I’m doing a series of articles here at Vegan Soapbox that highlight key points in a book I read recently, The Willpower Instinct.
This series will provide a quote from the book that captures an important concept. Then I will illustrate that concept with an example or two that might help Soapbox readers go (or stay) vegan. To live vegan in a nonvegan world requires some willpower (if not in avoiding nonvegan foods then in avoiding fruitless debates with nonvegans or antivegans). The articles here will loosely follow the book from begining to end.
This is part two of the series: Exercise. (Part one was Awareness and you can read that here >> )
From the book:
“Exercise turns out to the be the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered. [...] Fifteen minutes on a treadmill reduces cravings, as seen when researchers try to tempt dieters with chocolate and smokers with cigarettes. The long-term effects of exercise are even more impressive. It not only relieves ordinary, everday stress, but it’s as powerful an antidepressant as Prozac. Working our also enhances the biology of self-control by increasing te ebaseline heart rate variability and training of the brain. [...] Physical exercise – like meditation – makes your brain bigger and faster, and the prefrontal cortex shows the largest training efect.”
We already know that exercise has it’s own benefits like improved physical health. And as explained elsewhere on Vegan Soapbox, exercise creates dietary wiggle room that allows for the occasional treat or relatively low levels of some nutrients. But now we also know that exercise can help improve our willpower too!
Have you ever noticed that a lot of vegans embrace yoga? Not only are the philosophies of many yoga instructors based on ahimsa (the avoidance of violence), but there’s probably another reason why yoga is a favorite amongst vegans. Yoga combines both exercise and meditation, which is an incredibly powerful combination for increasing one’s willpower, which in turn makes going or staying vegan easier.
I’m not going to lie, I used to hate yoga. There was something off-putting to me about it. I didn’t like the fakes who did yoga and then ran to McDonald’s on the way home. I didn’t like the feeling that I could burn more calories doing cardio kickboxing. I didn’t like the smell of some yoga studios. I could go on. But I’m starting to like it more as I get a little older. I like the peacefulness I sometimes feel during or after yoga. The relaxation I acheive after a good yoga session is simply better than most other exercises. There are still aspects I dislike, but it’s growing on me for sure. Maybe you’re like me and you just need to give yoga another chance?
Or not. You don’t have to like yoga. Any exercise will work to increase your willpower. Any exercise will help you go or stay vegan! Go for a hike or walk the dog. Go swimming or running. Play with your kids or garden in the yard. Do a zumba class or lift some weights. Ride a bike or have a solo dance party in your living room. The author of The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, points out that exercise needn’t be intense nor difficult. All that’s required is that you are able to “answer no to the following two questions: 1. Are you sitting, standing still, or lying down? 2. Are you eating junk food while you do it?”
So what are you waiting for? Get moving!
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:YogaClass.jpg