why you want cookies instead of carrots and what to do about it

THERE’S A SCIENTIFIC REASON YOU WANT TO CHOOSE COOKIES OVER CARROTS AT NIGHT

time to read 3 min

why you want cookies instead of carrots and what to do about itNowadays my morning beauty routine consists of  brushing my teeth and wiping yesterday’s mascara from underneath my eyes.  I deem this as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as I’m going to get, considering I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since December 2014.  A small price that I’m happy to pay for getting to be a mother, but I’m not going to pretend that my coffee-fueled prayers aren’t what get me to the 8 o’clock bedtime.

It’s 8:01 pm, let the games begin.

The head-games, that is.  You’ve been there.  The “I want cookies, but I should eat carrots” game. Heck, sometimes you stop at “I want cookies” and don’t even make it to the “but I should…” part.

When you just starting to try to be healthier, this is a very real battle.  Until the healthy snacks become an established habit, you will be much more likely to nibble on junk food than the more nourishing foods.

Ego-depletion

I’ve seen it innumerable times with my clients before, so I was surprised to find (thank you, Summer Tomato) scientists have actually given this commonplace head game a name (don’t they have anything better to do with those research dollars??) .  They call it ego-depletion.  Ego-depletion basically means, the more tired you are, the more likely you are to go on “auto” mode and not think through your choices, but to fall back to your defaults.  It’s just too much effort to try.

The great thing, though?  You now know this.  You know you are likely to make choices you’ll roll your eyes at the next morning when you have more energy and brainpower.  So, strategize so your awake self can help out your tired self. Here’s what you can do…

1- Make healthy options easy.

You know you aren’t going to feel like making a healthy snack at night, so make it earlier.  Slice up those bell peppers and put them in a baggie right on top of the tub of hummus.  Set the almonds and apple in a bowl on the table for later.  Put the popcorn kernels in a paper bag and put it in the microwave so all you have to do is hit the start button.  Do it now.

2- Set up speed bumps.

Put a sign on the inside of your sweets and treats cabinet door that will ask a question and cause you to think twice.  Examples being:  Are you hungry?  How will this food make you feel in 2 hours?  Or my personal favorite- have you already had a treat today?

 3- Set yourself up during the day.

  • Eat three meals a day- don’t skip.  When you are overly hungry, it is rill rill hard to make better decisions.
  • Eat more healthful foods that will nourish your body.  If you do that throughout the day, then a small treat won’t be as big of a deal.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Oftentimes, thirst is mistaken for hunger or munchiness.  Keep hydrated.
  • If you had a harder workout day, make sure you are fueling your body for those during the day When we don’t eat properly and heavily exercise, oftentimes hunger will overrides your rationale and we overindulge as we justify it with our having been at the gym.

4- Know that it will get easier.

Each bite reinforces a health habit- whether it’s a positive or a negative one.  Every time you choose the almonds over the almond biscotti, or the strawberries over the strawberry Pop-Tart, you inch closer to healthy being your default  You don’t have to fight as hard for wholesome food choices.  What a place to be at.  But it starts with your choice right now.  Which direction are your wheels turned towards?

Alright…Go get ’em tiger.

Resources/Further Reading

1//Lin PY, Wood W, Monterosso J. Healthy eating habits protect against temptations. Appetite. 2015 Nov 14.   2//Wang Y, Wang L, Cui X, et al.  Eating on impulse: Implicit attitudes, self-regulatory resources, and trait self-control as determinants of food consumption.  Eat Behav. 2015 Dec;19:144-9.  3//Tuk, Mirjam A.; Zhang, Kuangjie; Sweldens, Steven.  The propagation of self-control: Self-control in one domain simultaneously improves self-control in other domains.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 144(3), Jun 2015, 639-654.

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