This is the time of the year when you just want to snuggle under the covers and dive into a great book. Am I right? Well, I’ve got your back!

This week, in episode 34 of Thin Thinking, I’m reviewing the wonderful book, “The Willpower Instinct”, based on author and Stanford psychology professor Kelly McGonigal’s popular course, The Science of Willpower.

This book is full of fascinating and well-researched tidbits about our brain and willpower.

Allow me to share with you, here in our latest “Thin Thinking Reads”, some of the parts of the book that uncover the mystery of our willpower and how it will help us in our weight mastery journey.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

Subscribe and Review

Have you subscribed to the podcast yet? If not, go ahead and click the ‘subscribe’ button for your favorite podcast platform! You don’t want to miss a single episode.

If you enjoyed this episode, it would be very helpful to us if you would leave an honest review on Apple Podcasts. This review helps people who are on the same weight loss journey as you to find us and soak up all the wonderful insights and lessons I have to offer.

If you aren’t sure how to leave a review in Apple Podcasts/iTunes, view our tutorial by clicking here.

Subscribe and Never Miss an Episode


Rita Black: Willpower. Sometimes we have it. And sometimes we don't. It almost seems like a mystery when it works. And when it doesn't. This week, I'm reviewing the wonderful book, The Willpower Instinct based on author and Stanford psychology, professor Kelly McGonigal's popular course, the science of willpower. So join us and discover why it's the latest Thin Thinking read.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right, the key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist, weight loss expert, best-selling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict, and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need. Not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long-term and live your best life. Sound good. Let's get started.

Rita Black: Hello, everyone and happy, happy, happy November. This is the time of year, we just want to snuggle under the covers and dive into a great book. Well, I have got a book for you. Have you ever just stumbled upon a book and just devoured it like a favorite meal? Well, that was me in the book, The Willpower Instinct. I read it without willpower. I binged it, like it was a bowl of popcorn. My husband would ask me to do something and I would say, I'm sure, honey. And then I would just totally forget what he asked me to do. I just became obsessed by getting, it was just the biggest fricking page turner.

Rita Black: And why I loved it so much is because the author Kelly McGonigal has packed this book full of fascinating, fascinating, and well-researched tidbits about our brain and willpower. So here's a bit of description from the book, the back of the book. So, you know what it's all about? So after years of watching her students struggling to control their choices, McGonigal realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. For example, seeing willpower as a virtue can derail our best intentioned goals. Instead, McGonigal urges her students to understand the biological functions, mental traps, and social factors that influence our self-control. Drawing from the newest insights and disciplines such as psychology, neuroscience, and economics, McGonigal created a course for Stanford's continuing studies program called The Science of Willpower, which participants describe as life-changing. This course is the foundation of the willpower instinct, which provides a clear framework for what willpower really is, how it works and why it matters.

Rita Black: Also need I say more. It doesn't that sound scintillating. All right. So I'm going to read from some, some scintillating and cool excerpts from this book. And, just like give you a little taste tasting like a poopoo platter of the various chapters in this book, because it's, it's it, she gets all over the place. You know, it's not, she's just not following one theme, but there's many, many themes in this book. So I thought, you know, as we are a thin thinking podcast, I would talk to you about what she calls the willpower miracle. And this was pretty fascinating.

Rita Black: So the first thing I wanted to read to you from is what she calls the problem of two minds. And, definitely if you're a student or a client of mine, we have discussed this. And as a hypnotherapist, I talk about the two minds all the time. But she kind of just approaches it and, and talks about some interesting ideas behind this. So, let me just read here. So when we watch our willpower fail, spending too much, eating too much wasting time and losing our tempers, well, it can make a person wonder if he has a prefrontal cortex at all. Sure. It might be possible to resist temptation, but that doesn't guarantee that we will. It's conceivable that we could do today what begs to be done tomorrow. But more often than not, tomorrow wins. For this frustrating fact of life, you can give evolution, a big thanks. As humans evolved our brains, didn't so much change as they grew. Evolution prefers to add onto what is created rather than to start from scratch. So as humans required new skills, our primitive brain was not replaced with something completely new. The system of self controlled was slapped on top of the old system of urges and instincts. That means that any instinct that has once served us well, evolution has kept it around. Even if it now gets us into trouble. The good news is that evolution has also given us a way to handle the problem we run into. Take, for example, our taste buds delight in the foods that most likely make us fat. An insatiable sweet tooth once helped humans survive when food was scarce and extra body fat was life insurance. Fast forward to our modern environment of fast food, junk food and whole foods. And there is more than enough to go around. Extra weight has become a health risk, not an insurance policy. And the ability to resist tempting foods is more important for long-term survival. But, because it paid off for our ancestors, our modern brains still come equipped with a well-preserved instinct to crave fats and sweets.

Rita Black: Fortunately, we can use the brain's more recently evolved self control system to override those cravings and keep our hands out of the candy bowl. So while we're stuck with the impulse, we're also equipped with the impulse control. Some neuroscientists go as far as to say that we have one brain, but two minds. So, even two people living inside our mind. There's the version of us that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification and the version of us that controls our impulses and delays gratification to protect our long-term goals. They're both us, but we switch back and forth between these two selves. Sometimes we identify with the person who wants to lose weight. And sometimes we identify with the person who just wants a cookie. This is what defines the willpower challenge. Part of you wants one thing and another part wants something else, or your present self wants one thing, but your future self would be better off if you did something else.

Rita Black: When these two selves agree, disagree, one version of us has to override the other. The part of you that wants to give in isn't bad. It's simply has a different point of view about what matters. And then she goes on to talk about, well, more and more about that idea, but, and she's very funny. She, she writes in a very funny way. She, you can see, she has a bit of sense of a humor. Now I'm going to go further into the book and we're going to get into this topic a little more in a way. But you know, you can certainly see that, you know, when we use hypnosis and meditation in a way, it is to help that part of our brain that you know, wants to bank on tomorrow instead of starting over tomorrow, you know, override the impulse part of us, right? And a lot of our thin thinking tools do the same. We're working with that more powerful part of the brain, the, the, the part of the brain that has our better health interests in mind.

Rita Black: So this part of the book is called Putting the Future on Sale, The Economics of Instant Gratification. It was a competition you didn't see every day - 19 chimpanzees versus 40 humans. And not just any humans students from Harvard university and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany. The chimps were from the equally prestigious Wolfgang Kohler Primate Institute Center in Leipzig. I hope I'm saying this all right. After all in a matchup with Harvard and Max Plank, you can't just, you can't throw at just any old circus chimps into the ring. The challenge: delay the gratification of an immediate snack to win more food. The temptation grapes for the chimps and raisins peanuts, m&m's, goldfish, crackers, and popcorn for the humans.

Rita Black: First, all the competitors were offered a choice between two and six of their favorite edible rewards. This was an easy choice. Both the humans and the chimps agreed that six was indeed better than two. Then the researchers complicated the choice. Each competitor was given the opportunity to eat two treats immediately, or wait two minutes for six, the researchers knew the participants preferred six to two, but would they wait for it? This study published in 2007 was the first to directly compare the self-control of chimpanzees and humans. What the researchers found, however, says as much about human nature as about the evolutionary basis of patients, although both chimps and humans preferred six treats to two, if they didn't have to wait, the species made very different decisions when they had to wait. Chimpanzees chose to wait for the larger reward and impressive 72% of the time. the Harvard and Max Planck Institute students only 19% of the time.

