Did you just decide to forgo that Twinkie and instead opt for a carrot? You should be feeling great, because you’re doing what’s good for you, right? Well, according to researchers at UC San Diego and Northwestern University, exerting this type of self-control is actually more likely to make you angry.
The recent study showed that people who used self-control to choose an apple over a candy bar were more likely to feel angry afterward, as well as more likely to find messages urging them to exercise annoying. Read the entire summary of the study here.
Now, this is not a license to go out and binge on junk food, because that’s not going to make you feel good either. Instead, the researchers suggest that you avoid putting yourself in the position of having to use self-control to make a healthy choice, and to mentally shift your views about foods. For example:
- At the grocery store, avoid the aisles displaying junk food or other high calorie foods you find tempting.
- Avoid keeping tempting unhealthy foods in your house, so you aren’t faced with tough decisions at home.
- Focus on, buy, and prepare healthy foods you really enjoy, so that you can more easily associate pleasure and happiness with healthy food (as opposed to associating healthy food with restriction).
- Eat what you’re craving, but serve yourself a small portion and focus on the enjoyment you’re getting out of every bite.
- When possible, try to associate unhealthy foods with grease, fat, disease, or other unpleasant things, rather than with reward. Sounds weird, but you’ll be less likely to crave chocolate, fries, etc. if you aren’t associating them with instant gratification.
Finding the balance between indulgence and healthy eating is a tough one for most people. If you’re one of these people, remember this: if you enjoy healthy foods 80-90% of the time, what you eat during the other 10-20% of the time won’t affect you that much.