Let’s say you promised yourself to eat well all day long and you’ve been doing great. You have an early lunch, but then forget to have a healthy snack in the afternoon. By the time you get home, you’re hungry, tired and have a bit of a headache. You find yourself grabbing for some chips and start mindlessly eating them. Ugh! What happened to your self-control?
You zapped it with your low blood glucose levels. Here, let us explain.
Blood Glucose & Self-Control
Amazingly, researchers have found a link between your blood glucose levels and self-control (your ability to control your thoughts, emotions, urges and behavior). The researchers performed a fascinating study—but we don’t want you to get the impression that you should be consuming sugar—or sugary drinks to boost your self-control. Instead, please ask your chiropractor about healthy ways to maintain your glucose level and see our list of suggestions at the end of this blog. The research is a bit tricky and more needs to be done to fully understand how glucose relates to willpower—and potentially other social behaviors, but here’s the gist:
Several studies out of Florida State University suggest that glucose is one of the sources of energy for self-control—which means that when you exercise willpower or self-control, your glucose levels take a dip. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 9, No. 2) suggests that even small acts of self-control (stifling a giggle, turning down a piece of pizza) can greatly reduce your blood glucose levels. This then creates a sort of snowball effect because your now lower blood glucose level may decrease your ability for self-control. Research has also shown that people are more likely to make poor choices and take risks when their glucose levels are low.
Throughout their research, the Florida State psychologists found their theory to check out. In one study, participants had their blood glucose levels checked and then had to perform a task that was related to their self-control. After the task, their levels were checked again—and their glucose levels had dropped. Then the participants had to perform another task. The researchers found that the group did far worse on the second task—after their glucose levels had been significantly depleted—than the first.
Even more interesting, in a third test, the researchers wanted to test if increasing blood glucose level would protect subjects from other things that impair self-control. To increase their glucose levels, the psychologists had the group drink a glass of lemonade prior to another task. And—it sounds strange—but the researchers also reminded the participants of their mortality (the thought of death has been shown to impair self-control) and they found that the lemonade protected the participants from a decrease in self-control.
Keeping Your Glucose Stable
So what’s the best thing for you to do? Keep your glucose levels normal throughout the day. Here’s a few ways you can do this:
- Don’t skip meals and have a healthy snack mid-morning and midday
- Get consistent, quality sleep
- Include healthy proteins (chicken, some fish, eggs) and fats (extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado) in meals
- Get protein for breakfast, like a hard-boiled egg
- Limit or eliminate grains and sugars from your diet
- Keep stress levels low (try yoga or meditation)