You walk into your kitchen, you open your cupboards, and your eyes light up with excitement as you remember the prospect of eating your favorite snack. Perhaps it’s that new flavor of barbecue chips that you can’t get enough of or those flaky vanilla wafers bursting with a rich and moist icing.
The question is: Would you prefer your favorite snack over your weight loss goals? Every day we sabotage ourselves for an immediate indulgence in delectable nibbles or fast food over healthy, well-balanced meals.
It’s okay, though; almost everyone does this to some extent. Scientists have studied that people would instead buy prepackaged meals or frozen dinners rather than cook a more nutritious meal from scratch. We often enable each other by expressing our enjoyment of these meals. It almost becomes too convenient to boil some noodles with a packet of flavoring.
In the long-run, you end up eating less fruits and vegetables when your mind leans towards the attractive packages in your freezer or cupboard. Although the odd item might have a veggie in it, when you eat packaged and processed foods, you miss the opportunity to replenish your body’s natural resources.
At this point, you might ask, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” An essential step to getting into shape may require a better understanding of instantaneously gratifying behaviors in our diets.
Impulsive Eating And Marshmallows
In the 1960s and 1970s, a researcher from Stanford University, Walter Mischel, conducted a study to find out exactly how a person would react to a treat. Walter would leave a four-year-old child in a room with a marshmallow set on a plate. The child would be told that if they waited several minutes before eating the marshmallow, they would earn the reward of a second one.
The children were left alone in a room with a bell. If they wanted permission to eat the light fluffy sweet, they would ring the bell to get the attention of the researcher. Ringing the bell would result in disqualification, and the child would no longer have the opportunity to eat a second marshmallow.
The results were astounding; some children were able to wait for their second marshmallow. The ones who waited it out have a considerably better grasp of “delayed gratification.” They knew that if they toughed things out, they would be rewarded. The other children caved and would ring the bell for a quick marshmallow and be disappointed later.
To practice some mindful self-restraint, the winners of the marshmallow test came up with some “cool” strategies. To keep their minds off of the marshmallow in front of them, one kid would cover his eyes, hide under the desk, and sing songs. Another idea was to think of pretzels instead of the marshmallow or compare it to a cotton ball, ridding any thoughts of a gooey, delicious center.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, just like the kids in the famous marshmallow test, we often go for what’s available now rather than what we can have later. We usually call the same pleasure-seeking habit in our diets impulsive eating.
The Negative Effects of Overindulgence
Overindulging has some short term and long term side effects we should keep in the back of our minds. If you’re a heavy snacker and eat big meals every day, there’s no doubt that you’ve run into some of these issues. Abdominal bloating, a constant feeling of fullness, and acid reflux are some of the nasty physical sensations associated with having eyes bigger than our stomachs.
For some of us, overindulgence has a direct impact on our mental health. You might feel guilty, call yourself names, get into patterns of negative thinking, and act on those feelings.
It’s imperative to take control of the habits that eat away at your life.
Tips To Gain Control Over Your Dietary Impulses
Let’s start with our end goal; we know that we’re human and naturally eat based on our impulses, so how do we stop it? The term for a healthier and more mindful experience is delayed gratification. We should start by achieving a delayed gratifying experience.
To give you a better idea of how to plan a delayed gratifying experience, let’s go over some ideas you can utilize to gain full control over your diet.
Set Some Goals
You should always have a long term goal and break it down into short term goals. An easy way to set short term goals is by asking yourself what you think you can do, and then plan on doing those things. If something seems too challenging, maybe consider something that feels less frightening and more realistic to get yourself started. Let’s take a look at some examples of goals that encourage delayed gratification and how they’re beneficial:
- Stop buying fast food or instant meals
- Plan to cook healthy dinners for the week
- Don’t snack on calorie-dense foods between meals
These are three incredibly realistic and easy to get started on, and each one prevents you from slamming your brain with dopamine and endless amounts of calories.
Instant meals, fast food, or even the food you get from eat-in restaurants are an indulgence. Cutting these out also means cutting out calories, and you’ll save some money while losing weight in the process!
Meal planning and cooking is a great way to keep your diet on track, and it makes your meal even more satisfying. When you know what’s for dinner and what work will go into preparing the meal, you’ll gradually become more satisfied with the food you eat. A simple meal of chicken and rice is almost as easy as an instant meal, and you’ll have the sense that you created something that’s right for you.
Snacks can be a killer and destroy any diet; they’re the most common form of instantly gratifying food. Potato chips or sweets are designed to keep you wanting more while they fatten you up.
