Ego Depletion and Replenishment

The ego depletion concern within self-regulation stems from the notion that the execution of self-regulation implies the exertion of energy – that it takes a certain amount of energy to override an impulse or habit pattern to impose a self-regulation behavior that is not in your automatic behavior pattern.  And the view is that the energy pool for that self-regulation behavior depletes with usage. The concern is that as a result, people tire and exhaust this resource and then suffer periods of time when they do not have the energy to self-regulate.  This is certainly a large problem in the long term management of weight.

The view is also that this energy pool is a general energy pool - used for any sort of regulation. In this regard, the energy needed to regulate healthy weight management behaviors comes from the same pool as the energy needed to regulate time management and general stress/distress AND emotional regulation. 


The literature suggests, then, that ego depletion occurs as the result of:

1.       Stress/distress – so stress management is important

2.       Choice – so structure that limits frequency and range of choice is important

3.       Stigma – so not being stigmatized is important

4.       Failure – so having ways to evaluate that are not perfectionistic is important

5.       General usage – so having methods to replenish and strengthen that energy pool is important

The literature suggests that ego strengthening can come from

1.       Physical exercise

2.       Self-control exercise

3.       Prospective anticipation of choice

4.       Positive affect experiences

5.       Affirming core values

6.       Autonomous self- control foundation (this takes us to our larger topic of motivation)

7.       Religion

8.       Construals

9.       Empathic self-talk

10.    Vitality

11.    Blood glucose enhancement

12.    Vicarious enhancement

13.    Self-affirmation


Do you see how this wisdom gives context for what you encounter at the clinic?  Treatment of perfectionism; target behavior identification and structure; empathic secure attachment; behavior monitoring methods; competing motivations; moving more; nutrition education; treatment of food and fat dependency; treatment of emotional eating…?  Have a look at the literature:

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