Ah, willpower. We blame our lack of it for so many shortcomings in life. It is one of the most difficult things to muster as you strive to reach your goals. And doesn’t it always seem that the harder you try to avoid something the more certain it is you will give in. Turns out there is something to that beyond some sort of unfortunate personal shortcoming. There is some interesting research being done telling us it is likely chemical.

Enter the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. This book is so chock full of great stuff I urge every one of you to read it and take notes. What I’d like to specifically share with you in this post is the link between low glucose levels and willpower. Since nutrition and wellness are my passion I was intrigued by the discoveries concerning dieting and willpower. So here it is: the less you eat, the less willpower you have to resist the things you want to eat. In the end..giving in! This fact has a pretty bad ring to those who are trying to lose weight or dramatically change there diet. The simplified scientific explanation is that your body, including your brain, uses large amounts of glucose to function. Glucose is the fuel your body uses to produce energy, it is what we get from food in one form or another. When your brain is deprived of adequate glucose it is unable to function optimally which leads to poor decision making. It’s a one-two punch in that first your brain is using glucose rapidly to maintain willpower to resist whatever delicious temptation you are avoiding, then, as your body needs glucose to maintain energy you start to crave sweets (sugar is the fastest source of energy for your body). Weakened willpower + craving for sweets = donut! OR such a hankering for one that you are in such a crappy mood you can’t even see straight.

The way to avoid or at least minimize this when you are dieting is to maintain a consistent source of carbohydrates for your body to use and maintain glucose levels. That involves eating more frequent but smaller meals through the day made up of complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats. You’ve seen this advise before, this is just another good reason to take it. Choose foods that burn slowly providing a steady supply of glucose for your body to use as energy and foods that are low on the glycemic index so to avoid sharp spikes in your blood sugar only to send you crashing down and craving sugar. When you maintain a constant supply of energy for your body you will be maintaining the necessary fuel for keeping that willpower strong.

Very short sample of foods low on glycemic index:

  • Yogurt

  • milk, soy milk, almond milk

  • whole grains – ie: rice, barley, quinoa, oats. Most can be made into wonderful salads or breakfast cereals

  • Most fruits and vegetables (bananas, kiwis and sweet potatoes tend to be on the higher side)

  • Multi-grain breads/bagels

  • nuts

  • wheat thins

  • graham crackers

  • pasta, esp whole grains

  • oatmeal

Note: there is plenty to be learned from various books and websites about GI. Please take your time to read up. I’ll be updating to include books and sites to help you.


One response to “Willpower

  1. Pingback: Supermarket survival | LIVE LOVE LOOK BETTER

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