Thursday, July 14, 2011

DAY 195 -- Our willpower muscle.

Awhile back I mentioned reading a book titled: We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess.  The author, Daniel Akst, wrote that we need to think of willpower as a muscle that becomes stronger when we exercise it.  Each time we use willpower, it adds strength which we can call upon the next time it's needed. But, just like a muscle, willpower weakens by overworking it.  For instance, if we have temptations all around us and have to continually use our willpower, we will eventually become weak and give in.  (This applies to all aspects in life that require willpower, not just food.)  He suggested using strategies to give willpower a rest.  We should rely as little as possible on willpower in the face of temptation.  (Don't count on controlling hunger -- have a plan, or an escape.)

He mentions a woman who used some unique strategies.  When served dessert, she poured salt over half of it so she wouldn't eat that part.  After giving snacks to her kids, she applied slow-drying nail polish so she wouldn't reach into the bag for more.

I think too often I have relied on sheer willpower and turned my nose up to "strategies."  Whenever I did use tactics to stop eating, I felt like I was being weak.   But, after reading his book, I see the wisdom in having a few tricks up my sleeve.

Here's a list of strategies I've come across.  I've tried some of them, but not all.  It's nice to have a selection to choose from to see what works for me, and to devise a plan.

  • Never eat directly from a package; use a bowl or plate.
  • Brush teeth right after meals, to help avoid munching as you clean up the dishes.
  • Keep a buffer of time and space between you and temptations.  (Such as stashing the chips in a far corner of a far closet, so it takes more effort to retrieve them--giving time and distance to rethink having any.)
  • Better yet, don't buy the things you want to avoid.
  • I recall reading about a woman who put her "house" on a diet.  She would not bring anything into the house that she shouldn't eat.  If she really, really, really wanted that candy bar, she had to drive to the store and get it.  (Which combines the previous two strategies.)
  • Drink water before a meal.
  • Only eat at the table.
  • Dish up your meal on a small plate so the serving sizes look bigger.  (This strategy works for my husband, but not for me.  If I serve myself food on a small plate, I think to myself, "I only had a small plate of that... I can have more."  It works far better for me to use a full size plate and arrange my food so it looks like a plateful.)
  • Put your fork down between bites.
  • Sip water between bites.
  • Cover up, or discard leftovers immediately.  (I found placing my napkin over my plate when I'm finished really does help me quit picking at what's left on my plate.)
  • When going out to eat, decide what (and how much) you will eat before you go.  (To avoid giving in to impulses.)
  • At restaurants, ask the server to bring a take-home container along with your meal, then put half of your food in the box right away.  Out of sight.  Out of mind.  
  • Enlist the help of friends or family.  ("Don't let me order the full rack of ribs!")
  • Always leave something on the plate.
  • Before eating, ask yourself aloud, "Do I want to eat, or do I need to eat."
I need to exercise my willpower muscles, but I'm also selecting some strategies for back up. I'm sure you can add to my list of tactics.  What works for you?  

1 comment:

  1. I love ALL your tactics here! Sometimes I just simply throw things out that are "talking" to me through the cupboard doors. While I'm a pretty thrifty person, I cannot afford to keep an open package of chocolate chips in the cupboards as I will eat them a handful at a time. My worst time for snacking is about 9:00 at night. Sometimes I just go to bed rather than fight the cravings.