How do we get more willpower!?
By Forest Melton
I woke up this morning to missed texts from my running buddy Devon, “We’re still meeting today, right!?” Oops! Unfortunately, I’m a failure, and sometimes it feels like my brain has no control in the battle of willpower, especially when my body is fatigued. And apparently this morning my body said, “Nope! I’m on strike, buddy! We’re going back to sleep“. Despite setting 3 alarms, and not recalling ‘snoozing’ any of them, I managed to miss our morning run date. Ironically enough, I’m reading a book by Dr. Kelly McGonigal called “The Willpower Instinct”, and it is awesome. I’m only on Chapter 3 of 10, but so far it’s been a great read! Dr. McGonigal talks about willpower being a muscle you have to train and build through practice. And much like a muscle, things that prevent muscular growth seem to prevent willpower growth.
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that I had been sleeping for 2 hours when my alarm went off this morning, definitely setting myself up for failure a little bit there. One of the key ingredients in decision making is glucose. With sleep deprivation, the body has a harder time delivering glucose to the brain, which has obvious taxing effects. So, less sleep = less glucose delivery to the brain = less willpower, ouch.
As stated above, with less glucose comes less willpower, and low blood sugar has the same effect as sleep deprivation. When we starve ourselves, less glucose is reaching the brain, resulting in a reduction in willpower. Who knew a well-balanced diet effected so many aspects of life.
One of the most interesting things McGonial covered in this book, so far, was a study out of the University of Sydney where researchers found a ‘wonder drug’ that was massively effective in increasing willpower, the study found that after only 2 months of treatment participants had the following results:
- Improvements in attention and the ability to ignore distractions
- Reduced smoking, drinking, and caffeine intake
- Participants ate less junk food and more healthy food
- Participants spent less time watching tv more time studying
- Participants were saving money and spending less on impulse purchases
- Participants felt more in control of their emotions
- Participants procrastinated less and were less likely to be late for appointments
What in the heck is this ‘wonder drug’ and how do I purchase a life time supply!? …it was actually exercise, weird! Participants only exercised once a week for the first month, and up to three times per week by the end of the study. Exercise has been shown to be the single most effective tool in increasing willpower. Say what!? And you can purchase this ‘wonder drug’ for the low low price of Free!
In conclusion, for all of you, who like me, feel willpower deficient, here are 4 other ways to increase your willpower per Dr. McGonigal’s research.
- Exercise – because duh.
- Sleep – a full night’s rest, but also naps help.
- Meditation – 5 minutes to 20 minutes a day has been seen show immediate and lasting benefits. In fact, studies have shown that meditation creates positive physical changes in the brain (Taren 2013).
- Slow Breathing – in times of stress, consciously slow and deepen your breathing. It physiologically minimizes the fight or flight response, making you less impulsive and more intentional. An instant increase in willpower reserves!
- McGonigal, K. (2012). The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of it. New York: Avery.
- Taren, Adrienne et al. (2013) “Dispositional Mindfulness Co-Varies with Smaller Amygdala and Caudate Volumes in Community Adults”. Plos Journal. May 2013.
How To Break Bad Eating Habits
I Love this article by Sally Wadyka about Breaking Bad Eating Habits:
Bad habits are made to be broken. Learn easy tricks to help you eat better every day.
1. If You’re a Serious Snacker
The fallout: You may end up overeating. A healthy snack or two between meals is fine. Snacks can keep blood sugar steady as well as allow you to rack up more servings of fruits and vegetables.
“It’s when you snack in place of eating real meals that you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’re eating,” says Tara Gidus, R.D., an Orlando, Florida–based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Of course, what you eat matters, too. Typical snack foods (chips, cookies, pretzels) aren’t that nutritious or satisfying, so it’s easy to overdo them.
The fix: To keep your energy up and hunger at bay, allow yourself two snacks a day of 100 to 300 calories each. “Rather than a cookie or a candy bar, opt for something that feels like real food―half of a small sandwich, whole-grain crackers with cheese, a handful of nuts, baby carrots with hummus, or yogurt sprinkled with cereal,” says Gidus.
2. If You’re a Mindless Muncher
The fallout: Television makes people particularly prone to spaced-out eating. In fact, “folks who eat while watching the tube take in 20 to 60 percent more than if they are focused on their food,” according to Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing at Cornell University and the author of Mindless Eating.
The fix: Figure out which situations trigger mindless eating for you, then consciously make an effort to eat only when you’re fully engaged. If you need a few snacks, set limits on what you’ll eat. Dole out a single serving before you sit down on the couch, or delay your snack until you can pay attention. Minimize damage by dipping into low-cal foods, such as cut vegetables, air-popped popcorn, rice crackers, and whole-grain cereal.
3. If You Eat Your Way Out of a Bad Mood
The fallout: It may be soothing in the moment, but feeding your fears and frustrations, instead of confronting them, can lead to a cycle of more bad moods as well as steady weight gain. Many people turn to carbohydrates, in particular, which produce tryptophan, a type of amino acid that is used by the brain to manufacture serotonin.
“When the brain makes more serotonin, your mood improves, but only temporarily,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., a coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet.
The fix: Stop to think about what’s bothering you before reflexively open the cupboard. Then try a nonfood mood booster, such as taking a walk, seeing a movie, or calling a friend. “If nothing but carbs will do, get the serotonin boost without triggering a binge,” says Gidus. “Opt for a whole-grain treat so at least you get more fiber and less sugar.”
4. If You Eat Carefully All Week, Then Blow It on the Weekend
The fallout: It is possible to undo five days of good with regular weekend free-for-alls. In 2004, data from the National Weight Control Registry revealed that people who were consistent in their weekly eating habits, even if they weren’t perfect, were 1.5 times more likely to stay within five pounds of their weight over one year than were those who were vigilant on weekdays only.
The fix: Since much socializing around food takes place on weekends, it pays to strategize. “Have a mini meal before you go out to help you have more self-control, and offer to be the designated driver to limit alcohol intake,” says Gidus. (Alcohol has more calories than you probably think.)
And don’t restrict yourself so severely Monday through Friday that the weekend feels like your only time for indulgence.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/08/08/how-to-break-bad-eating-habits/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxnews%2Fhealth+%28Internal+-+Health+-+Text%29#ixzz1pyZ8Pwx3
Death By Bacon? Study Finds Eating Meat Is Risky : The Salt : NPR
Death By Bacon? Study Finds Eating Meat Is Risky : The Salt : NPR.
This headline is super dramatic, and I think stuff like this is the reason so many people feel the need to go vegetarian in order to “be healthy”. But if you read the whole article, it’s the same thing researchers and clinicians have been saying for years and years: eating red meat every day = increased risk for everything you are trying to avoid (high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, stroke, heart disease, etc) aka death by fork. My good friend Shane would sum it up by simply saying, put the fork down. The take home message of this article is: the more processed a meat is (or any food for that matter), the less healthy it becomes, and by replacing one serving of red meat with an alternate source of protein (fish, chicken, turkey, soy) decreases your chances of premature death. Be Well.