Cutting Debt and Cutting Calories

Dear Rich Lifer,

While some states are starting to loosen up their quarantine restrictions, many Americans are still largely stuck at home.

No matter where you’re at personally, it’s a good time to talk about some of the habits that might have been formed over the last couple of months.

On the negative side of the ledger, lots of folks have taken up binge eating junk food and pounding more booze than usual.

On the plus side, plenty of Americans have also undertaken new exercise routines.

Today I want to talk about something that sort of cuts right across the middle.

Want to lose weight … and get stronger … with one simple exercise that doesn’t take any time or effort at all?

Forget Push-Ups. Do “Push Aways”

Here’s how you perform the exercise.

Every time you have an urge to drink a beer, just push it away.

Heck, every time you want to buy something online you don’t need, just push away the computer, phone, or tablet.

With this one simple exercise you can transform your entire life – getting more physically and financially fit than you ever thought possible.

I know, I know.

It sounds like a joke.

But it’s not …

As one writer put it, think of this as “the ability to hold off doing something after you’ve developed the intention to do it, which one might call ‘free won’t’ as opposed to free will.”

Admittedly, not everyone finds this exercise easy to do.

There is some evidence, in fact, that suggests different people are wired differently when it comes to stopping an action after they’ve already decided to take it.

As Scientific American reports, an experiment conducted by Marcel Brass and Patrick Haggard tried to determine what particular part of the brain controls this specific process:

“Brass and Haggard’s simplification of self-control involved a very simple act (pressing a button) and a very simple form of control (foregoing the button press). On each trial of the fMRI study, subjects were given three seconds to initiate a button press. They decided when to press while watching a simple clockface with a sweep second hand measuring the passing time. They were allowed to press the button at any time during this three seconds, but they were asked to note the position of the clock hand when they decided to press.

“This method gave Brass and Haggard a voluntary, subject-initiated action that could be localized in time, allowing them to make a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) of brain activity associated with the decision to act; that is, they could focus on the brain activity recorded at the time the subjects decided to press the button. In some trials, the subjects were also asked to withhold the action (that is, to not push the button), stopping themselves at the last possible instant.

“Brass and Haggard hypothesized that taking an fMRI during this halted action would reveal a difference in brain activity between the straightforward voluntary action trials and the trials in which the subjects exercised self-control.

“The idea, as Haggard and Brass put it in their paper, was to investigate the neural underpinnings of ‘an important but neglected aspect of intentional action,’ which is the simple decision, once an act is contemplated, whether or not to perform it.”

What they found was that the supplementary motor area (SMA) of the prefrontal cortex was activated in both versions of the experiment. However, in the one where subjects were asked to change their mind at the last second, another part of the brain was also recruited – the dorsal fronto-medial cortex (dFMC).

The upshot was that the more someone was able to activate the dFMC, the better they were able to stop the previously-decided-upon action. At the same time, another part of the brain was also stimulated – one typically associated with physical frustrations like “the visceral sense of frustration or ‘let-down’ that accompanies the last-minute cancellation of the action.”

Cutting Calories and Debt?

It’s likely you’ve had this kind of experience in the real world – the feeling of disappointment when some action is left unresolved or acted upon at the very last moment.

But does it really linger all that long?

Certainly not as long as the extra calories or accumulated debt might!

And while I’m not a scientist, I have to believe that the more “push aways” we do, the stronger the “free won’t” part of our brain becomes.

So by all means, splurge every once and a while – have a few beers, buy something nice, or eat a couple of donuts.

Just remember that a single “push away” takes only a second but could end up equaling many hours spent in the gym.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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