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Forget Willpower: Avoid Temptation

Aug. 1, 2013|567 views
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If you’re one of the millions of women or men who have attempted to diet, you’re familiar with the problem: The spirit is willing, but the flesh is all too weak. I won’t sugarcoat it for you. Sticking to a diet is not easy. It takes time, determination and more than a little willpower.

 But new research suggests you might want to stack the odds in your favor to increase your chances of achieving long-term success. According to researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Dusseldorf, it may be smarter to remove temptation, rather than relying on your willpower alone to avoid certain diet pitfalls.

 If your weakness is ice cream, for example, remove all ice cream from the house, and avoid buying it while you attempt to lose weight. Sounds like common sense, but many people assume they can avoid tempting foods by willpower alone. Sounds like a plan.

 But according to the results of the present research, published in the journal, Neuron, you may have less control over your brain than you think. Using real-time brain imaging, they demonstrated that resisting temptation was far easier when the temptation was removed from ready access. This strategy is called “precommitment.” It’s defined as the voluntary restriction of access to temptation. In other words, if cookies are your downfall, get rid of all cookies and ask others in the household to refrain from buying more, at least until you goals are achieved.


Molly J. Crockett, Barbara R. Braams, Luke Clark, Philippe N. Tobler, Trevor W. Robbins, Tobias Kalenscher. Restricting Temptations: Neural Mechanisms of Precommitment. Neuron, 2013; 79 (2): 391 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.05.028


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