Connect with Yourself
You should keep an eye on yourself. If you’re too stressed out maintaining your lifestyle, maybe step back and think of some different ideas to achieve your goals. Perhaps you messed up and ended up snacking or cooking instant meals, but beating yourself up over missing your goals isn’t exactly the healthiest behavior either.
For the most precise idea of how you’re meeting your dietary goals, you can keep a journal. Try logging your caloric intake or how much exercise you’re getting. Giving yourself the freedom to problem solve is the only way forward.
Try to think of how you felt when you were eating all the time. The stomach aches, indigestion, or even high blood pressure might have been one of the reasons you wanted to get healthy in the first place.
Think about the way you physically feel with diet and exercise. If there are any negative thoughts, be mindful, and think of your long-term goals. Feel your body getting healthy as you cut out harmful foods. Connecting with your body is a conscious experience that will eventually dictate more of your decisions as time goes on.
While you’re dieting, seeing a healthcare professional and discussing your diet can be a positive reinforcement. This can be an incredibly self-rewarding process. A short physical examination from the doctor might ensure the progress you’ve been making while working towards your goals.
Your doctor might even be able to give you some pointers on how to achieve the goals that you might not have thought of before. Sometimes your goals might become unrealistic, even though you’re making progress; having an outside opinion can keep you grounded and closer to a realistic mindset.
The Right Attitude
Having the right attitude towards healthy lifestyle choices is essential to your success. If you don’t believe you’re going to be successful, you’re likely to fall short of your dreams. Your perception of what you can and can’t do will determine your success.
Improving your attitude towards living a simpler lifestyle without constant indulgence starts with having success in your short term goals. If you can make small achievements happen, you can make more small triumphs happen until you’ve crossed the finish line of your long term goal. When your short term goals become a habit and become less satisfying, it’s incredibly easy to move on to the next.
Without breaking your diet, you can quickly treat yourself to a dessert. Maybe you’ve saved money by eating healthy for six months. Why not spend that somewhere else? Perhaps you could go on a date night with your partner or a short vacation.
You should have some way of being able to reward yourself for the progress you’ve achieved. At the same time, you’ve delayed the time you’ve spent without one, and the reward feels way better than it could have in the past.
If you’re the type of person to get up in the morning and eat breakfast, you know there are occasional moments when there isn’t time to enjoy your meal. You end up rushing yourself to get to work. Chewing your food should be a slower indulgence of your senses. This kind of habit is one of the reasons that we end up going through a fast-food drive-thru in the morning for a quick, greasy breakfast sandwich. We just want to eat, and there’s a fast solution to make it happen.
Instead, you can pre-prepare something for breakfast to heat up in the morning. A breakfast burrito easily keeps overnight and might be the boost you need in the morning. Regardless of convenience, you should slow down and take in your food. Does it look good? How does it smell? Take the time to chew your food and feel the texture of it.
Mindful eating also prevents you from over-eating. When you cram too much food into yourself at once, your stomach doesn’t immediately recognize when you’ve had enough. Taking the time to eat your food, mindfully gives your body the liberty of assuring proper digestive health.
Apps: Using Instant Gratification to Your Advantage
If you’re in full control of your diet and exercise and have learned to reward yourself adequately, you might be in a position to have fun with it. Using a fitness app or dieting app, you’re often encouraged to do some of the things we discussed earlier. You’ll set goals, connect with yourself through fitness tracking, gain outside opinions, and be rewarded with achievement systems to affirm that you’ve reached your goals. There’s a variety of different fitness and dieting apps out there, and some of them feel like games.
In recent years at the gym, you might’ve noticed that there are treadmills with screens. Some of these have guided running experiences so you can enjoy some visual scenery. Others might guide you through an audio adventure. A voice will tell you which direction to run and turn during your usual route and encourage you to push beyond your usual goals. Maybe you’ll be given the experience of being chased by zombies.
Nike and Fitbits trackers can map the locations you run. Some users have cleverly run routes forming designs through their mileage.
When it comes to dieting apps, they’ll often involve calorie counting. If you’re able to input some pre-planned meals, there’s almost no work involved in using one. They’ll count your calories and even work with your fitness apps to find a deficit.
These days, every milestone will be rewarded with achievements, and this also gives you the option to share your progress on social media or compete against people that you know. These are the kinds of rewards you should be able to give yourself regardless of apps. Being able to use them to share your triumphs with others adds a layer of community to your weightloss experience.