Rita Black: How are we to interpret this crushing defeat of humans by incredibly patient primates? Are we to believe that chimpanzees have been blessed with the secret source of self-control? Or that we humans at some point in our evolutionary history, lost the capacity to wait for two minutes for peanuts? Of course not when we're on our best behavior, human beings, the human's ability to control our impulses puts every other species to shame. But all too often, we use our fancy brains not to make the most strategic decisions, but to give ourselves permission to act more irrationally that's because a big prefrontal cortex is good at more than self-control. It can also, and this is what I love you guys, I can also rationalize bad decisions and promise will be better tomorrow. You can bet those chimpanzees weren't telling themselves, I'll take the two grapes now because I can always wait for the sixth grapes next time. But we humans have all sorts of mental tricks for convincing ourselves that the time to resist temptation is tomorrow. Tomorrow. And we have the gigantic prefrontal cortexes find ourselves giving in again and again and again to immediate gratification. Isn't that interesting? You know, cause we talk about starting over again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. So that's your fancy prefrontal cortex at work. You know, saying, Hey, let's figure this out so that we can start again tomorrow.

Rita Black: Now I'm going to give you one more little juicy tidbits. And this is the Power of Acceptance, which we talk a lot about in the shift as well. So what are we to do with our thoughts and cravings, if not push them away. Maybe we should embrace them. That is the conclusion of a study that gave 100 students transparent boxes of Hershey's kisses to keep with them at all times for 48 hours. Their challenge don't eat a single kiss or any other chocolate. To be sure there were no cheaters, the experimenters subtly marked each kiss so that they would know if anyone tried to replace eaten kisses. The experimenters didn't send the students off defenseless. They gave them advice on how to handle their temptation. Some students were told to distract themselves whenever they wanted to eat a kiss. They were also told to argue with thoughts of eating. For example, if they had the thought those chocolates look so good, I'll just eat one, they should try to replace it with a thought, You are not allowed to eat the chocolate and you don't need one. In other words, these students were told to do exactly what most of us want do when we want to control our appetites. Other students got a lesson in white, the white bear phenomenon. Experimenters explained ironic rebound, encouraged, explained ironic, rebound and encouraged the students not to push away thoughts about eating chocolate. Instead, they should notice when they were craving chocolate, except whatever thoughts or feelings that they had about the chocolate. But also remember that they didn't have to act on those thoughts and feelings while not controlling their thoughts, They still had to control their behavior.

Rita Black: So over the 48 hour test of their willpower, the students who gave up thought control have the fewest cravings for chocolate. Interestingly, the students who are helped the most by the acceptance strategy were those who ordinarily have the least self control around food. When students who typically struggled the most with food cravings, tried to distract or argue with themselves, it was a disaster. But when they let go of thought suppression, they were, and they were tempted less, sorry. They were tempted less by the kisses and less stressed out about having to carry around the chocolate they couldn't eat. Most incredibly, not a single student using the acceptance strategy, ADA kiss, despite staring at the promise of reward for two days straight.

Rita Black: Isn't that interesting? So again, we do talk a lot about accepting ourselves, accepting our thoughts, but we don't have to act on our thoughts. But when we get conscious to them and get aware of them, rather than pushing them away, again, resistance gets bigger when we resist. You know, and when we start to accept it, start to be with it, start to listen to it and get curious about it. It changes the shape altogether and gives us more power.

Rita Black: All right. So if you want that page turning read, that might give you a better glimpse into your behaviors. I've included the link in the show notes for the book, The Willpower Instinct, right above another best-selling book called From Fat to Thin Thinking for those of you who didn't know about it, which also does include a 30-day hypnosis based process. That's online. You go and sign up and then you get to do that all for the price of a book. So those are a couple of awesome reads for the month of November. Get your willpower instinct, you know, getting, getting on before Thanksgiving and the holidays and have an amazing week. And remember that the key and probably the only key to unlocking the door of the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it. Have an amazing week. I look forward to seeing you next week.

Rita Black: Thanks for listening to the thin thinking podcast. Did that episode go by way too fast for you? If so, and do you want to dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release? Head on over to where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release, tips, strategies, and more, and be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking: Unlock Your Mind For Permanent Weight Loss. And to learn how to subscribe in the podcast so you'll never miss an episode.