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Skill power versus will power

Skill power versus will power
I used to watch He-Man. If you had the privilege of being a kid in the 80s, you might remember him as a popular cartoon and comic book character, alter-ego of the noble Prince Adam of Eternia. By raising his special sword, Prince Adam could turn himself into He-Man, defender of the kingdom against the evil Skeletor. Looking back, what I find fascinating is what Prince Adam shouted as he turned to He-Man: “I HAVE THE POWER!!!” The point I’m trying to make is that Prince Adam didn’t have the power, He-Man did.
The last time I checked, I wasn’t He-Man, not even a prince. So when it comes to will power, I don’t have the power. I approach food scenarios very humbly. The only way I’m going to lose weight and keep it off is to recognize that I don’t have the power. And that is why we are going to use a different word: skill power, a term coined by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (G.D. Foster et al., “Behavioural Treatment of Obesity,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 82, no. 1, 2005).
The idea of skill power acknowledges that we won’t have will power, and so we have to examine ourselves and our behaviours. Foster et al. suggest that learning to develop skill power involves examining the habitual cues or chain of events that leads to an episode of overeating or mindless eating. Once that chain of events has been identified, it becomes possible to break the chain and prevent the mindless eating by modifying behaviour. Sometimes the hard part is to actually recognize the first chain.
Here’s my personal example of a behaviour chain:

Once I can recognize my chain of behaviour, I am better equipped to determine what I need to do to break it. In the example above, I need to learn to recognize the feeling that I am becoming disengaged. Then, at that moment, I can ask myself how I want to deal with that particular emotion. Foster et al. suggest that this is skill power–a learned method of problem solving–not will power, and that it can be key to achieving success.
My advice to my clients is to ask the question without thinking about weight loss. For example, “How do you want to deal with disengagement?” Sounds different than, “How do you want to deal with disengagement in order to lose weight?”
The typical response the latter question is “Don’t eat.” On the other hand, the answer to the former question might be, “Play on my iphone.” In this scenario, I’m dealing with the problem (disengagement), and that’s the point. Dealing with the problem will eventually lead to weight loss.
Focus on the behaviour, not the food. The more we focus on food, the more our brains focus on what we can’t have. This leaves us feeling mentally/emotionally deprived, even though we are not physically deprived. It’s the worst-case scenario.
What are your behaviour chains around eating? How will you overcome them? If you need help to identify your cues and/or solutions to overcome your eating behaviour chains, talk to your coach. If you don’t have a coach at FitMetabolism, give us a call at (403) 452-0900, or book online for a free needs assessment at

We look forward to hearing from you!


Jason Hagen