New years start idealistically; everyone’s trying to lose weight and hit the gym on a more frequent basis. Problem is, come February or March, that resolve crumbles into a poor excuse to keep paying for unused gym membership. Where is the willpower when its needed?
willpower – noun, pronounced ˈwɪlˌpaʊə, the ability to control oneself and determine one’s actions
Strength of will and self-discipline are things we could all use a little more of. With enough resolve, its almost like we don’t know how to quit. Other times, we glance at a reminder to hit the gym today but refuse to evacuate the comforts of our homes.
Researchers published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology some interesting physiological observations on willpower. Using a number of tests to gauge willpower (e.g. emotional control, retaining focus, suppressing thoughts, and a number of social behaviors), Gailliot et al. found that the key to strong will is glucose, a simple carbohydrate the body uses for energy.
Specifically, they noted:
- Blood glucose is reduced after performing some task requiring self-control
- Low blood glucose predicts poor willpower under study conditions
- Drinking a sugary beverage boosts willpower and counteracts impairments from 2
These are undoubtedly interesting findings and may explain why so many people struggle with dieting. Take away the sugar and lose the will to keep dieting.
Self-control requires a certain amount of glucose to operate unimpaired. A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control.