4 Ways To Improve Your Willpower This Holiday Season and Beyond

Spent too much money this holiday season? Here are some foods that can help or hinder your willpower.

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Photo By Timothy Eberly
Photo By Timothy Eberly

The holidays can be a very stressful time for many people. Not only are there extra financial burdens from gift giving and holiday parties, you’re apt to be busier than normal, juggling multiple priorities to get everything done. And let’s not even mention all the stress that comes from dealing with family and in-laws!

Stress and other emotional triggers can affect your willpower. When you’re feeling down or uncomfortable, who doesn’t gravitate towards something that makes you feel better? For some people, this comes in the form of retail therapy. For others, overeating or indulging in too many sweets, and none of it actually makes anything better. It just makes you feel temporarily better until you look at your waist line or bank account. What if you could make it through the holidays and not overindulge in food or shopping, or whatever your guilty pleasure is? What if additional holiday stress didn’t have to trigger addictive or compulsive behaviors? It could be as simple as what you are or aren’t eating.

Food can have a profound effect on mood and mental state. Eastern approaches to wellness, including Ayurveda, have known this for centuries, and the newish field of nutritional psychology is catching on to this, too. Here are some tips to make the holidays better and help you improve your willpower so that you don’t give in to those emotional cravings.

Try something sour. Sour foods have the amazing ability to combat sweet cravings. And while there are very few things better than holiday sweets, too much sugar has been linked to a decrease in willpower. So instead of going for more sweets, try a shot of lemon or lime juice instead, and not in your margarita (remember, alcohol contains tons of sugars).

Eat ample protein. Protein is excellent at satiating your body more quickly, making you less likely to crave sweets to begin with. If you’re not getting enough from your food, consider a protein supplement. I love Nutritional Brands, because they have lots of vegan, vegetarian and whey-free alternatives, and so many people now have food sensitivities or allergies. Remember, less sugar likely means better willpower.

Ditch the food colorings. Did you know that the colorings added to many processed foods may reduce your willpower, in addition to causing problems with concentration and health in general? Instead of going for the brightly colored cookies and cakes, maybe try a homemade version without the added chemicals or colors. This is especially true for kids where food colorings have been linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior.

Boost your digestion. A sluggish digestion can lead to a sluggish mind and decreased willpower. There are a few ways to improve digestion. Don’t drink fluids at the same time as you’re eating a large meal. This can inhibit proper digestion. Prioritize flavor over quantity. Good-tasting foods will sate you more quickly than bland ones. Try adding some black pepper to your foods: this has been shown to help digestion. And most importantly, space out your meals, so that your body is not constantly trying to digest food.

Give these a try and see how they work. I bet at least one of these strategies will work for you. You now have some simple yet powerful weapons to help combat stress during the holidays, and year-round.

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