Omnivore - Brush your teeth with your left hand and watch the fat melt from your body

Do you swear you will only eat one more chocolate from Maison Robert and end up with an empty box 45 minutes later? Maybe it's because earlier in the day you successfully restrained yourself from adopting six kittens at the Humane Society shelter. An op-ed in the New York Times explains the mystery:

The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals — like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren’t out shopping....

Focusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another.

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

Read the column here.

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