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Why is self-control so difficult?

By Michelle May, M.D.

I came across a short video about a study, Why
Change is So Hard: Self Control is Exhaustible
Chocolate Chip Cookie Basically, this study showed that people can use up their
self-control and that makes them less likely to stick to other challenging
tasks successfully. The video triggered two trains of thought for me.

First, it reminded me of my undergraduate work as a Psychology major…who did we think we were fooling with our silly study designs???

Second, isn't it interesting that two seemingly unrelated tasks–such as resisting chocolate chip cookies and sticking to a difficult task–could be related?

My pre-anti-diet days proved that again and again. It seemed the more I resisted the foods I loved, the more difficult other aspects of my life seemed to get. I thought I was just tired or irritable (I was) but this study provides another possible explanation. Perhaps using up my self-control by dieting didn't leave as much self-control for doing boring chores or curbing my tongue.

These days, I prefer to approach my eating decisions as a choice, not a struggle. That way it's not a matter of using self-control, it's a matter of being in charge. (I wrote about that in the first chapter of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat – download it here.)

So what do you think? Is there is a difference between being in charge vs. trying to stay in control?


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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