Growth 4 min read

When Willpower Won't Work

Kickstart your body transformation.

Many of us apply the old adage, “mind over matter” when pursuing our wieght loss goals. But why rely solely on willpower to reach your goal? The latest research shows that willpower is a finite resource. In fact, University of Minnesota health psychologist Traci Mann, in her new book, Secrets From the Eating Lab, recommends that you arrange your environment so that you don’t need as much of it.

Imagine if your kitchen was designed in such a way that it encouraged you to eat more of the right foods and make the right choices. How much more likely would you be to honor your intentions if it simply was your default response? Use your power to alter and tweak your environment to work for you. This way you don’t have to work so hard!

With this in mind, here are three ways you can design your kitchen to help you meet your goals.

1.  Less is More

One of the easiest thing you can do to change your environment is to replace your glassware and dishware. In his book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University, presented a variety of studies demonstrating how your eating decisions are shaped by your environment. Psychologically, taller, more slender cups and smaller plates can greatly reduce the number of calories you consume. Wansink found that your brain has a tendency to overestimate vertical lines, so you’ll feel like you are drinking more. Similarly, eating the same portion on a 10” plate will feel more satisfying than eating on a 12” plate.  By making these two little changes, you’ll drink about 20% less and eat 22% less food over the course of the next year. Imagine dropping pounds without feeling deprived!

2.  Persuasive Design

Your brain might want what you do not want. Sugar activates your reward system by releasing the “pleasure hormone,” dopamine. Willpower may not stand much of a chance in this battle but persuasive design will. According to Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of the Stanford Persuasive Lab, by simply creating barriers to the habit you want to replace, you can make room for a new one. While you may want to begin by purging your pantry and making a conscientious effort to buy fewer high sugar items and processed foods, you can further safeguard your impulses by placing any stowaway items on higher shelves or in the furthest corner of your pantry.

3. In Sight

Just like increasing the number of steps to get to tempting treats helps us avoid the temptation, reducing the number of steps to get to healthier options will make it easier for you to adopt a better diet. Refrigerators are designed with the crisper and humidity drawers on the lower shelves. Most of us naturally follow this design and put our vegetables and fruits in these drawers. Unfortunately, too often this arrangement means out of sight, out of mind. All your good intentions do not make it on to your plates. Placing vegetables and fruits in the middle shelves, puts them right at eye level and encourages you to make better food choices.

Reaching your weight loss goal is not just about eating less and restricting your diet. It is about eating more of the right foods: high protein, nutritionally dense, high fiber carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Replacing old habits with new ones requires motivation, effort and willpower. Many of us struggle to maintain all three of these and end up falling back to old habits. The secret to your success may be found in the parable of the sower. A farmer scattered seeds, but only the ones that fell on good soil yielded a bountiful crop. Preparing your kitchen environment, rather than relying solely on willpower, may be the difference that allows your good intention to land on fertile soil and lead to a leaner, healthier you.

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