The Willpower Workaround: A Surprising Interview with Author Maureen Anderson

What if you could eat as much as you wanted, all day every day, and never gain weight? No gimmicks, nothing unsafe.

Radio personality Maureen Anderson (@DoingWhatWorks) did just that, and she wrote The Willpower Workaround to show just how to do it.

“The Plan” isn’t a big, complicated diet—it’s about a simple lifestyle change Maureen made that changed everything. When she first contacted me about editing her book, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical; I mean, you need willpower—and lots of it—to lose weight, right? Was I ever wrong!

Maureen is one of the most interesting, vivacious, and genuine people you’ll ever meet. Her personality shines through in her book, too, and if you’ve ever struggled with dieting (and who hasn’t?), you’ll love The Willpower Workaround.

Maureen was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about the book and those sugar cookies she writes about to start the book:

I make the best sugar cookies you’ve ever tasted.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Talk to one of my childhood friends, who won’t share them with her grandchildren because they don’t appreciate the work that goes into them. Or talk to one of my daughter’s former teachers, who used to hide them in the freezer in a bag marked “for the dog” so she wouldn’t have to share them with her family.

Every year between Halloween and Christmas my husband and I used to bake two hundred dozen sugar cookies from scratch. You read that right. Two hundred dozen. Each one painstakingly rolled out really thin, cut, transferred to a baking pan, baked, cooled, frosted, dried, wrapped individually, packed with bubble wrap, and shipped all over the country to friends and family and people we did business with.

Every summer I used to lose the same ten or fifteen pounds a lot of people do because they’re more active, only to always gain them back by Thanksgiving. One year I wondered if it was the cookies. Darrell looked at me. Then he said, “Duh.”

That was all I had to read to know I wanted to work with Maureen, and it was an awesome experience. Recently she agreed to answer some of my burning questions; I found her answers thoughtful and relatable, and I hope you enjoy our conversation!

The Interview:

Candace Johnson: Why did you feel it was important to write The Willpower Workaround and share The Plan?

Maureen Anderson: Thanks for using them both in the same sentence! I think of The Willpower Workaround as the formal name for the way I eat, but it’s a mouthful. I can’t remember if it was my husband or daughter who started calling it The Plan right away—but it’s the perfect nickname, and it stuck.

I wrote The Willpower Workaround because it worked so well it felt irresponsible not to share. The first time I spoke of it publicly in a formal presentation, I did it next to a big poster with photos of everything I ate. When I saw someone taking a picture of the poster I thought, “All those people who told me I should write a book and then give talks were right. It would be great to have a little instruction manual, disguised as a short memoir, available for sale.”

When I decided to give up junk food in August of 2009, it was only going to be for a year. My motives had at least as much to do with wanting a writing project I could sink my teeth into as a diet. I’d been noticing “year in the life” experiments in bookstores. The Year of Living Biblically was a popular one. My book was going to be The Year I Didn’t Cheat. I even purchased that domain name, which inspired the guy taking our order for it to feel bad for my husband. (My husband, Darrell, interviewed me about my progress at the one-month point. Would you like to watch?)

I imagined rip-roaring stories about passing up chips and salsa for another spinach salad, for example, and the snappy comebacks I’d have at the ready for people who made fun of me. Can you imagine a weaker premise for a book? And you know what? I didn’t care! It got me started. I was doing the right thing for the wrong reason, but at least I was doing something. I think one secret to life is experimenting with it.

Candace Johnson: We learn in the book that your initial success with permanent weight loss was based on winning a challenge. Do you have any advice for men and women who need a reward to stay on the path toward changing the way they eat?

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Kick Your Negative Self-Talk to the Curb with the 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan

GirlyThoughtsDetoxCover-2Generally speaking, we women aren’t very nice to ourselves. Almost from our first days, we begin to internalize messages that we aren’t good enough—we are too much of some things and not enough of others. Those messages become such a part of who we are that we don’t even realize how ridiculous some of them sound.

Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • I just need to lose five more pounds.
  • Age might be just a number, but I’m giving myself Botox treatments for my birthday.
  • Isn’t my five-year-old daughter adorable when she pretends she’s sexy?
  • I don’t need to worry about saving for my future—I’ll be married by then.
  • It’s my fault my husband had that affair.
  • I can’t take that meeting; my hair looks awful today.
  • I hate going out with those people—they always make me feel bad about myself.

Today is publication day for The 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power by Patricia O’Gorman, PhD, and it’s a day I’ve looked forward to for some time.

I worked with Dr. O’Gorman on two of her previous books, so when she asked me to edit her book about girly thoughts, I jumped at the chance. Her goal for the book, which was inspired by the phrase she developed and used in The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power, was to shine a light on the damage women do to ourselves by internalizing these negative messages and then provide a plan to detox from them. What woman wouldn’t embrace that concept?

Negative messages surround us, and they contribute to the toxic self-talk that reinforces our negative beliefs about ourselves and have helped us form our identities as women. Consider the advertising that reminds you:ID-100264893

  • your gray hair makes you look older,
  • those extra pounds might keep you from getting a promotion, or
  • being too assertive isn’t sexy.

Then, as Dr. O’Gorman writes, “We take it one step further: We believe these messages. We internalize them. We monitor ourselves to ensure our acceptability by letting our girly thoughts, our toxic self-talk, guide us. And we shut our powerful selves down. We try not to be offensive in any way. We certainly try not to be bossy.”

As the epigraph in The 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan reads:

“It’s hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.”

—Sally Kempton

Continue reading “Kick Your Negative Self-Talk to the Curb with the 10-Day Girly Thoughts Detox Plan”

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