Willpower Workout #11: Beating Disgust

September 7, 2020

Disgust doesn’t get much air time in psychology dominated by sadness, fear, happiness, and anger, but that’s not because it lacks power. According to a wide and growing body of research, disgust causes people to impose harsher moral judgments on others, it can cause them to shun minority groups, and it clouds jurors’ judgment more than anger does. Many of us have experienced this power in a different context. When people throw up shortly after or while eating a certain food, they generally develop a permanent aversion to that food.

This is the surprising power of disgust to influence our behavior, which is why for today’s workout, we are going to trigger the feeling of disgust and push through it. Not yielding to the disgust will be hard work. It will require willpower.

Day 11 Willpower Workout:

  1. Think of a food (or beverage) that you really don’t like, something you would avoid eating even at a friends’ house.
  2. Get yourself an ample amount of it (2-3 servings at least). Determine specifically the amount you will consume before beginning.
  3. Try it once while videoing yourself. React as you normally would.
  4. Take a big smell of the food.
  5. Now, consume the rest of the food or beverage (2-3 servings, if possible) without showing any signs of disgust or displeasure. Pretend like you’re enjoying.
  6. Show us how you do! Share your video on Twitter or Facebook.

It’s worth noting that psychologists believe that we can get ourselves to like pretty much any kind of food through “gentle, steady exposure.” It can take 10 to 15 exposures, but consuming small amounts over time changes our reaction to the food. We are intentionally not using a repeated exposure approach in order to make this difficult. To use another psychology phrase, we’re ‘flooding’ ourselves with a food that disgusts us and then doing the hard work of concealing our most natural emotional reactions.

Evaluating Your Workout:

  1. How did you feel before trying the first bit?
  2. Were you able to consume all that you set out initially?
  3. If not, why not?
  4. If yes, how were you able to get through it?
  5. Were you able to pretend like you enjoyed it?
  6. Which was harder: consuming it or pretending like you enjoyed it?

Willpower Workout in Action:

Stay tuned for a brief video of me eating one of my least favorite foods: green olives! Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified when it comes out.

This is day 11 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:

If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:

Past Workouts: