There are many challenges with diabetes. Managing your blood sugar is important and can take a lot of willpower. You have to often tell yourself "no." No, you shouldn’t have a cookie with coffee. No, you don’t want fries with that.

Having self-control can be tough. In fact, being "good" can be exhausting. All of us know the feeling of having made it through an entire day of resisting cravings only to succumb to a late-night bowl of ice cream that makes us feel like we’ve failed. So what’s going on?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that managing diabetes takes a lot of work

What is willpower?

Willpower is all in your head. It’s found in the same part of your brain that’s responsible for making decisions and self-control. What’s interesting is that this part of the brain can get tired if it’s asked to do too much. That’s why it’s harder to resist temptation at the end of the day than in the morning.

Building up your willpower

Did you know that there are exercises that may increase your willpower? Some people have found that meditation is helpful. This is when you focus on some part of the present moment, usually starting with your breath. Another exercise is tempting yourself with a treat and saying no to it.

There are other things you can do, too. You could change something in a small way that takes attention and willpower to keep doing. Here are some tips:

  • If you’re right-handed, try unlocking your door with your left hand
  • Instead of thinking that you can’t have something you want, resist temptation by telling yourself "not now, but later" instead of just "no"

Ideas to change behavior

It’s a good idea to come up with another behavior to take its place. And ask yourself why you’re having the craving. Try to come up with other options to reduce your stress:

Call a friend

Take a walk

Make yourself some herbal tea

Then, when you feel stress coming on, instead of reaching for the chips, immediately make plans to do one of the alternate activities. You’ll get the same end result—stress relief.

Just observe the temptation until the feeling goes away. If you’re at an office party, and you feel the urge to take a slice of cake, don’t try to fight it. Instead, pay attention to your craving and don’t judge it. Like everything in life, cravings don’t last forever.

Helpful tips for greater willpower

Having self-control helps. But why not make a few changes in your daily routine so that you need less willpower?

  • If you pass a bakery every day and can’t resist walking in for a cookie on your way home from work, change your route
  • Create some physical barriers. If you can’t resist ice cream, then don’t keep it in the house. This way, you won’t have to tell yourself "no."

Recognizing how much willpower you already have can be the biggest willpower boost of all.

Catherine Price is a freelance journalist and type 1 diabetic who has written for The New York Times, Slate, Popular Science and O Magazine, among others. Her book, Vitamania: Our Obsessive Quest for Nutritional Perfection, is available from Penguin Press. She blogs about diabetes at and you can follow her on Twitter @Catherine_Price. Price has been a paid contributor for TeamingUp. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates. For more information, visit her website:

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