Most people view eating right and exercising as an exercise in willpower.
But what is willpower? Being able to resist eating a cookie? Not being tempted by the cookie at all? And how do you get more of it?
According to the NY Times:
“The elusive forces behind a person’s willpower have been the subject of increasing scrutiny by the scientific community trying to understand why some people overeat or abuse drugs and alcohol. What researchers are finding is that willpower is essentially a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental forces can weaken or strengthen our self-control.”
So how do you get more willpower?
By flexing that mental muscle. Just like any other muscle in your body, you must exercise willpower in order to make it stronger.
We are a country run by immediate gratification: Blackberries, emails, text messages, fast cars, fast food, credit cards- if we want something, we want it right now, and get cranky if we have to wait. Sometimes that impulse can carry over into other areas we would rather it didn’t.
Does this sound like you? “I’m hungry. I can’t concentrate until I get food. I need food. I want chocolate. I need chocolate. Must. Find. Chocolate.” You aren’t going to die of hunger if you don’t have a Hershey’s Kiss, but we have trained ourselves that the second we have an impulse, we must give into it.
The researchers in that same article recommend starting out with small tasks to work your way up to the big ones. Next time you sit down to a meal, deprive yourself on a small scale. Wait for 5 minutes before you start to eat. Put your fork down in between bites. Eat half, and then go do something else for half an hour and then come back and finish. Slow down, and show that meal who’s boss: you control what goes into your body.
Now, don’t go on a fast just to see if you can do it, please. That will only have the opposite effect and before you know it you’ll end up with Cheeto dust in your hair after you ate yourself out of house and home.
Remember: small resistance, in order to work up to the resistance of the big temptations. Want that piece of cake at the office party? Nah, you can wait until you get home to make a healthy meal.
Give it a try. Did you die of starvation? Did the world come to an end? Or did you have the feeling of confidence that you are in control of your meal, and how and when to eat it?