Experimental research reliably demonstrates that self-regulatory deficits are a consequence of prior self-regulatory effort. However, in naturalistic settings, although people know that they are sometimes vulnerable to saying, eating, or doing the wrong thing, they cannot accurately gauge their capacity to self-regulate at any given time. Because self-regulation and autonomic regulation colocalize in the brain, an autonomic measure, heart rate variability (HRV), could provide an index of self-regulatory strength and activity. During an experimental manipulation of self-regulation (eating carrots or cookies), HRV was elevated during high self-regulatory effort (eat carrots, resist cookies) compared with low self-regulatory effort (eat cookies, resist carrots). The experimental manipulation and higher HRV at baseline independently predicted persistence at a subsequent anagram task. HRV appears to index self-regulatory strength and effort, making it possible to study these phenomena in the field as well as the lab.