Willpower Doesn’t Exist, Systems Work

SavvyMom April 14, 2016

We think we are in complete control of our senses, but there’€™s a new study that proves just how unperceptive we can be about our food intake. Now we are learning that the colour of cutlery influences our perception of how food tastes.
One study finds that size, shape and weight of the spoon affects how people assess flavour. Some assessments went so far as tasting ‘€˜expensive’€™ because the spoon was heavier. What it tells me, as a nutritionist, is that the brain makes judgements even before food goes into your mouth’€”indicating that we are less aware and more influenced by our surroundings than we think.

Previous studies have shown how we are inspired to eat more jelly beans if there are more colours, and that the placement of a candy dish (and whether it’€™s clear or opaque) influences how many we pop into our mouths.

This backs up my often repeated phrase that ‘€˜willpower does not exist; only systems work.’€™ The best and most effective way to control your food intake and consciously enjoy what is going in your mouth is to have an unwavering process through which you chew each day.

Another study suggested that employers should feed their staff or at least insist on a lunch break. The study found that lunch skippers were more likely to make poor or risky decisions since the flight or fight triggers fired when hunger was at play. (In my world, we call it ‘€˜hangry.’€™) This state caused less clear thinking and more aggressive behaviour. Blame your employer if your cubicle mate is ticking you off by 3 pm.

Some tips on how to fix it:

The more systematic you can make your life, the fewer decisions you will have to make on the fly.

  • Breakfast is always the same on weekdays’€”try this Magic Muesli recipe.
  • Exercise is put first daily’€”even a 10 minute round of jumping jacks will set you up for success.
  • Pack a lunch’€”soups and stews or leftover salads are right in the fridge begging to come along.
  • Take a break and eat lunch’€”duh.
  • Have a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts at 3 pm.
  • Do what you want for dinner as long as you have two vegetables and nothing deep fried.
  • See? Simple.

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