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Old 04-03-2008, 10:46 AM   #1  
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Default "Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind" - NYTimes article about willpower

This article is from a couple days ago. I think the point of it was that we in the U.S. are going to have to start reining in our consumer impulses - that in the face of recession and record levels of consumer debt, we have to learn about this elusive thing called "willpower" and just say no to the things we're accustomed to buying.

The reason why I'm posting it here is that there is a lot of it that's very, very applicable to those of us trying to lose weight. The article talks about the brain's "limited capacity for self-regulation" -- we each have a "store" of willpower, and when that's used up for the day, we end up with no willpower for seemingly unrelated tasks later on.

The article goes on to say that the combination of these two things - the fact that we need to rein in our spending and that our willpower is finite from day to day may actually mean that tighter economic times lead to looser belts, expanding waistlines. Because when we say no to buying the latest iPod, it's harder to turn down that chocolate cake later on.

But there's light at the end of the tunnel - evidence suggests that long-term consistent usage of willpower stores does in the end increase our capacity for exercising willpower. (Yay!)

Here is a small quote from it, the link follows:

The brain’s store of willpower is depleted when people control their thoughts, feelings or impulses, or when they modify their behavior in pursuit of goals. Psychologist Roy Baumeister and others have found that people who successfully accomplish one task requiring self-control are less persistent on a second, seemingly unrelated task.

In one pioneering study, some people were asked to eat radishes while others received freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before trying to solve an impossible puzzle. The radish-eaters abandoned the puzzle in eight minutes on average, working less than half as long as people who got cookies or those who were excused from eating radishes. Similarly, people who were asked to circle every “e” on a page of text then showed less persistence in watching a video of an unchanging table and wall.

Other activities that deplete willpower include resisting food or drink, suppressing emotional responses, restraining aggressive or sexual impulses, taking exams and trying to impress someone. Task persistence is also reduced when people are stressed or tired from exertion or lack of sleep.


I can *definitely* see this kind of dynamic working in me, how about you?
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Old 04-03-2008, 10:50 AM   #2  
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Wow. Awesome article! Thanks for posting, Suite!!!! I was actually encouraged by it. And I can definitely see how this relates to my life and things I'm doing.

Originally Posted by suitejudyblueeyes View Post

But there's light at the end of the tunnel - evidence suggests that long-term consistent usage of willpower stores does in the end increase our capacity for exercising willpower. (Yay!)
I believe this means we all have to practice using our "No" muscle.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:36 PM   #3  
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that is very interesting and does explain a lot of what goes behind my choices
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:58 AM   #4  
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I was re-reading this and I don't want to jump to any conclusions, but:

What limits willpower? Some have suggested that it is blood sugar, which brain cells use as their main energy source and cannot do without for even a few minutes. Most cognitive functions are unaffected by minor blood sugar fluctuations over the course of a day, but planning and self-control are sensitive to such small changes. Exerting self-control lowers blood sugar, which reduces the capacity for further self-control. People who drink a glass of lemonade between completing one task requiring self-control and beginning a second one perform equally well on both tasks, while people who drink sugarless diet lemonade make more errors on the second task than on the first. Foods that persistently elevate blood sugar, like those containing protein or complex carbohydrates, might enhance willpower for longer periods.
This might be a reason to have meals & snacks paced throughout the day in order to keep our blood sugar level enough to avoid giving into temptations.
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Old 04-11-2008, 10:44 AM   #5  
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Nice article. Yup, 'rollercoasting' your blood sugar throughout the day wrecks havoc on your brain power, will power and mood power. I don't need a funded study to know this -- I just observe my kid's concentration and mood before and after eating. Amazing how civil and brilliant they are when they've got a belly full 'o good food!
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:26 AM   #6  
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This sheds a lot of light on why I have made some of the choices I have throughout my life.

Not just with food, but spending money too. I used to have a nasty little habit I referred to as "Retail Therapy" . You know...When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. I can't tell you how many times I "DISCOVERED" things at the mall...most things I really didn't need. Now I am paying Discover for those impulses.

Here's to making better choices in all aspects of life!!!
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