Exercising Radical Restraint: Powerful strategies to strengthen your Paleo willpower

I have been thinking about this question for some time now. Why are some people thriving with the Paleo diet and experiencing all the wonderful effects like…

  • fat loss
  • improved health
  • clearer thinking
  • sounder sleep
  • enhanced fitness

and others are struggling to attain any noticeable results in any of the areas above.

There are lots of reasons why this is, but none that can be easily explained as I eluded to in last week’s post, Making Paleo Work: A more complete model for fat loss and body transformation.

If you haven’t read that one yet I encourage you to give it a read. Click the link above to check it out. It has over 1100+ Facebook shares to lend a little credibility to it’s popularity.

But that said, my own personal research (self-experiments, interviews, and the articles and studies I have read) has helped me uncover distinct behaviors that separate those who thrive with Paleo from those who struggle.

From fat to fit…

That tagline is how I would classify my own success story.  I didn’t adopt Paleo because I had health issues, I adopted it because I had fat issues that I knew one day would turn into health issues.

And I also realized early on this time around, that diet and exercise alone WOULD NOT solve my problem for the simple fact that if it was as simple as that, I would have solved it every other time I attempted to diet and exercise my way out of my body fat dilemna.  I think deep down there is a part of you that knows that as well.

Don’t get me wrong, both diet and exercise are part of the solution, but there are so many other behaviors that play an integral part in this ecosystem of transformation we seek to create for ourselves.

As such, I have been quietly compiling a list of behaviors for a course I have created called…

FAT to FIT: Successful habits of the Paleo elite

It’s a breakdown of behaviors that the PALEO ELITE use to radically transform how they look and  SUSTAIN lT long term. They are behaviors that few people are taking about (mostly because I believe many don’t understand their own success), but ones that are VITAL to your success.

Lets explore one…

Exercising radical restraint…

I made the following statement on my Facebook Fan Page earlier this week (BTW if you are not a fan you might want to join what is nearly 2000 fellow AWESOME SHIFT DISTURBERS. Click –> HERE.)

One of the first MAJOR SHIFTS I made was the one above.  It has nothing to do with Paleo per say, but it is DAMN important if we are going to have any success with the diet/lifestyle.

Without it we are doomed.

Time for a SWITCH…

Ironically, I did not get that idea for radical restraint from a Paleo book or some exercise guru for that matter. I got it while reading, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

One study they referred to was based on how different people reacted when sitting in a room by themselves with a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. There sole task was NOT to eat the cookies. The study organizers simply observed what the participants did.

What they discovered was that those who were able to resist had a wide range of strategies to draw from. Those who couldn’t resist, possessed fewer strategies to do so.

What I found more intriguing was that they ran the experiment again with those who were unable to resist, but only after showing them some of the skills their successful counterparts had used.

The success rates the second time around skyrocketed.

That was one of many light bulb moments for me. It was the first time I realized I simply lacked the skills needed to TEACH MYSELF how to BULLETPROOF my WILLPOWER.

I can’t tell you how liberating that discovery was.

You are not the problem…

Discipline is NOT a genetic trait! We err in this area when we say, I AM DISCIPLINED or worse, I AM NOT DISCIPLINED.

I would argue that the correct verb we SHOULD BE using is HAVE, as in, I HAVE TREMENDOUS DISCIPLINE, or, I HAVE NOT LEARNED THE SKILLS OF DISCIPLINE.

There is a big difference between those two distinctions. One intrinsically reinforces that discipline is an innate trait that can’t be changed, much like height, the other suggests (correctly) that it can be learned and mastered.

Once you make this distinction, then you begin to understand that discipline is no different than learning how to ski or learning how to draw (yes you can learn how to draw). You simply need to learn the skills involved so you can work towards mastery.

Why the elite are different…

Do you know separates the elite from those who struggle.

The quality of the feedback they give themselves.

Case Study: Average Basketball Players vs Elite Basketball Players

A study was conducted with two groups of basketball players. Those who were considered to be average players and those considered to be elite. They were asked to shoot foul shots and when they missed they were asked to provide feedback as to what they thought they did wrong.

The average Joe’s, were average for a reason. When they missed they provided really vague unactionable feedback like…

  • I lost my concentration
  • I need to try harder
  • I need to focus more

The elite on the other hand could provide specific feedback like…

  • I didn’t follow-thru with my shooting hand
  • I didn’t keep my elbow pointed towards the basket
  • I didn’t bend my knees

The feedback from the average Joe’s was too vague to act on and measure. How would you know you concentrated more the next time around.

The elite feedback was something that was both specific and immediately measurable.

Those who struggle or get mediocre results with Paleo are a lot like the average basketball players. They provide very vague feedback in response to failures in the willpower department.

In fact their answers are NOT much different than the average basketball Joe’s. You will hear things like….

  • I need to be more disciplined
  • I need to work harder
  • I just need to resist when I am in those situations

Sadly, all of that feedback is completely useless.  There is nothing specific in those statements that can be acted upon.

Those who exercise radical restraint on the other hand provide very specific feedback as to why they were unsuccessful. Lets look at some of those strategies below.

Strategies to bulletproof your willpower…

So just to be clear here, your takeaway from all this is: WILLPOWER IS A LEARNABLE SKILL.

So lets talk about some specific strategies you could apply to situations where you might find your willpower tested.

I polled my peeps on the BEING PRIMAL fanpage using the following question.

As you can see, the response was amazing. I will share some of the more brilliant strategies.  BUT keep in mind that the strategies themselves can be applied to ANY SITUATION where willpower is required.

These are in no particular order of importance.

Strategy #1-Connect the friggin’ dots

Stacey really states this brilliantly. It’s about TRULY connecting to and understanding the consequences of our actions.  Don’t kid yourself, this requires you to make some really TOUGH decisions, but as you begin to understand the consequences, you begin to make the shift to embracing health and vibrancy over the quick fixes that provide long term pain and anguish.

