This morning Mario and I watched another food documentary – Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. If you’ve never seen it, watch it! You can watch it on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes. It’s only 1 1/2 hours and worth every minute.
I won’t say too much about the film, but it’s basically about two men who go on a juice fast for 60 days and the dramatic changes that they experience. While making the documentary, the main character, Joe Cross, talks with ordinary Americans about his fast and their current state of health. I couldn’t help but be completely bothered by the number of people who said I can’t do that, I don’t have the willpower, I’m not strong enough, or fast food just tastes so good. However, my favorite was a man who had already suffered a heart attack, saying that he would never change his greasy diet- ever. I am only here for a short time so I might as well eat what I want. I think I might live to 55. He said this all while sitting beside his (I’m assuming) son. Not cool.
Watching so many people say I can’t over and over again, really got me thinking about willpower. As a society, do we really think we are that helpless? Do we really think that we are unable to take charge of our lives and of our health? Are we seriously going to let food control us? And how to we go from thinking I have no self control to yes, I can do this? Now I am just as guilty as anyone else. When it comes to chocolate, I have it pretty much set in my mind that I have to have a piece every single day. Granted, one piece isn’t that bad, but it’s the thought that I have to have this that’s problematic. No, actually I don’t and maybe I should try skipping it every now and then.
The ability to resist our impulses is commonly described as self-control or willpower. The elusive forces behind a person’s willpower have been the subject of increasing scrutiny by the scientific community trying to understand why some people overeat or abuse drugs and alcohol. What researchers are finding is that willpower is essentially a mental muscle, and certain physical and mental forces can weaken or strengthen our self-control.
Studies now show that self-control is a limited resource that may be strengthened by the foods we eat. Laughter and conjuring up powerful memories may also help boost a person’s self-control. And, some research suggests, we can improve self-control through practice, testing ourselves on small tasks in order to strengthen our willpower for bigger challenges.
“Learning self-control produces a wide range of positive outcomes,’’ said Roy Baumeister, a psychology professor at Florida State University whowrote about the issue in this month’s Current Directions in Psychological Science. “Kids do better in school, people do better at work. Look at just about any major category of problem that people are suffering from and odds are pretty good that self-control is implicated in some way.’’
Willpower is tough, yes. But it’s not unattainable. Today, I had no chocolate and I survived. I might just try it again tomorrow. It’s all about the small victories.
Happy Trails & Happy Running,