Make it Easier to Stick to Your Eating Plan

You can make it easier to stick to your eating plan by being aware of a phenomenon called ego depletion. Ego depletion results from an effort of will that is tiring. For instance, the effort it takes to stifle an emotional response or force yourself to do something you don’t want to do can cause this.
cognitive effort
If you’re like me, many days are filled with a significant number of these events! If it seems more difficult to stick to your eating plan on those days, it’s not your imagination. You are experiencing the results of ego depletion.

In the book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, Dr. Daniel Kahneman describes scientific experiments which have shown that our physical endurance is reduced following performance of an activity that requires emotional effort. When we are emotionally depleted, we give up more quickly. This can affect our resolve to resist the temptation to eat a piece of cake.

In one experiment, participants were first asked to eat radishes and celery while resisting the temptation to indulge in chocolate and rich cookies. Later, these subjects proved more likely to give up sooner than normal when faced with a difficult task. The researchers established that there is a long and varied list of situations and tasks that are known to deplete self-control.

Actions that indicate ego depletion are also numerous. They include deviating from one’s diet and overspending on impulse purchases. And, take it from me, saying yes to a date with a man even though you know you’re not interested.

A few years ago, I surprised myself on a day when I had handled a customer conflict while fighting a cold. A potential date offered to come over and make me Theraflu laced hot tea and I let him, all the while wondering why I was doing it. I knew I didn’t want to date him. Looking back, I’ll chalk that up to ego depletion.

The mental load of working through the household budget at the same time that you’re resisting the urge to grab a bite of the kid’s pizza will make you more likely to eat the pizza even when you know you will suffer later from ingesting the gluten.

How does knowing any of this help me?

Armed with this knowledge, you can see the importance of putting in place life systems that support your goals. When you are in a weakened state of resistance, a system can provide the support you need to get past temptation. You can also stop punishing yourself for being weak when you manage to resist eating gluten, but still give in to the temptation to have an extra scoop of ice cream. You are not weak. You are normal.

You’ll also be happy to know that Dr. Kahneman and his colleagues note that mastery of a skill reduces the effort required to perform that skill. Once you are practiced at avoiding gluten, it will no longer require maximum effort to do so. Knowing it will get easier can help you follow your diet plan until you reach the point of mastery.

How does this feel?

You may have experienced ego depletion as a feeling of, “I just can’t do it” or dragging your feet. For instance, I do a lot of cooking and I hate doing dishes. Sometimes I’ll envision myself doing the dishes and I’ll feel unable to get up, go in the kitchen, and get started because the task seems so huge.

Now I know from experience that the actual work is never as bad as I imagine it will be. It just seems that way In my head because of the effort I am expending to force myself to do something I don’t like.

One way to get past that hurdle is to approach doing my dishes as if I’m doing a friend’s dishes. Why? Well, I know that when I help out a friend by washing their dishes, it never seems like a big deal because I don’t think about it. I just do it.

Working out can be like that too. When I just get out the gear and work out, it’s no big deal. It’s when I think about how much time it’s going to take out of an already busy day that I begin to feel an urge to skip the workout.

One way to get past that obstacle is to choose workouts that leave me feeling better than I feel without doing them. Then I can focus on the anticipated good feeling as motivation. That reduces my cognitive effort and thereby increases my physical stamina while reducing my temptation to make other bad choices.

What works for you may look totally different from what works for me. As long as you’re aware that success will be easier when you reduce ego depletion, you’ll be able to figure out a system that supports your goals. That will make it easier to stick to your eating plan.

https://us.macmillan.com/thinkingfastandslow/danielkahneman/9780374533557/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090224132915.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman

http://books.wwnorton.com/books/The-Undoing-Project/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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