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Will Power in Your Bloodstream

January 10, 2012

Brit Trogen

With the new year just ten days old, it's time for us to prepare for that wave of mid-January "Breaking of the Resolution" indulgences. Promise to lose weight? To save more? To kick your dependence on scandalous British TV shows? By the end of January, there's a 33% chance you will have failed, and that climbs to over 50% by July. 

 

They're beckoning...

 

But if giving in to temptation is largely a failure of will power, there's a new theory that may exonerate the weakest of us: will power may be nothing more than a fluctuation of blood glucose levels.

 

Acts of self-control, according to some studies, rely on a limited energy source that's linked to glucose in your blood. Exerting your will power depletes large amounts of glucose in the bloodstream, and is most likely to result in a failure of self-control if your glucose levels are low. This holds true for all manner of impulses—from quitting smoking to resisting impulsive shopping—not just dieting. The lowered self-control (ahem...) that you may experience after consuming alcohol can also be explained with this hypothesis: alcohol reduces glucose levels in the blood and brain. So you're really not to blame for what you did that one time in Vegas... 

 

On an intuitive level, this makes sense. Controlling your impulses repeatedly often leads to a sudden breakdown in will-power, a phenomenon scientists are now calling the awfuckit response. So the most successful people at keeping their resolutions are, paradoxically, those people who exert their will-power the least. In other words, keeping temptation out of your life as much as possible means you're less likely to run out of that wonderful sugary will-power, because you rarely use it.

 

Another as yet untested theory, which I will now put into practice, is that eating many cookies will in fact increase your will-power... so you can use it to avoid eating cookies in the future. Now if you'll excuse me...

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