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6/23/2015

AreYourSnackingHabitsaLackofSelfControl,OrSomethingElse?

Are Your Snacking Habits a Lack of SelfControl, Or Something Else?

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani Get free science updates here[1]

Snacking habits: lack of self-control?


So heres a scenario to consider:
One of your goals is to eat healthily for 12 weeks. That means no junk food of any sort.
And youve been doing pretty well for the past 8 weeks.
But someone puts a beautiful bowl of crisps right in front of you and youve always
loved crisps! You pride yourself in having really good self-control but your hand is
about to reach for a big handful of those delicious treats.
Okay, so lets pause that scene for a moment.
Whats more likely to stop your hand from delving into the crisps and ruining your
record?
a. Exerting your self-control and resisting temptation right on the spot? OR
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b. The strength of the new habit youve been setting up, which somehow weakened
your excitement about crisps?
Lets give it another hoot for the strength of habits. The answer is b.
As a matter of fact, it is hugely about your habit strength. (Goodness, of all the things
we could measure, did you ever think one could be called habit strength?)
Just how good is your habit strength when up against a favorite junk food snack?
Youre about to find out!

The self-control spectrum


When you think of self-control, whether it is pertaining to yourself or a client, theres
a fair chance that you associate that word with success, or a positive outcome. Do you
agree?
Usually these outcomes are considered to be the result of the ability to refuse desires
for immediate gratification sort of like resisting that bowl of crisps in front of you. If
the end result of that situation is that you resisted the crisps, then it is deemed that
you have good self-control.
We normally associate good self-control with an effortful process that requires
conscious attention or deliberation. As a result, we believe that those who put in the
mental effort to resist the snacking action have more self-control.
But heres the twist: new research suggests[2] that self-control around snacking can
also be effortless.
The researchers call it effortless inhibition.
Lets see how thats even possible next.

Effortless inhibition of the snacking impulse


People who are better with self-control (inhibition) around snackinghave more
success in regulating their behaviour not because they resist temptation each time,
but because they:
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1. prevented the creation of a bad habit or an addiction[3] in the first place, by not
putting themselves in the position where they have to resist or inhibit those
impulses regularly, and
2. established strong routines and automatic habits[4] through repetition, resulting in
weaker desires when presented with single temptations or even removing the
dilemma of having to resist.
Take a moment to think about that!
Those two things combined help inhibit the unhealthy snacking effortlessly.
There are many strategies to prevent the creation of a snacking habit or an addiction
AND to create strong routines that remove the snacking dilemma. Think of ways that
you can stack up the conditions to make it happen.
Heres a few examples:
Altering your environment so the temptation is no longer around.
Curating your current shopping list or creating a brand new one.
Avoiding the pastries and snacks isles and sticking to your new shopping list[5].
Not keeping any sweets[6] or snacks at home or work.
Keeping food (even healthy ones) out of sight or out of reach.
Circumventing the street of your favourite bakery.
Looking away (and holding your nose!) if you do walk by it.
All of these things are part of what is called choice architecture, whereby you arrange
your circumstances so the need for a choice (the dilemma) is removed.
Consider this: you can better your self-control by creating effective routines, or
habits, which are carried out automatically, rather than by forcing the inhibition every
time that temptation arises. In other words, you can boostyour habit strength.

Enter:habit strength
Habit strength[7]is another word for automatically repeating a habit. Its a function of
the frequency with which an action has been repeated in a stable context and has
acquired a high degree of habitual automation.
So when you repeat the habit that you have set up, and do it regularly and
automatically, it can be said you have good habit strength.
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Heres a visual representation of habit strength:

Habit Strength = Action Frequency x Level of Automation


The results of this study[8]point out that the connection between self-control and
unhealthy snack consumption is dependent on your habit strength.
Habits mediate the relation between self-control and behaviour.
I think thats fantastic news. Particularly for those who struggle with a snacking issue.
This proves the fact that self-control can result from behavioural automation rather
than an effortful path.
When your routine becomes that strong, resisting the snacking impulse can be
effortless.
You can learn how to install strong routines here: Forget About Willpower: How to
Install New Habits and Achieve Great Things[9]

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Heres other useful resources to keep you going:


And if youd like to become a go-to expert on this, we dive really deep into eating
psychology in our Advanced Clinical Weight Loss Practitioner[10] online course.

How about you?


How would you rate your habit strength? Do you have any automatic habits that have
helped you to successfully steer clear of unhealthy snacking?
Jump in the conversation below and share with our very supportive community! Pass
this along to someone you know who would love to know that self-control around
food doesnt need to be effortful.
Every Thursday we share our research and actionable advicetohelp you and those you
care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates[11]

Links
1. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/free-newsletter/
2. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00444/full
3. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/eating-addiction/
4. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/new-habits/
5. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/fighting-supermarket-junk-food/
6. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/break-the-sugar-habit/
7. http://www.springerreference.com/docs/html/chapterdbid/346357.html
8. http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00444/full
9. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/health-tips/new-habits/
10. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/cpd-accredited-cyq-endorsed-clinicalweight-loss-certification/
11. http://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/free-newsletter/

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