Willpower, Motivation and the Power to Change

This is the time of year when people ease away from their New Year’s resolutions. The gyms are less crowded. Spring seems far away and we hibernate. Interaction with friends and family often involves food, which offers immediate gratification until you step on the scale the next morning. Understanding the complexities of motivation and choice may help you stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions.

Have you ever mindlessly reached for a cookie or has your car automatically driven into your favorite fast food drive-thru? It’s like your brain becomes hijacked until it’s too late and you’ve succumbed to the temptation. It boils down to your habits and patterns. Unfamiliar behaviors are challenging until they become new routines. Old habits are familiar and provide satisfaction. We’re hungry, have “cravings,” are tempted and seek relief to satisfy our body and mind. It’s a vicious cycle. How satisfied do you feel after eating a high fat, high carb/sugar meal that you know will not produce an overall state of well-being? How satisfying is succumbing to immediate gratification? What do you say to yourself to justify this behavior?

We know that almost anything in moderation is okay, but those temptations do more harm than good for those who really crave certain foods or need to watch their weight. Understanding what impacts craving, motivation, and behavior, will help you break those habits and make positive changes in your life. This requires setting an intention to make small, incremental changes.

There are many experts that discuss this topic and it’s important to find what works for you. Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has many Youtube videos on willpower, motivation and the neuroscience of change. Deepak Chopra, MD’s book, What are you Hungry For, discusses how underlying emotions lead to unhealthy eating. Understanding why we reach for food helps us deal with the underlying issues directly rather than covering them up with “feel good” food. Dr. Anderson (in Discover Your Optimal Health) states that setting primary goals and developing strategies to resist temptation are important. Other research shows how the brain develops different neuropathways as we change behaviors. So,just because you’ve always done something in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t change! It just takes conscious intention, understanding how to support yourself and focus on your primary goal.

The first steps are to identify what needs to change in your life and the obstacles that stand in your way. What do you need to support yourself in making the change? For example, if you know that you eat poorly when you are stressed, rather than taking the usual route past your favorite fast food restaurant, what about taking a different path? What about identifying the stress leading to the craving and deal with that instead? It doesn’t have to be complicated. What’s challenging is we want to feel better immediately. By identifying the underlying trigger (stress) and the familiar behavior (eating fast food for relief), then practicing stress-reduction techniques while supporting yourself (take a different route to avoid temptation), you will feel a huge sense of accomplishment. Once you succeed, you realize you are stronger than your urges, which usually only last momentarily. It’s all about choice in the moment and how you deal with what’s really going on within yourself. Then, if you choose to eat that chocolate sundae and decide it’s not emotional eating, then you can totally enjoy that treat. You then regain control by making conscious choices rather than reacting based on emotion.

This power will then lead to more positive changes in other areas of your life! I challenge you to give it a try!

Celebration of Life

Are you having trouble regaining interest in everyday life after losing a pet?

Is taking care of pets who have chronic issues taking a toll on your own well-being?

Are you taking better care of your pets and neglecting your own self-care?

Has not reaching a goal in dog-related activities (earning a title, certification), having to “retire” a pet early or facing rejection in the dog show ring impacted other areas of your life?

Our pets are an important part of our lives. They provide unconditional love, greet us with a wagging tail and they enjoy just being with us. Unfortunately, they leave us way too soon. The loss can be very difficult and the hole it leaves, impacts us in different ways. Besides having to handle the grief, we may also second guess the decisions we are suddenly forced to make.

I’d like to help you work through the grief and celebrate your special pet’s life in a unique way that will honor the relationship you’ve had together.

Both individual and group sessions available.

Individual sessions: Monday-Friday (after 5:00 pm), Saturdays

Allison White, ACSW, LCSW, CCDP-D



Access Your Inner Child and Have Fun!

Life’s simplest moments are experienced watching kids play. When young, we played outside until bedtime, with few cares in the world except responding to our parents’ calls.  Wonders of youth were lost between childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. Exercise helped shed pounds accumulated during college, raising families, and our careers.  Health was equated with boring food, endless hours at the gym, and drinking water until we drowned.  I miss the activities from childhood.  So, I decided to relive some of them.  I mean, exercise doesn’t have to be boring, does it?  I pictured myself as a child, active with endless free time.  What will I choose?  Aha…..I’ll buy a bicycle!

Fun, exercise, and surprise benefits……

Buying the bike was an adventure.  At the bike store, I revealed my desire about riding again to a young salesman.  A very “fit” young salesman.  I  admitted my fear of crashing and breaking bones at “my age.” Then, something unexpected happened…..instead of cracking a smile, he praised me for this brave venture to be healthier.  Wow!  Then, he had a game plan.  In preparation for my test rides, I was measured for proper fit and safety.  This was a new experience; similar to buying tennis shoes at New Balance.  I jumped on the test bike, hung on for dear life, and conquered my fear of crashing.   Away I went…..  My childhood memory took over and my fears went along for the ride.  It was like I had last ridden only yesterday.  I smiled after realizing I had overcome my fear.

Choosing the bike and assortment of accessories, invoked the child-like excitement as years before.  I had a helmet this time, strictly for safety – no fashion statement here – and decided Creve Coeur Lake would be the perfect place for my first ride.  The trails were level and the weather was perfect.  My excitement mounted as I started pedaling.  I admit that there was fear, but this quickly disappeared on the trail.  I was surrounded by people having fun.  Their energy was contagious.  I experienced a sense of mindfulness and the power of being  in the “here and now.”  I had no watch; time was suspended like when I was a child.  What a fantastic feeling.

Mindfulness is focusing on the present moment as it is, without judgment or worries about the past or the future.  I was focused on not crashing or falling.  No cellphone, no “to do” list.  Just right now.  I relaxed into the ride, noticing the sailboats, the rowers, families riding together, family reunions, the smell of grilling, ducks swimming, birds and bees buzzing by.  I was in nature, I was relaxed, exhilarated.  I couldn’t get lost here so I focused on myself, the trail, and my surroundings.

Being lost in the moment is something we should add to our lives.  The energizing music in Spinning class gives me a similar feeling.  How often do kids lose track of time, even when they are being called for dinner?  Their activities relax them, reduce their stress, give them peace. What do we do?  We get caught up in spreadsheets,  “to do” lists, time.  Balance is so important.  Our responsibility to ourselves is to find activities that lead us to peace, to healthier lifestyles, to enjoying life, like children.  Keep this mindset  and… surprise…. you won’t know you’re exercising!

What was your favorite childhood activity that you can incorporate into your adult life?

Allison White

My first bike helmet. I look like a Storm Trooper from Star Wars!

My first bike helmet. I look like a Storm Trooper from Star Wars!

Live For The Moment

Hi!  Writing this blog is a whole new experience for me, but one I’m looking forward to sharing with you!  I believe in the importance of living for the moment, practicing mindfulness, expressing gratitude and compassion. I value all aspects of my life including my friendships, family, pets and career. My hobbies include music, writing, spending time in nature, traveling and just hanging out…… I hope to share some thoughts that you can relate to.  If so, please let me know!