Tip #3  Eat the Right Food for the Brain

Willpower doesn’t exist.  It isn’t real.  You can’t will yourself to stop yourself from a bad habit or avoid temptation.  Self-discipline is real!  And it works if you are doing the things you need to do to make sure your self-discipline has all the help it can get.

One of the things you can do to help your self-confidence is to feed your brain what it uses for energy which is glucose.  I know, you’re thinking carbohydrates and fruit and those are apparently a big no-no in this world of coconut oil fads and paleo diets.  The fact is your brain survives on glucose (as well as water and other nutrients).  Your brain can’t live on steak alone.  It just won’t work.  So, if you want to help your self-discipline, you’ve got to start consuming glucose.  Live Science puts it this way:

The brain, which accounts for 2 percent of our body weight, sucks down roughly 20 percent of our daily calories. A picky eater, it demands a constant supply of glucose — primarily obtained from recently eaten carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains etc.). Only in extreme instances of deprivation will the brain use other substances for fuel.

More recently evolved areas of the brain, such as the frontal cortex (it’s like the CEO of the brain), are particularly sensitive to falling glucose levels, while brain areas regulating vital functions are more hardy, said Leigh Gibson of Roehampton University in England. “When your glucose level drops, the symptom is confused thinking, not a change in breathing pattern,” he said.

So if you are on a low carbohydrate diet, you are basically asking for your self-discipline to fail.  The frontal cortex is where your executive decisions are made, remember?  The more you avoid good quality carbohydrates, the more likely you are to make poor decisions.  And when we are trying to reach our goals, we don’t really want any more obstacles in our way, do we?

What kind of carbohydrates (starches as they used to be called) are good for the brain?

  • Sweet potatoes – these are slow sugar releasers.  When you consume these yummy vegetables, the glucose gets released slowly into the blood stream.  That’s a good thing.  Good glucose for the brain over a longer period of time – that’s what we want.  Personally, I only eat the purple Japanese sweet potatoes.  I find them less sweet than the orange or yellow ones.  When I’m training for a full day or multiple days, this is my snack of choice.  I eat a little piece every hour or so and my energy levels (and brain function) stay up all day long.
  • Beans – any type of bean will work here.  Hummus will also work but be careful of the high fat content in some of the store brands.  I took on a challenge to eat 1 cup of beans per day.  It was great for my brain and for my weight.  Beans fill you up AND provide the glucose required to stay alert and focused.
  • Legumes/Lentils –  I guess technically you might call this a bean but some countries separate lentils out.  When you think lentils think about Indian food.  Daahl is a good source of lentils.  Again, be careful of that fat if you’re not making it yourself.  You can also cook (or buy them in a can – watch the salt) lentils and throw them in a salad or in soup.  Just like beans, they are filling and provide that glucose you need to keep your self-discipline humming along.
  • Whole grains – these may come in breads or pastas or other processed foods.  The important part is that it says, “WHOLE Grain”.  Don’t be fooled by organic that isn’t whole grain or something that says it’s whole grain and then you look at the label and it’s the last ingredient on the list.  I put this one last on the list because I’m sure that everyone is gluten intolerant now.  Everyone except me that is.

There you have it.  Feed your brain and it will control your cravings, your bad habits and your self-sabotage.

Did you see Tip #1 on Sleep?  Or Tip #2 on the 10-minute rule?

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