I recently read that 88% of all resolutions end in failure. That’s a pretty harsh stat – especially today, when many of us are indulging in behaviors today that will likely be sworn off this time next week. One of the reasons why resolutions don’t work is that they largely rely on will power in order to stick. Unfortunately, will power alone is really not a good plan. In fact, relying on will power is actually the reason people fail to stick with resolutions. Why? The part of the brain responsible for providing us will power is already overtaxed working on keeping us focused, managing memories, and solving theoretical problems. By the end of the day, there can be too much stimuli to this part of the brain to ask it to avoid temptation as well.
What to do? For starters, you can keep your brain properly fueled. All of this thinking and learning and problem solving require a steady flow of glucose! Eating complex carbohydrates every 3-4 hours will help fuel the brain and keep it running efficiently. By doing this, you’ll also be far more likely to stick to a weight loss resolution – since getting too hungry is a recipe for eating too much of the wrong type of foods!
What else to do? Since the mind is weak when it comes to sustaining will power, the trick is to employ the power of distraction (some ideas: walk the dog, call a friend, clean out a junk drawer, or check email). Studies show if you can delay gratification by distraction even just for 20 minutes, you can actually help boost the minds ability to avoid temptation. Practicing this technique over time can strengthen the mind’s will power the same way as you would strengthen a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
Try practicing the mental discipline of distraction in other areas of your life and perhaps you’ll find it easier and easier to stick to your resolutions, and stay away from the cookie jar.
Here's to making this year's resolutions stick forever!
Danielle Omar, MS, RD
The Food Confidence Expert