To-Do #8–Do Not Eat the Chocolate Egg

I’ve seen the enemy, and it’s a pastel, candy-coated chocolate egg.

I’ve already had four and it’s only 7:00 a.m.  They were very tasty at the time, but right now, I’m wishing I’d shown the will to resist.

In a classic experiment, a researcher set a marshmallow in front of a four-year-old and told him/her that it was theirs.  However, if they were able to resist eating the marshmallow for a few short minutes, they’d get another one.  The study went on to link the ability to delay gratification to academic success, avoidance of risky behavior and higher SAT scores.

I would have eaten the marshmallow and used the five minutes to create a persuasive essay about why I ought to get the second marshmallow anyway.

I see my lack of will power as an evil twin undermining my efforts to eat like a grown up while I’m off taking care of everything else.  My husband cries bull.  I’m a powerhouse, he says, able to plow through a mountain of life’s detritus and get things done.  I’m a badass. (I’ve got to say, being a badass would have been useful as a 10-year-old carrying a violin case.)

So why does this badass become a four-year-old in the presence of a chocolate egg?

I went back to the original research, or at least articles about the original researcher, Dr. Walter Mischel.  What I learned was that when citing the study, the speaker generally references the initial conclusion–that children demonstrate innate differences in their ability to delay gratification.  What people often miss is the why.  Children who delay gratification create effective strategies to deflect their attention–covering their eyes, or the marshmallow, singing to themselves, inventing a game.

Some people see a task, and focus on the goal.  That would be me.  That works well when it comes down to action. When it comes to inaction, not so much.  That is, sitting there and thinking “I will not eat the marshmallow, dammit,” doesn’t work because all you think about is the marshmallow.

In addition, studies indicate that will power is a finite resource. It posits that if expend my will elsewhere, when confronted with the chocolate egg, I’m already depleted.

So I’ve done all of this research to discover that I eat candy when I’m stressed because while I’m moving the mountain, I have no will left to resist the chocolate I’ve been thinking about all morning.  Even at 7:00 a.m.

Duh.  That’s two hours of my life I won’t get back.  But I did get a blog entry out of the deal, so I can cross that off the list.

What’s next ?  Let me check.

Do not eat the chocolate eggs.

I’ll get right on that.

Wecome TALU Tuesday visitors! Say hello and follow, if you’d like. Thanks so much for stopping  by!

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Geishaboy500

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10 comments on “To-Do #8–Do Not Eat the Chocolate Egg

  1. TheOthers1 says:

    I’d have no issues resisting. I don’t really care for chocolate. Interesting study that makes a lot of sense. I can see evidence of it in my life. When my stress level soars, it’s difficult to say no to the things I want because my resistance has been worn down by dealing with other things. I mean, depending on what I’m indulging it, it’s no big deal. It’s when what I’m consuming is hazardous to my health that it’s a bad thing. My general indifference toward chocolate would prevent it from being an issue. Great post as usual

  2. Beth says:

    I finally made it to your blog and you’ve given me something I can 100% relate to….I’ve had half a block of cheese in order to distract myself from the kids’ Easter candy that I know is in the cabinet. Let’s review the research on cheese as an adequate substitute for chocolate! ; )

  3. hiyacynthia says:

    I have great will power when I choose to implement that feature of my existence. I used to tell people “I really can eat just one [cookie, potato chip, piece of pizza, etc.] and then prove it to them and they were amazed. Wish I had that will power all the time, but I truly don’t. I only exercise it when I really have to. I’m pretty sure I would have won the marshmallow challenge.

  4. Great post! I remember reading about that delayed gratification study. I would have been on that first marshmallow so fast, they wouldn’t have even seen me eat it. Then I’d get the second one.

    My husband was also once a ten-year old carrying a violin case– he had to put it down daily, to fight the bullies who teased him as he walked home from school. He always won. The story sort of made me fall in love with him.

    I will not eat the marshmallow…I will not eat the marshmallow….

  5. […] yet, if I’m satisfied by meals, perhaps I won’t find the Cadbury eggs so tempting.  So what’s on the menu?  Good question.  Perhaps instead of saying grace before eating, I […]

  6. Veronica Roth says:

    I think that my policy always leans to the “Oh god, just eat the damn eggs and get back to work” philosophy…lol

  7. Those things are addictive! It’s a good thing they’re only around on an annual basis. I have to buy the little bags. If I was to buy a big bag of them, I’m pretty sure I’d manage to plow through the whole thing during the course of a day! [#TALU]

  8. michellepond says:

    I have to say that I have never thought of willpower as a finite resource. Now, there’s a ready-made excuse to give in! Great post, Jeannine. TALU

    • Hey Michelle,
      I think we’ve come to expect willpower alone to get us through ever-increasing demands, and then curse ourselves for failing. I am learning the art of choosing and embracing rather than caving and rueing my lack of discipline. It may take me a while! 🙂

  9. Anne Kimball says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Very relatable, Jeannine. Love it!
    Thanks for linking this up with the TALU…

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