Jay captures the dot connecting eloquently.

Strategy #2-Focus your attention elsewhere

I remember the first time I read about this idea. I read it years ago in fact in Dale Carnegie’s, “How to start living and stop worrying.” One of the guys Carnegie featured talked about the struggle of losing his 5-year old son.

For months this poor guy was crushed and literally going through the motions. But he awoke one day and realized that he couldn’t go on as he was because he had another son to take care of.

He knew he had to get out of his own head. So he went around the house and made a list of everything that needed to be repaired. His list was 137 items long. And he threw himself into those repairs. In essence, repairing his house helped him repair his spirit that had been crushed by the death of his son.

Sorry that is a bit dramatic, but I have never forgotten that story and Licia’s comment reminded me of the brilliance of what I call MINDFUL DISTRACTION. It’s very powerful!

And the sheer genius of Licia’s comment: Do something that DEMAND’S YOUR FULL ATTENTION!

There are many ways to do this. Look how Ami does it.

Strategy #3-Focus on your results

When I interviewed my pal Sarah Fragoso from Everyday Paleo, she talked about this exact strategy that Patrick refers to. You have to be in tune with your body and be acutely aware of what changes are happening, even if they are small. I call it, SEARCHING FOR EVIDENCE.

The reason is exactly as Patrick states so eloquently. There is a direct correlation to the positive changes we make with our body and our ability to resist.

And what you discover over time is that inner heckler in your head goes from a loud scream to a slight whisper.

Rhonda utilizes this strategy as well by focusing on the pounds lost.

Strategy #4-Tell the truth

People seem to struggle with this one. But a great strategy is to simply do what Cherish does and tell it like it is. My line: No thanks. That makes me fat!

Strategy #5-Keep that tummy full

This strategy that Cindi uses is one I use often. Back when I first started Paleo and had virtually no faith that I would make the right decisions when the chips were down, I would always eat before I went somewhere if I had any doubt that things might go awry. It’s amazing how great our willpower is on a full stomach as opposed to an empty one. It’s one of the most powerful strategies you can utilize.

Strategy #6-Avoid eye contact

This strategy is so simple and yet it is HUGE! Put yourself in a position where you can’t see the temptation that exists. You have two options here.

  • you either move the offending treats out of your sight

There are lots of studies that show even putting non-see-through covers on desirable items helps with willpower.

  • if you can’t remove the treat, then remove yourself. I thought Christine captured this in a delightful way.

Strategy #7-Plan ahead

Sue gets it! There is a DIRECT CORRELATION between the quality of your planning and your willpower. TEACH YOURSELF TO PLAN BETTER and then OBSESS OVER IT! You will be amazed what you can resist when you are armed and dangerous.

Check out what Dawn has going on in her office.  Almost makes me want to break in and steal me some of those snacks. :-)

Strategy #8-Practice

NO ONE thinks we have to practice these skills. But it is just like the foul shooting example above. You don’t INSTANTLY become a great foul shooter just because you decide to shoot foul shots. You PRACTICE and you practice A LOT. It’s no different with this.

I remember reading something by a personal development dude names Steve Pavlina. He would practice getting up early. So say he wanted to start getting up at 5am. He would lie in bed and set the alarm and when it went off he would go through the exact motions of what he would do if it was actually 5am.

He would run through it 5 or 10 times to practice the very skill he was looking at developing. BRILLIANT and so too is Tammy’s insight.

Strategy #9-Understand the cause

It’s surprising how few people really know what caused their problem to begin with. Tough to make progress if we don’t sit down and figure out what the hell got you into this mess to begin with. Andrew’s got it figured out and he even has this alliteration thing (well not really) going on as well with hospitality. :-)

Strategy #10-Know thyself

Sorry that sounds biblical, but Amanda brings up an amazing point. We have to know where our holes lie and be sure we don’t fall into them. I am just like Amanda. Actually I’m more like a dog really. I can’t have just one (at least I have not taught myself how to have one yet). I have to have them ALL.

So for the time being, I look for ways to avoid those situations. I don’t buy in bulk. I try to put things into containers immediately as opposed to eating out of bags and pots. And I buy smaller containers of trigger foods like almond butter so that I minimize the damage with something I know I can live with.

Becoming one of the Paleo elite…

There is nothing magical about this whole process.  It’s simply a matter of adopting the habits of the Paleo Elite and one is EXERCISING RADICAL RESTRAINT.

Your homework…

OK so  one thing people asked for to make the lesson more valuable were tasks you could actually perform. I am providing 3. Feel free to ignore them completely, do them as is or my favorite, steal the ones you like and then come up with our own unique strategies.

  • Put the first habit of the Paleo Elite somewhere you will see it often: EXERCISE RADICAL RESTRAINT. It can be in a notebook or journal. You can put it on your screen saver or you can print out your own little banner and post it somewhere you will see it daily. Repeat it often, especially in the midst of situations where you feel you are being tested.
  • Identify 3 areas that are killing you in the restraint department. It could be something at work, it might be something at night, or it might be something as simple as watching TV (TV is a huge trigger for people to gorge like pigs).  Then go through and pick out some strategies above to try and test the next time you encounter them. Observe the result and keep tweaking until you get the outcome you desire.
  • Failure to plan ahead is the biggest killer of willpower.  Begin to create strategies that will help you become a better planner. Start with your grocery list. Do you have one? What about a meal plan? Daily. Weekly? Do you make meals in bulk? What about using a crock pot? Failure to plan as they say is planning to fail. Obsess on becoming a better planner.

Alright kids, now go, MAKE SHIFT HAPPEN.


ps…Feel free to chime in below!