Get in the mindset although a positive attitude makes for a great guide, research suggests that human willpower is a finite resource (although it varies from person to person), and that exercising willpower in one arena tends to deplete it in another. Stanford University conducted a study that tested human willpower, simply by asking one group of grad students to memorize a two digit number, and another group to memorize a seven digit number. After the experiment each group was offered a choice of fruit or cake, and the students who memorized the seven digit number were twice as likely to choose the cake. Basically, their brains told them that they earned the unhealthy reward for exerting effort somewhere else. Does this phenomenon sound familiar to your diet? If you’ve had a particularly rigorous workout, or almost followed your diet to the T, are you much more likely to cut corners and cheat?
Apply it to Your LifeThe good news about this phenomenon is that by accepting the fact that a tired brain that’s inundated with problems has a harder time resisting temptation, you’re already on your way to overcoming it. Prof. Roy Baumeister of Florida State conducted an experiment where he challenged students to improve their posture over the course of two weeks. In those two weeks it was discovered that the flexing of willpower in that one area had spread to other arenas of their life, such as diet and exercise.
For diet and exercise, this doesn’t mean that sitting up straight will automatically provide you with the motivation and willpower to execute your wildest fitness dreams, but it does mean that small daily goals have a domino effect on larger ones.
Armed With Answers, Start AgainThe final piece to the motivational puzzle is, of course, choosing a program that works for you. Common sense dictates that super-strict diets and 90 minute daily workouts are not in the cards for most of us, but small dietary changes, or research on doable diets certainly help. US News and World Report published an exceptional guide to the best diets, or, “healthy lifestyle plans that work” here. Some focus on cutting certain vices, and others emphasize caloric shifts over caloric reductions . . . basically, they leave little room for excuses when it comes to eating healthy.
As far as moving and strengthening your body goes, there’s so many flexible programs around, it isn’t difficult to find one that fits like a glove. Fortune High-Tech Marketing offers a program called FABS Cyberfitness, which allows you to choose classes that fit your style, while pairing you up with a personal trainer, all from home. The courses are streamed online and sent via DVD in succession, so you get personal attention and workouts never get stale. Nike + Kinect also has a program that allows you to track your fitness progress from home, and there are plenty of programs like P90X that help kickstart your fitness routine from home. Achieving your health goals doesn’t mean torturing yourself into submission, but it also means not cutting corners. Armed with an education about how your brain works and a diet/fitness plan, bringing out the best version of you is a goal worth reaching.