Did you know that when you strengthen willpower in one area of your life, it can spill over into other areas? It’s like when you go to the gym and work your biceps—well, those stronger biceps come in handy outside the gym, too. In fact, willpower is very much like a muscle—it can be strengthened over time, and it can be depleted pretty quickly when challenged. It’s nice to know you’re not just stuck with your current amount of self-control. (However, it’s always better to avoid temptation all together since your reserves can run dry.)
To begin growing your self-discipline, pick a small behavior you’d like to turn into a habit. It can be food related but doesn’t have to be. For instance, you could decide to begin keeping a food log after every eating episode. (Logging has been shown to help people lose weight without intentionally changing what they eat.) Or maybe you’ve had it with inflamed gums and the threat of periodontal disease—in that case, a nightly flossing routine is in order. Perhaps you want to make sure the kitchen sink is empty before settling in to watch a Netflix. Whatever you choose, commit to following through with it every day no matter what.
If you stick with your new habit long enough, you will start to see your nascent discipline bleed over into other areas of your life—including your eating. But this will only happen if you follow through every day no matter what. So even if you’re exhausted after a hard day, flossing is still mandatory. Or maybe the thought of confessing that pint of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Häagen-Dazs on paper is too much (and besides, how much hot fudge and whipped cream did I eat anyway?)—thy must do it! Following through on commitments whether you want to or not builds willpower. NOT following through does the opposite—it insures that your old habits remain firmly in place.
Pick a chore or activity you’d like to be doing regularly—be very specific about what you’re doing and even for how long in some cases (i.e., I’ll write for 20 minutes/day Monday through Friday right after breakfast.). Once you have a plan, implement it, and watch your discipline grow.
Caroline’s Change Your Brain Boot Camp helps people adopt a nutrient-rich diet by teaching them the psychology of permanent weight loss.