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New studies show that drinking lemonade can improve performance, but not for the reason Baumeister believed. The bump in performance had nothing to do with the sugar in the drink and everything to do with the thoughts in our heads. In a study conducted by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dweck concluded that signs of ego depletion were observed only in those test subjects who believed willpower was a limited resource. It wasn't the sugar in the lemonade but the belief in its impact that gave participants an extra boost. Since you have control over what you eat, it is in your best interest to nourish your brain in the most beneficial way. To help you improve your eating habits and reach the goal of a healthy, balanced diet, I have included basic nutritional information in the posts that follow. A comprehensive and easy-to-use resource is the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. These are evidence-based nutritional guidelines designed to promote health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce overweight and obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity. The guidelines are not specific to depression but address general health and well-being. They can be found online at www.health.gov/DietaryGuidelines/ (click on the link to the "policy document"). You may have seen these recommendations drawn as a food pyramid in the past. The guidelines now display healthy food as portions divided on a dinner plate, with fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein (such as chicken or fish), and a small amount of dairy. There is an easy-to-use interactive Web site to help you understand the food portions at www.choosemyplate.gov. Visit this Web site for many helpful tips on healthy eating, including menu choices and specific calorie goals for your age and gender. Optimal caloric intake depends on your gender, age, your current weight, and your goals for maintaining, losing or gaining weight. I will not go into that here. We obviously make many very good decisions every day of our lives. If not, we wouldn't survive very long. However, we also make many mistakes, and we're often not even aware that we make them. And yet, those mistakes can have significant consequences for our well-being.

They can result in spending considerable time and money on things that don't work, and worse, they can lead us to make decisions that negatively affect our health and even our lives. If we believe in the ability of psychics, fortunetellers, and astrologers, we're more likely to lay down our hard-earned money to find out if Uncle Harry is still mad at us from his grave, or if we should marry the person we just met last night. When the Reagans were in the White House, Nancy Reagan's belief in astrology led her to consult an astrologist when deciding President Reagan's schedule. If we believe that an alternative medicine treatment works, we're likely to spend considerable money on the treatment, even if there's little reliable evidence to support it. In fact, a number of people who have avoided traditional medicine could have easily been cured by it. Instead, they embraced alternative healing techniques, and because of this, many died. Faulty beliefs and decisions affect not only our everyday personal lives, but also societal decisions that have an impact on us all. Public officials set policy, pass laws, and spend our money. Many of these decisions are based upon faulty beliefs, which can result in allocating billions of our tax dollars to solve a problem that has little impact on society's welfare, while neglecting, or actually causing, more serious problems. As an example, US cities spent around $10 billion in the 1990s to eliminate asbestos from public buildings. While asbestos may be dangerous if inhaled, its presence in most buildings was not a serious health hazard. In fact, its removal is often more dangerous than leaving it in place. If you are living to a label, you have molded for yourself a fictional self-concept with artificial boundaries. Labels are generalizations or stereotypes and ignore who you really are. Whether the label is imposed on you from the inside or from the outside, you soon accept it as your own. In other words, either you or someone else may have told you years ago that you're a Yellow Bird, and you still believe them. Labels are the icons of the self-talk or the internal dialogue you began as a child and continue to this very day. They may reflect the conclusions you reached when you measured yourself by some "yardstick" imposed on you by the world. Maybe the measure was popularity and you weren't, so your label was "uncool" or "nerd." Maybe it was money and since you had none the label was "loser." Maybe it was grades and your brother or sister made better ones, so you were labeled "not our best student." (That is so rude and condescending!) Unlike most of the other words you use, a label has an emotional "charge" associated with it; in short it's not just descriptive, it is accusatory and it stings. It is this emotional aspect that gives the label its devastating power.

