Your Brain vs. Willpower

by Sarah

Are you tempted by those sweet treats at work? Can’t pass up a salty snack no matter how hard you try? Do you NEED to have that afternoon soda either for the caffeine kick, sweet taste, or both? Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, struggles with making healthy choices throughout the day. We may blame our unhealthy decisions on our lack of willpower or self-control, but the sense we have for needing a certain food or drink over another may be deeply rooted in our brain. This article on how our brain reacts to decision making may help us break some of our unhealthy habits.

As much as we try to look away from the doughnut staring back at us, our decision making skills are influenced by a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is released in the brain when we are anticipating pleasure or a reward. The study described within the article showed that once participants were rewarded by choosing one object over another (and in our case, a doughnut versus a piece of fruit for example) they were then more distracted by the rewarding object the next time they had to make a decision (choosing the doughnut over a piece of fruit).

Dopamine works it magic in this way with every decision that we make. If that’s the case, how do we break the vicious cycle and make better decisions throughout the day? One way to fight back against making poor choices is to replace the unhealthy option with something else. For example, choose a piece of fruit instead of an unhealthy item to tame your sweet tooth. Swap out a soda for a flavored water, water with fruit, or carbonated flavored water for some extra fizz. Instead of a candy bar, try almonds with some dark chocolate covered raisins on the side and remain mindful of the portion. When these and other swaps become a habit, you and your brain will be more likely to choose the healthy option when faced with a tough food or drink decision.

Be Well,



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