The good news and the bad news

The good news is that I practiced moderation during a recent weekend trip to Tulsa.

I didn’t eat donuts for breakfast, the wonderful bread and butter offered during lunch at a fancy restaurant or the brownies at an evening cookout.

The bad news is that I lost all of my self-control as soon as I arrived home, and I ate almost a whole box of Samoas, my favorite kind of Girl Scout cookie.

The good news is that I was comforted when I read an online article in the March 22, 2011, issue USA Today –“People can exercise only so much self-control.” The article reports on the growing amount of research that shows that we are weak because we have only limited amounts of self-control resources.

In the USA Today article, Kathleen Vohs, a professor at the University of Minnesota, suggests, “When you want to engage in good self-control, the best thing that you can do for yourself is set up your day so you exert your self-control resources toward that specific task you want to succeed at.”

That’s the same message that Daniel Akst gives in his book We Have Met the Enemy—Self-Control in an Age of Excess, which we discussed in an earlier blog post.

The bad news is that the other people who read the USA Today article left very negative comments. One wrote, “This is just another excuse for Americans to justify their laziness.” Someone else said, “People are supposed to have self-control?!?! This is America. People don’t need self-control anymore.”

What’s the point? Even those of us who are capable of great self-control, sometimes mess up. Maybe this new research can offer some insight. Each of us needs to figure out what’s going on when she messes up. Understanding when and why you lose control is the first step to finding your own solution.

This is only the first of many blog posts that we’re going to write about food—which is an issue for both of us and for many of you, too.
–Joy

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