It’s true that making the right food choices can make a huge difference in everything from preventing heart disease to losing more weight. Studies and experts tell us it all comes down to willpower. So, of course, it’s vital to have willpower, but it’s hard to apply it. Feelings and temptation are just two reasons why many people fail. Keep these unexpected willpower boosters in mind next time you’re struggling with your diet.
Speaking of diets, there’s a low carb, high-fat diet that can decrease your appetite, provide fantastic health benefits, and help you lose weight too! Sound too good to be true? It’s not because it has worked for many people. It may be counterintuitive to eat a lot of fat, but burning fat, as opposed to glucose, has ample health benefits, all that's discussed in the Body Reboot book. Now let’s continue to learn about some of those willpower boosters because even though the keto diet helps reduce hunger, there still may be sometimes when temptations are there.
Willpower isn’t easy, but Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D. on Psychology Today has a few thoughts on how to ensure you are successful. One of the tips she mentions is not pursuing two goals at once, because often that can lead to your demise.
So the first thing you are going to want to do, if you are serious about resisting temptation, is make peace with the fact that your willpower is limited. If you've spent all your self-control handling stresses at work, you will not have much left at the end of the day for sticking to your resolutions. Think about when you are most likely to feel drained and vulnerable, and make a plan to keep yourself out of harm's way. Be prepared with an alternate activity or a low-calorie snack, whichever applies.
Also, don't try to pursue two goals at once that each require a lot of self-control if you can help it. This is really just asking for trouble. For example, studies show that people who try to quit smoking while dieting, in order to avoid the temporary weight gain that often accompanies smoking cessation, are more likely to fail at both enterprises than people who tackle them one at a time.
The good news is, willpower depletion is only temporary. Give your muscle time to bounce back, and you'll be back in fighting form and ready to say “no” to any doughnuts that come your way. When rest is not an option, recent research shows that you can actually speed up your self-control recovery, or give it a boost when reserves are low, simply by thinking about people you know who have lot of self-control. (Thinking about my impossibly self-possessed mother does wonders for me when I'm about to fall off the no-cheesecake wagon.)
Have you considered distracting yourself when the cravings attack you full force? That’s what Alex Lickerman recommends doing to not only be successful on a diet but to continue to stick to your goals and not cave in.
Distraction is more effective than willpower. In 1970 psychologist Walter Mischel famously placed a cookie in front of a group of children and gave them a choice: they could eat the cookie immediately, or they could wait until he returned from a brief errand and then be rewarded with a second. If they didn’t wait, however, they’d be allowed to eat only the first one. Not surprisingly, once he left the room, many children ate the cookie almost immediately. A few, though, resisted eating the first cookie long enough to receive the second. Mischel termed these children high-delay children.
How did they succeed? “Instead of focusing prolonged attention on the object for which they were waiting,” Mischel writes, “they avoided looking at it. Some covered their eyes with their hands, rested their heads on their arms, and found other similar techniques for averting their eyes from the reward objects.” In other words, Mischel concluded, distraction is superior to willpower for delaying gratification.
Another form of distraction is to distract yourself with another pleasure such as reading a good book, hiking, or thinking of something that you love when faced with the temptations. Alex says it’s something that works, so why not give it a shot?
The most effective way to distract yourself from one pleasure is with another pleasure. In a second study, Mischel placed two marshmallows side by side in front of a different group of children to whom he explained, as in the previous study, that eating the first before he returned to the room would mean they couldn’t eat the second. He then instructed one group of them to imagine when he stepped out of the room how much marshmallows are like clouds: round, white, and puffy. (He instructed a control group, in contrast, to imagine how sweet and chewy and soft they were.) A third group he instructed to visualize the crunchiness and saltiness of pretzels. Perhaps not surprisingly, the children who visualized the qualities of the marshmallows that were unrelated to eating them (that is, the way in which they were similar to clouds) waited almost three times longer than children who were instructed to visualize how delicious the marshmallows would taste.
Most intriguing, however, was that picturing the pleasure of eating pretzels produced the longest delay in gratification of all. Apparently, imagining the pleasure they’d feel from indulging in an unavailable temptation distracted the children even more than cognitively restructuring the way they thought about the temptation before them.
So when you want to avoid something tempting, read an engrossing book instead. Or watch a movie. Or listen to music. Something you find genuinely pleasurable. Or if for some reason you can’t engage in an alternative pleasure—or shouldn’t for some reason—think about doing it instead. For example, when you see a pizza, think about eating ice cream. As vividly as possible, imagine the specific sensations your tongue will experience as your favorite flavor of ice cream drips languorously down your throat and into your stomach. (On the other hand, thinking about one food when you're trying to avoid eating another food may be too viscerally activating. Some people may need to turn their thoughts to a different kind of pleasure than the one they're trying to avoid to make this strategy work for them.)
In some cases, you may need more willpower, and similarly to what Alex mentioned above, other approaches must be implemented to stick with the keto diet. Melinda Ratini, DO, MS discusses some of these strategies on an article on Web MD:
Willpower matters, but you’ll also need other strategies to help you keep on track.
By its very nature, willpower is something that comes and goes. And it can be gone when you need it most.
One of the most effective tools you can have is known as “precommitting.” It’s a technique that takes willpower out of the equation. You scrub your environment of temptations you know are likely to test you.
An example of precommitting is getting rid of all your junk food and not buying any more when you are at the grocery store. A shopping list you stick to is another good habit that can supplement your willpower.
To adhere to your low-carb diet, Popsugar makes a very valid point: that it’s important not to get tempted by delicious recipes or food on social media. If you’d like to stick to the diet, consider setting up a separate account where you only follow keto dieters on social media, for example. That way you can be “tempted” by keto friendly recipes that will support your diet. Planning ahead also helps too.
Limit Food Media
Studies indicate that watching food advertisements can light up certain areas of our brain, which in turn heighten our cravings. Also, similar research states the same reaction takes place in our brain when we watch cooking shows (sorry, Rachael Ray!) or spend time scrolling through drool-worthy food images and recipes on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. So in other words, stop with the #foodporn.
Here's a little food for thought: researchers at Cornell University reveal that we are faced with about 220 food-related decisions every day, so the more of those choices that are left to chance (Which cereal should I buy? Do I want a turkey sandwich or salad for lunch?), the quicker you'll deplete your daily willpower — and the more likely you are to overeat. Put an end to the on-the-spot picks and plan your meals a day (even a week!) in advance. And always shop with a grocery list; this simple strategy will help limit the number of times you need to tap into your willpower.
When you do follow through and stick to the keto diet, you’ll be proud of yourself for following through, and it will encourage you to continue to stick with it. Woman’s Day discusses more in depth why this is the case:
Willpower increases when you feel good about yourself.
How's this for a catch-22? “Willpower is strongest when you're alreadyfeeling good about your body image and health,” says Susan Bartell, PhD, author of Dr. Susan's Fit and Fun Family Action Plan: 301 Things You Can Do Today. “That's because willpower uses so much of our emotional resources. And there aren't enough left when we're feeling stressed, angry or sad.” The moral, according to Bartell? “Don't start a diet when you just had a fight with a friend or you're frustrated with your kids.”
At the time of writing this post, we're currently giving away free copies of the Body Reboot book because it's our mission to increase awareness and to help people lose weight and get healthy! If you help us cover the cost of shipping, we’ll send a copy to your door FREE. Go over to this page to see if there are any copies left.
Sources: Psychology Today, Psychology Today, WebMD, Popsugar, Woman’s Day
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