If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with the holidays it’s food. All the parties, family dinners and sweet treats are enough to derail any dieter that was on the track to hit healthy high marks for the year.
Instead of falling off the wagon again, read on to learn ONE Thing you can do to actually make healthier decisions this holiday season, and beef up your willpower.
Healthier Habits Before the New Year
It’s all about accountability and awareness. During a busy day it’s easy to forget how much you’ve had to eat and how much the calories are adding up. A food journal is an easy way to track everything you’ve consumed.
Keeping a food journal is an eye-opening experience. Many people are totally unaware of how many calories they intake daily until they see it on paper. Even more significant is gaining a better understanding of how many calories are in the things we eat. With a food journal it’s also much easier to see where your healthy eating habits are versus where you can make improvements.
Here’s a few things to track in your food journal:
• What you consume (including water)
• Portion sizes
• Time food was eaten
• How you were feeling/what you were doing when you ate
• Calorie count
A weight loss approach study from the Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research showed that people who kept food diaries lost about twice as much weight as those that didn’t record their eating. Whether your write it down in an actual journal, track it with a habit-building tool or leave yourself sticky notes, what’s most important is that you be consistent in recording your eating activities on a daily basis.
How Your Diet Directly Affects Willpower
Your diet and willpower are actually intertwined because the brain uses glucose to function. When your glucose level is low, so is your willpower. If you go into a situation, say a holiday party, running on fumes then your willpower is more likely to wane.
That was what Florida State University psychology professor Dr. Roy Baumeister found in a recent willpower study. It’s best not to go to a party or dinner on a completely empty stomach. Even having a lightly sweetened drink can be enough to get your glucose levels up where you need them to be for improved willpower.
Refer to your food journal to see when you ate last before heading to a holiday event. If it’s been more than three or four hours, you’re likely low on glucose, especially after a busy decision-making day at the office.
Use the Holiday Temptations as a Way to Build Your Willpower
Your willpower will be tested time and time again over the holidays. The good news is that these little tests can help you improve your potential. Just like other muscles in your body, the willpower sectors of your brain need a good workout to keep in peak working condition.
Willpower is neither a naturally occurring finite thing, nor is it limitless. It fluctuates, can be exhausted and can be expanded with practice. Dr. Baumeister has noted that deliberately exercising self-control can lead to improvements in willpower. If you give in to one holiday temptation after the next, you’re doing nothing for your willpower. However, each time you resist a holiday cookie or turn down a glass of eggnog it will get easier.
In your food journal make a note of when you come in contact with a temptation and how you handled it. This will serve not only as a way to record your accomplishments but also as an indicator of when your willpower was the strongest, which can help you keep your eating habits in check.
Have you found a food diary process or tool that works for you? If so, we’d love to hear how it works and how it’s helped to keep calorie intake in check.