Personally speaking – whatever happened to willpower?

Canadian Thanksgiving ended 4 days ago and so did my cravings for all things ‘pumpkin’ – or did it?

this is the best ice cream - salted caramel is great too.
this + the salted caramel is the BEST ice cream

The importance of willpower needs to be revisited – as in “I will NOT have another slice of pie no matter what.  Okay, just one more…it can’t hurt right?”  After all I did manage to lose the extra pounds put on from a trip last Spring.  I do NOT want to gain them back but I don’t want to deny myself another slice.  This is an argument with myself – usually a no-win situation.  It ends with okay..have your pie, enjoy it & deal with it later.  Make yourself run an extra mile. If you didn’t eat it you wouldn’t have to but now you do. 

Research tells us that willpower is a limited resource. Each of us only has so much of it.

Control yourself! We all say it, mostly to ourselves. We say it when we ‘indulge’ in behaviors that cause short-term gain for long-term pain. And guilt (note to self – buy the book ‘toxic guilt’ recommended by a friend). I cite many of the usual suspects: eating the wrong things, being lazy, staying up too late, drinking too much. There are others, of course. Why do we do such things? After all, aren’t we entirely in control of ourselves all of the time?

Yes, and NO we are not!  That makes us human I guess and some humans are so mean they’ll buy a jar of Earnest pumpkin pie ice cream and leave it in your freezer so that when you finish the real pumpkin pie but the cravings haven’t yet ended, you can indulge again!  As I did…with a fork no less (as all the spoons were in the dishwasher) & I couldn’t wait.  Finally..craving satisfied!

I’ll have to run an extra mile or two but now I’m too lazy so I’ll do it tomorrow instead. It’s a tough circle.

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B Well – Will Power!

Willpower – the Greatest Human Strength!                   

Willpower isn’t just some storybook concept.  It’s a measurable form of mental energy that runs out as you use it, much like gas in your car.  That’s why your resolve to hit the gym weakens after you’ve slogged through a soul-sapping day at work.

Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University calls this “ego depletion”, and he proved its existence by sitting students next to a plate of fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies.  Some were allowed to snack away, others to abstain.  Afterward, both groups were asked to complete difficult puzzles.  The students who’d been forced to resist the cookies had so depleted their reserves of self-control that when faced with this new task, they quickly threw in the towel.  The cookie eaters, on the other hand, had conserved their willpower and worked on the puzzles longer.  That’s good to hear as I just ate 6 cookies.

Further studies have suggested that willpower is fueled by glucose –which helps explain why our determination crumbles when we try to lose weight.  When we don’t eat, our glucose drops, and our willpower along with it.  “We call it the dieter’s catch-22:  In order to not eat, you need willpower,  But in order to have willpower you need to eat,” says John Tierney, coauther with Baumeister of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.

We can wield what scientists know about willpower to our advantage.  Since it’s a finite resource, don’t spread yourself thin.  Make one resolution rather than many.  One tactic is to outsource self-control.  Get a gym buddy.  Use Mint.com to regulate your spending, or RescueTime.com to avoid distracting websites.  People with the best self-control aren’t the ones who use it all day long.  They’re people who structure their lives so they conserve it.  That way, you’ll be able to stockpile vast reserves for when you really need it, like hauling your lazy ass to the gym.              Judy Dutton for Wired Magazine.

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