Here's what I mean: As you learned to talk, you first learned the names of things only in terms of their physical properties and identifications. One of your first words may have been "ball." A ball is neither good nor bad. When your mom stood there over your crib, saying, "Ball, ball," she was just helping you differentiate that object from other objects. By contrast, what happened when you heard "bad boy" or "bad girl"? Her voice was different. Her face bunched up in a frown. You knew she was unhappy and you knew it had something to do with you. Those words she used became bound up in your own emotional responses to your mother and to the reference to you. That sting you felt meant that you could never hear "bad boy" or "bad girl" again in the same neutral way that you heard "ball." As your vocabulary expanded, you learned to distinguish the bad words from the neutral ones. Maybe you learned what an "SOB" was or what a "sissy" was. "Failure" may have slipped into your self-concept, bringing with it the annihilation of self-esteem, wounded pride, and a longing for achievement. Maybe the label you heard was "hopeless," which you applied to yourself as meaning "useless" and "inept." Maybe the word "ugly" became "hateful" and "unworthy of love." That's something I hear quite often. The point I'd like to make is that in our society, we have reached a state where people take expectations for granted and are even oblivious to them. It's something that happens so much because we have so many external, lowered, and trivial expectations. We lose focus on what the word expect truly means and what living an expectant life means. We take it all for granted to the point that we fall into the standard way that the media, government, churches, and everyone else wants us to think: to want less for our lives and to avoid rocking the boat, creating any waves, or challenging anything. In fact, lowered expectations thwart creative thought. Everything I'm saying here goes back to a term I've coined: collective diminished expectations. Individuals or groups who try to lower your expectations do so as a control mechanism. For example, governments, religions, or groups that wants to have power over other people start by convincing them to lower their self-expectations.

"Don't dream, think for yourself, or have ambitions, and you won't be disappointed," they say. However, this is a narcoleptic form of brainwashing. How can you resist collective diminished expectations and their negative hold over society? By changing the way you think about expectations. Put simply, expectations need to be raised! Otherwise, expectations are going to continue to diminish, moving further and further away from their true meaning and purpose. High expectations build your character, enliven your experience, and enable you to flourish. I don't want to focus on negative expectations, but there are a few details worth pointing out. One is how negative expectations affect our world, and how kids and youth are affected by negative expectations. If you type expectations into Google and look at the images or document files, then you'll find a surprising amount of negative connotations are associated with word. For instance, there are an abundance of comments saying something like, "Don't expect anything from anybody, or you'll get hurt." People who did not see willpower as a finite resource did not show signs of ego depletion. Many people still promote the idea of ego depletion, perhaps because they are unaware of the evidence that exists to the contrary. But if Dweck's conclusions are correct, then perpetuating the idea is doing real harm. If ego depletion is essentially caused by self-defeating thoughts and not by any biological limitation, then the idea makes us less likely to accomplish our goals by providing a rationale to quit when we could otherwise persist. Michael Inzlicht, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the principal investigator at the Toronto Laboratory for Social Neuroscience, offers an alternative view. He believes that willpower is not a finite resource but instead acts like an emotion. Just as we don't "run out" of joy or anger, willpower ebbs and flows in response to what's happening to us and how we feel. Seeing the link between temperament and willpower through a different lens has profound implications on the way we focus our attention. For one, if mental energy is more like an emotion than fuel in a tank, it can be managed and utilized as such. A toddler might throw a temper tantrum when refused a toy but will, with age, gain self-control and learn to ride out bad feelings.

Similarly, when we need to perform a difficult task, it's more productive and healthful to believe a lack of motivation is temporary than it is to tell ourselves we're spent and need a break (and maybe some ice cream). The Dietary Guidelines 2010 recommend that you make half your plate fruits and vegetables, or that you eat five 1/2 cup servings of colorful fruits and vegetables per day. The protein portion for adults is 5 to 6 ounces total per day, or approximately one-quarter of your plate at each meal. Grains should be two 3-ounce servings per day for active adults, or approximately one-quarter of your plate. Dairy should be low fat and used in moderation. Eating for energy and balanced mental health means that you have 3 small to medium meals per day plus two healthy snacks as you choose. Do not skip meals. A snack might be a piece of fruit, or string cheese and a few walnuts or almonds, but no chips, fries, candy, soda, or junk food. You should stay well hydrated by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. Avoid sugary drinks and diet soda. Avoid alcohol, as it is a depressant and not good for your general physical and mental health. Avoid tobacco and street drugs. If necessary, take one multivitamin supplement per day, but do this with the advice of your doctor. Remember, a balanced, healthy diet leaves you satisfied and not hungry for more. Pay attention to portion sizes at home and when you eat out, because they have inappropriately increased in size over the years at restaurants and in the home. For example, a healthy serving of protein such as meat or fish is actually 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. A serving ( 1/2 cup) of fresh fruit is about the size of half a baseball. One cup of cereal (a serving) is the size of your fist. One serving of rice, pasta, or potato is 1/2 cup, about the size of half a baseball. (See the NHLBI "Serving Size Card" at http://hp2010.nhlbihin.net/portion/servingcard7.pdf.) These abstract words, remember, are hard for us to challenge because they deal with subjective opinion rather than objective fact.