There are ways that you can strengthen your self-control and stop caving to your cravings, thanks to new research that is revealing why some people appear to have willpower as strong as steel while others’ is like tinfoil.
Individuals who are thinner and have healthier diets don’t have more willpower; they just manage their resource better by creating healthy habits and an environment that helps make the healthy choice their first choice. While willpower is a precious commodity, researchers are finding ways you can help conserve and boost
1. Avoid the most “addictive” foods
One of the best ways to keep your ironclad willpower from turning to tin is to avoid foods that require the most willpower to not eat. These include your personal “trigger” foods and those that combine sugar and fat and salt. For a list of the most addictive foods, read this. Even looking at these choices will suck up your self-control; so don’t even look at them. And, when it comes to alcohol, if you drink, all bets are off because alcohol stimulates your appetite while triggering areas of the brain that increase your desire for decadent foods.
2. Keep blood sugar levels stable
Self-control is highly regulated by blood sugar levels. New research from Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, a professor of psychology at Florida State University and author of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength ($28, amazon.com), reported that when blood sugar levels drop, you lose your ability to resist temptation. To keep energy and blood sugar levels stable, eat regular meals, avoid sugary treats and enjoy your carbohydrates with protein, unsaturated fats or fiber. Alcohol should also be avoided as it’s been shown to lower blood sugar and act on areas of the brain that make foods seem more appealing, according to Baumeister’s research.
3. Skip Food TV and food ads
Research shows that TV viewing is independently linked to being overweight because the food and beverage advertising makes us subconsciously crave more food, even if we aren’t hungry whatsoever. The same is true for watching cooking shows or the Food Network. Ditto for Pinterest where you’re drooling over your keyboard as you look at thousands of images of the most calorific (and crafty) foods and recipes.
4. Plan ahead
It’s no surprise that more than 50% of dieters say that they failed to lose weight due to a lack of willpower.The more food-related decisions we make, the more chance there is to derail your diet. Willpower is a limited resource and each day, once you’ve tapped into it too much, you’ll start reverting to the easiest choice (with is rarely the healthiest). The more choices you leave to chance, the quicker you’ll deplete your willpower. Plan your meals a day or two in advance and always shop with a grocery list to help eliminate unnecessary food choices.
5. Focus on one positive behavior at a time
Dealing with 200+ food decisions every day is hard work, so try to conserve your daily willpower by trying to make one positive change at a time. Something like eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day or competing a workout at least 5 days a week are examples.
Gailliot MT, Baumeister RF. The physiology of willpower: linking blood glucose to self-control. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2007 Nov;11(4):303-27. doi: 10.1177/1088868307303030.