New Dartmouth study of dieters suggests avoidance is better than willpower
by Lyssa Myska Allen, founder of DailyHap
I recently asked our office manager if she would mind NOT buying a particular candy that I love (dark-chocolate-covered superfruits, if you must know)—and she said “Just show more willpower!”
I responded, “Please help me out.”
Turns out a new Dartmouth neuroimaging study backs me up: The findings indicate that dieters will have more success if they avoid situations that challenge their self-control.
Now, I’m not on a diet per se, but couldn’t all of us use a little help avoiding daily treats that add up to empty calories?
The research revealed that people overeat when the regions of their brain that balance impulsive behavior and self-control become disrupted, decreasing their capacity to resist temptation.
Going forward, the Dartmouth researchers are looking into whether self-control can be strengthened over time by routinely resisting minor temptations, says Professor Todd Heatherton, the study’s senior author. Previous studies suggest that people have a limited amount of self-control that dwindles when used to cope with stress, temptation, and other challenges, leaving us vulnerable to impulsive and undesirable behavior.
Don’t be shy about asking for help with your avoidance, or avoiding the dessert table at your next family function—it’s good for you all around.