Why Willpower is so Hard

By Director of Product Development, Tina Van Horn.

Do you have an easier time making smarter food choices during the day than in the evening? Whether it’s that open bag of crisps the kids left on the kitchen counter or the chocolate ice cream in the freezer, sometimes no amount of willpower can thwart the craving.

I am speaking from experience on this one and to be honest, it is a daily struggle. I always thought it came down to self-discipline and that if I was strong enough, I should just be able to say no to the crisps, ice cream and cereal. But there is very interesting research that explains why willpower sometimes isn’t enough to keep us from making those regrettable choices.

Stephan Guyenet, a Seattle-based neuroscientist and author, says it is possible to resist these easily-available temptations but it doesn’t work forever.

“The problem with willpower is that it’s a limited resource. It’s effortful,” Guyenet says. “If you have to do it on a constant daily basis, which is what you have to do if you’ve lost weight and your hunger circuits and your food-seeking circuits are activated, you’re going to have to exert that willpower on a continual basis to restrain yourself from eating food.”

This can be so hard! Life gets crazy and we all have so much to do in a day. If you’re trying to live a balanced life, willpower becomes even more difficult to sustain. Think of your willpower as a petrol tank. Your fuel runs low and close to empty by the end of the day. That’s why it is harder to make those smarter food choices in the evening!

This biological explanation makes me feel better, but I know I have to be careful to not allow it to become an excuse. The best strategy for me is to keep the temptations out of the house which is not easy when you have two very hungry boys and you don’t want to deprive them of treats. But seriously, they aren’t going to be scarred for life if there isn’t any ice cream in the freezer, right?

Let us know how you navigate the minefield of treats at the end of the day!

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