November 1st is the most dangerous day of the year.

The days are getting colder, the light is not as long and cupboards are full of unclaimed Halloween candy.

And that, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

Discipline and willpower have never been my strong suit. If given the choice between the gym and my bed, sleep will win every time. Any capacity to incorporate new habits, change behaviors or interrupt old patterns has required that I change the way I interact with my environment. Willpower is frequently cited as the reason people are not sticking to the changes we have outlined for their health, but here’s the thing, willpower is the worst freakin’ strategy for changing your life. It works for psychological masochists, but come on, who really wants to live a life of discipline and willpower as the dominant tool for supporting their health.

The alternative to willpower is ‘trading up’. It means selecting quality over cheap and easy. We dance around our temptations and bad habits with an internal dialogue we think no one can hear. Stop justifying that the candy, the cigarettes, the wine, the bread or the lack of exercise is somehow ok. If your brain and body are making you feel conflicted about your choice, your subconscious is probably onto something.

This is a photo of our family’s Halloween candy. It is really shitty stuff.

The chocolate is cheap, the sugar is unsophisticated and the effects on our health are undisputed. And yet, despite all of that, I can’t stop myself from sneaking that one (ok, 10) little box(es) of Smarties. Rather than fight the cheap chocolate vortex, I do the ONE THING that will most IMPACTFULLY remove the temptation and keep me aligned to the standard of health that I want for my family and myself… I throw it out.

This is not a bone of contention in our family; it is a step towards something better. Our kids are given the choice between candy or a new toy. 30 pieces of candy = one $15 toy. Notwithstanding my poor estimation of the amount they would collect, last night they each earned $45 in toy store credits. The new toy and the opportunity to take ownership over something better becomes not only the preferable choice, but also an important opportunity to teach them (and remind us), that there is something better than ‘cheap and easy’. While toys may not do it for me, my annual pair of new November shoes is infinitely more satisfying than the short lived high of crappy chocolate.

You don’t need to fight willpower; you need to work with it. Stop and identify the ONE THING you can do bring you closer to a better choice.

Here’s to your healthiest November in awhile,

Dr. Megs