Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table


Pamela Druckerman interviews Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia, in Learning How to Exert Self-Control:

…Self-control can be taught. Grown-ups can use it to tackle the burning issues of modern middle-class life: how to go to bed earlier, not check email obsessively, stop yelling at our children and spouses, and eat less bread. Poor kids need self-control skills if they’re going to catch up at school.

…Adults can use similar methods of distraction and distancing, he says. Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table. In moments of emotional distress, imagine that you’re viewing yourself from outside, or consider what someone else would do in your place. When a waiter offers chocolate mousse, imagine that a cockroach has just crawled across it. “If you change how you think about it, its impact on what you feel and do changes,” Mr. Mischel writes.

…He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.

…Self-control alone doesn’t guarantee success. People also need a “burning goal” that gives them a reason to activate these skills

Read the rest of Druckerman’s column here: Learning How to Exert Self-Control

Find Mischel’s new book at Amazon here: The Marshmellow Test: Mastering Self-Control.

Image Source: Foodspotting


  1. i am more of the ‘remove it from the table’ ilk. why fight with the evil twin when you don’t have to?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmmmmm, methinks that my pal DK will NOT be opting for the imagery of a cockroach scurrying across his extra-thick vanilla shake or chocolate chip pancakes. Not. Gonna. Happen. Banish them from the kingdom, pal, it’s your best play….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok – you have now destroyed my complete adoration of chocolate mousse. Really? Did we have to go with the cockroach? SIgh…I need a piece of cheesecake.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I found the entire article fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now with a basket full of yummy eatables in front I am asked to practice self-control? Isn’t it food discrimination?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I get absolutely what is being said here, but just as an aside especially for you, Dave, as I know how much you like your food, you needn’t resist bread; it isn’t fattening. Only the butter needs hiding. Ignore what the slimming faddist say — tuck in. Forget about cockroaches 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hhhhmm, sure, remove it from the table, but not before I grab the DONUT hiding underneath!!! 😉 Cher xo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sometimes immediate gratification is the only answer!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Made me think David! The best diet advice that works for me is to not have things around me that could tempt me.
    Creating an environment for my success 🙂
    Hey, I was one of those marshmallow kids who would wait until it was moldy if it meant I could get something even better later. I also used to hide money in different places so that I would be rewarded later when I came across it.
    TMI ….. and a bit weird 😉
    Val x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Don’t mind if I do. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I personally enjoy eyeing the bread, inhaling it’s sweet, freshly baked aroma, picking one with a slightly crisp crust, fluffy and light inside, slathered with sweet, creamy butter, one bite at a time. Since I don’t get a chance often to experience such glory, I enjoy the glory when I can.


  12. The cockroach imagery will work better than thinking what someone else would do in my place. That could be hazardous.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. how possible 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. My husband buys chocolate covered raisins (pomegranates, blueberries, cherries–you get the picture) from Costco (you know, giant containers). Trouble is, he travels during the week, leaving me with these temptations (over which I have very little control!). So, I give them away while he is gone! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t think I could imagine a cockroach in the chocolate mousse – that would be an insult to chocolate mouse! I can resist food I mustn’t eat if I really have to, but I don’t like it. Does anyone?

    Liked by 1 person


  1. […] called “Don’t Eye the Basket of Bread: Just Take It Off the Table” ( It really is an article about how to exert self-control. Which, in that sense, makes sense. If […]


  2. […] called “Don’t Eye the Basket of Bread: Just Take It Off the Table” ( It really is an article about how to exert self-control. Which, in that sense, makes sense. If […]


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