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When it comes to willpower, practice makes perfect

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A new study finds that the more you practice self-control, the stronger your self-control will become. The stronger your self-control — or willpower — the more weight you will lose, the fewer fatty foods you will eat and the more exercise you will do! Hey, they always say that practice makes perfect.

Researchers at the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center found that individuals with more self-control lost more weight, were more physically active, consumed fewer calories from fat and had better attendance at weight-loss group meetings. The same was true for participants who experienced an increase in self-control during a six-month behavioral weight-loss treatment program.

“Of course it makes sense that if you have more ‘willpower’ you’ll do better in a weight-loss program; however, this phenomenon is surprisingly understudied,” said lead author Tricia Leahey, of the Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, in a release. “Our study is the first to examine whether practicing acts of self-control during weight loss is linked to an increase in self-control and better weight-loss outcomes, although other research has demonstrated this effect in the area of smoking cessation.”

Leahey went on to explain that the current study suggests self-control, or willpower, is like building a muscle. “The more you ‘exercise’ it by eating a low-fat diet, working out even when you don’t feel like it and going to group meetings when you’d rather stay home, the more you’ll increase and strengthen your self-control ‘muscle’ and quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health,” she said.

The hard part is getting past the point where you’re thinking about cheating on your diet plan or skipping an exercise session. (Check out these goal-setting techniques to avoid this.) Once you get past that point, you’ll strengthen your self-control and be on the right path to greater weight loss and fitness in the future.

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