ARTICLE – BUMP UP YOUR WILLPOWER FOR A HEALTHY PREGNANCY
Of course your goal is to keep extra fit and healthy during pregnancy. You want to look after your body and do the best you can for your growing bub, right?...… But sometimes the best of intentions don't become actions. It's hard to motivate to work out when morning sickness or tiredness hit. It's easier to grab food on the run when you are squeezing that secret doctor's appointment into an already busy day.
Understanding the nature of willpower might just help you exercise it a little more often in your quest to be the healthiest mummy you can be.
Here are 6 simple ways to boost your willpower throughout the day.
1. DO flex your willpower muscle but DON'T expect it to perform 100% of the time
Research suggests exerting willpower (you walk away from the hot chips at 12pm) consumes self-control strength reducing the amount of strength available for subsequent self-control efforts (you pick up the donut at 2pm). Like any other muscle, your willpower becomes tired after flexing (1). But, research also shows you can train it to get stronger making it easier to resist temptation – at least most of the time (2).
2. Avoid letting your tank get too empty tank or the 'no' might become 'yes'… and vice versa
Some scientists have found exerting willpower causes blood sugar levels to go down. This makes it harder to repeatedly say 'no' to that chocolate, cheese platter or second glass of wine, and 'yes' to the fitness class after work or an early morning walk at the weekend (3). Aim to keep blood sugar levels even with small, regular meals, including a mix of protein and low Glycemic Index carbohydrates, and always keep a selection of healthy snacks on hand.
3. Regularly remind yourself why being healthy is especially important to you at this time
Research shows you can resolve conflict between competing signals vying to drive your behaviour, such as A) eat cake because it is yummy or B) resist cake because it has no nutritional value for me and bub and will give me reflux, by focusing your attention on the more important one – which is B) by the way (4).
4. Telling yourself you are already doing a good job is half the battle… yup it is
Studies suggest self-affirmation improves self-control when sugar resources have been used up (5). Regularly pat yourself on the back for looking after yourself and your baby bump. It might just help you have the willpower to say 'no' when your taste buds are shouting 'yes', especially if you are about ready to eat a horse and home is still 15 minutes away.
5. Get physical to disperse the negative emotions that weaken willpower
Throughout the day you will inevitably experience stressful thoughts and interactions, be it pregnancy or general life related. According to several scientists every one of these situations challenges your self-regulatory success (6). It's good to remember exercise, even a walk around the block, can turn your frown upside down, helping you feel better before you reach for your comfort food (7).
6. Relaxation and distraction help build a strong willpower muscle
A recent study reveals calming or re-directing the mind though a peaceful distraction or mindfulness meditation can significantly boost willpower, especially in the afternoon lull, a time when many reach for a sugary snack (8). Listening to music or a short guided meditation, reading or being out in nature, are all healthy ways to relax and distract. Pick your preferred method to help you and bub chillax.
1) Muraven and Baumeister (2000)
2) Converse and Deshon (2009)
3) Gailliot and Baumeister (2007)
4) Hanif et al (2012)
5) Schmeichel and Vohs (2009)
6) Finkel et al (2006)
7) Parschau (2014).
8) Papies et al (2015)
Need some help with your healthy mummy mission? Check out our pregnancy fitness and wellbeing program by clicking on the link below.
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