Do you have one “snack attack” food that you go to when your hungry, craving, or bored?
I am strong believer that you can eat a moderately healthy diet and have a better body, without falling into the cycle of depriving and restricting yourself for weeks and then binging and losing control, and repeating itself again. The cycle in itself is insane because no one gets results and if they do they are stressed and guilt ridden out of their mind.
What if we started focusing on implementing strategies that help us develop self control rather than constantly focus on what foods we should or should not eat?
When talking with people about foods/diet/nutrition, I try to steer the conversation away from the “eat this, not that” direction and discuss tools to bridge the gap of what we know and what we actually do. Taking proper action to help control and moderate eating is just as important, if not more, than what you eat. Just my .02.
In the book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal backs all her willpower talk by science about what causes people to have willpower, or rather lack of willpower, when it comes to a host of impulsive behaviors. One of my favorite strategies she talks about to strengthen self control has to do with delaying gratification.
When it comes to our health and body most of us have future goals, or things we are working towards.We want to work out more, limit snacking, stop late night eating, not stress about food, lose weight, get stronger, etc.
These goals are all good and well, but when it comes to resisting temptation we feel the best time to do it is NOT in the moment, but tomorrow and the next day. We are not as motivated by future rewards as we are by the present reward of satisfaction and pleasure.
We like to rationalize poor decisions, like eating a bag of cookies or chips or skipping workouts, because the promise of doing better tomorrow is so much greater. We look to our future selves to do better. We throw “right now” into the wind and give ourselves permission NOT to make the better choice. We get in the way of what we really want with the excitement and pleasure of instant gratification.
When it comes to health, it’s why we eat until our hearts desire, forgo workouts and/or smoke and drink with abandon. It does not seem as detrimental what we are doing in the moment and we often discount how it will affect us in the future. We are confident in what want: better health, to eat less, to lose weight. Then we are faced with temptation.
There is good news!
“The good news is, temptation has a narrow window of opportunity. Anything you can do to create that distance will make it easier to say no.” Kelly McGonigal
DO THIS to help with snacking ( or any other impulsive, in the moment behavior). Try waiting 10 minutes. This helps because according to McGonigal, our brain treats the temptation like a future award. And as it turns out we are not so motivated by future rewards. Try distracting yourself by doing something for 10 minutes when faced with a temptation that you want to resist. Give yourself permission to have the snack if you still want it but ask yourself if it is about wanting something, or just wanting something in this moment.
For additional practice, let another 10 minutes pass and ask yourself if you still want it? Or ask yourself if your desire could be delayed for additional time? This is what actually helps build self-control and self trust. Practice, practice, practice. And this is not just a one time deal either. It is ongoing until you feel your snacking has improved.
Trial and error, trial and error, trial and error, lead to small successes, which lead to big successes. Remember you are not giving the item up forever, just 10 minutes. You may not want it as much as you think you did. Practice and let me know how you do!