Boost Willpower to Banish Pounds
Wish you had more willpower? There's hope. A new study conducted at The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center indicates that self-control can improve over time, if you work at it.
"Our findings suggest that self-control is potentially malleable and the practice of inhibiting impulses may help people lose weight, eat healthier and increase their physical activity," lead author Tricia M. Leahey, Ph. D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown Medical School and The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center said in a press release.
The findings, published in the Obesity Research and Clinical Practice journal, were drawn from two studies. The first study put 40 obese participants through a six-month behavioral weight loss program, during which they were asked to stick to a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet and progressively increase physical activity. Participants also learned behavior change strategies and took part in weekly weigh-ins and sessions facilitated by behavioral psychologists, exercise physiologists and dietitians. Self-control was measured by a handgrip task, which required participants to ignore pain, cramping and discomfort in order to keep a tight hold on the grip for as long as they could.
The initial study only measured participants’ self-control once, at the end of the study, but a follow-up study measured 23 obese subjects' self-control with a hand-grip test before and after completion of a similar six-month behavioral weight loss program. Both studies found a link between weight loss success and higher levels of willpower: Participants who lost at least 10 percent of their initial body weight had more self-control than those who lost less weight. Here’s the exciting part: The second study provided evidence that self-control can be improved with the right training, just like flexibility and muscle tone. Subjects who upped their baseline self-control score at the end of the behavioral weight loss program lost higher percentages of weight than participants whose self-control did not show signs of increasing.
According to Leahey, working to improve willpower could be the key to boosting weight loss success.
"The more you exercise it by eating a low-fat diet, working out even when you don't feel like it, and going to group meetings when you'd rather stay home, the more you'll increase and strengthen your self-control 'muscle' and quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health," Leahey said.
Looking to drop pounds soon? Build rock-solid self-control with these tips:
- Focus your self-control where you need it the most—instead of trying to give up Facebook the same time you’re trying to drop weight and quit swearing, set your sights on one goal. Research shows that willpower is finite, so if you try to use it in too many places at once, you’ll run out.
- Eat small meals that contain sufficient complex carbohydrates (think whole grains, fruits, and veggies) and protein throughout the day. Low blood sugar can weaken your self-restraint.
- Get enough shuteye. Less than 6 hours with your head on the pillow could detract from your decision-making abilities, which could lead to a self-control breakdown.
Read on for more advice about bolstering your willpower: 4 Secrets to Impeccable Self-Control
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