“Indeed, the best way to think of willpower is not as some shapeless behavioral trait but as a sort of psychic muscle, one that can atrophy or grow stronger depending on how it’s used.”
— Jeffrey Kluger
I recently tried an interesting experiment on myself.
My coworkers and I often head over to the nearby Sam’s Club to grab a slice of pizza for lunch. The pizza is cheap, huge, and delicious.
I had been studying willpower and was pondering and experimenting with the notion that making good decisions depletes our willpower.
I recognized two possible paths ahead of me on this particular day that we were thinking of getting pizza:
- Choose to eat the pizza and save some willpower for the afternoon of work ahead of me.
- Choose to eat the healthier food I’d packed for lunch and lose some willpower.
I chose to eat the pizza to see how the increased willpower might affect the remainder of my day at work.
It was a bad decision that left me mentally hungry the remainder of the day.
My productivity plummeted after partaking of the pizza.
The consequences of the two choices weren’t so straightforward as simply saving some willpower for later or not.
We often forget that food isn’t just to nourish our bodies but more importantly the purpose of food is to nourish our brains.
When we eat unhealthy food, our brains go hungry and don’t function at the highest capacity. Eating the pizza meant that I would have decreased mental capacity.
My question before I had the pizza was whether or not the willpower saved would be greater for my mental capacity than the brain food I brought with me.
The remainder of the day I was sluggish and unfocused, disappointed that I had chosen the pizza.
Turns out that brain food is far better for productivity than the increase of willpower that is possible when we let ourselves eat junk food.
Healthy food feeds your brain, and thus, your productivity.
Additionally, scientists are having a hard time replicating the original study in which it was determined that willpower is depleted. So my initial belief in willpower depletion may be misplaced anyway.
So now what?
“One should eat to live, not live to eat”
— Benjamin Franklin
This little experiment made me think of all the great and wonderful experiences and accomplishments we’d all like to have in our lives.
What is your dream, your life goal? Your vision?
Is it worth sacrificing even one day to unhealthy, processed foods?
Maybe some days, it is. Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and other special days might be good times to forgo the productivity that comes from brain food.
You probably don’t need the extra mental capability on those days anyway.
But for a typical day of working, taking care of a Family, or studying?
I’d rather reach my goals, personally.
Do yourself a favor, throw away the Doritos and Mountain Dew (and pizza) and get yourself some fruit and vegetables.
You’ll find yourself more capable to accomplish anything and everything you’ve wanted out of life if you choose to eat healthier.