Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Self-control is a resource

So I've been reading about this for awhile, self-control takes a mental resource we have in limited supply.  So stop beating yourself up when you run out, and I have some tips for when it is in short supply.

Avoidance instead of self-control
If you are constantly in situations where you have to exercise self-control, then you're going to run out of self-control eventually.  So modify your environment and habits so you don't even have to exercise it.  Get the garbage out of your house, or at least out of your sight. You might need to enlist the cooperation of those you live with, but I assure you this makes everything much easier.

Substituting
Perhaps one can substitute one bad thing for something either not-so-bad or not-at-all bad.  This is my reasoning behind using non-caloric sweeteners (rarely).  I'd be much better for me to have a tasty, sweet treat that avoids sugar or high fructose corn syrup that would send my blood sugar to the moon or damage my liver.  As my years eating low carb have progressed, I have come to rely on these sweet treats less and less, but they were very useful for me to make the transition to a low carb lifestyle, versus a temporary low carb diet. 

Other things, those that fall under the, "Better than the alternative" could be something like very dark chocolate.  It has a little caloric sweetener in it, but overall it's quite low if you get the 70-85% cocoa solids.  And it is usually extremely satisfying for those who love dark chocolate.  The bitterness takes a bit of getting used to, but most of us end up liking it.  In fact, I had a commercial chocolate bar awhile back and it tasted very weird to me.  I could barely taste anything chocolate in it, sure it smelled like chocolate but it was way too sweet, cloyingly sweet!  I wondered why I ever liked it.

There have been other things that seem to soothe the craving beast.  Bacon, chicken wings, a bowl of hot chili.  A "burrito bowl" at Chipotle (without rice, maybe keep the beans, depends) with a big dollop of guacamole.

Maybe "treats" restore some of the will-power reserve.  But I also think they can be misused.  You can set up brain circuitry to start expecting treats on a regular basis.  So don't abuse them!

References

Freakonomics blog
Making choices impairs subsequent self-control
Association for Psychological Science (2009, April 7). You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from You Wear Me Out

2 comments:

majic said...

Nancy,

The second reference link, "Association for Psychological Science (2009, April 7). You Wear Me Out: Thinking Of Others Causes Lapses In Our Self-control. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/04/090406192429.htm" just takes me to the Blogger landing page.

Nancy said...

I fixed the link. Here it is again: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406192429.htm