The biggest lesson in weight loss success I’ve learned this year is to practice choosing delayed gratification (weight loss goals) over immediate rewards (impulsively indulging).
Impulse control! It feels impossible when it comes to food. But, did you know you can get better at it through practice? When we are capable of resisting temptation now, for a greater reward later, we will see success in all areas of life, including weight loss.
Let’s break this down so you can see how it works in my life:
- The temptation: A treat, a fresh slice of bread and butter, or a second helping, when I know I’ve eaten enough food.
- The choice: Impulsively give in to the temptation vs. delay gratification for a greater reward?
- The greater reward: Meeting my weight loss goals and having the body I always wanted!.
Studies have found, the inability to delay gratification is related to obesity, (source)
So, why is this so hard? Why was I am I sometimes able to see the future greater reward clear enough that I say no to the cookies right in front of me? And then at other times, I’m drowning in a space between food FOMO and YOLO!
It’s cause I’m human, and that’s OK! The point of a weight loss journey is to PRACTICE and get better at resisting temptation. It doesn’t mean we’ll never have a treat. But the more often we practice saying no to our impulsive desires, the better we get at it.
Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, is the resistance to the temptation of an immediate pleasure in the hope of obtaining a valuable and long-lasting reward in the long-term. In other words, delayed gratification describes the process that the subject undergoes when the subject resists the temptation of an immediate reward in preference for a later reward. (Wikipedia)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_gratification
When I reflect on the reasons surrounding my bikini transformation almost 3 years ago (read about the transformation here), I have tried to pinpoint what was different from all the other times I tried to lose weight.
I believe 3 years ago, when I decided to sign up for the bikini competition, somehow the “greater reward” of picturing myself on stage was stronger and more compelling than the immediate temptation of any treat.
And now, three years later, temptations look a little different. I am rarely tempted by buffet’s and ice cream. But the impulse to have “just a little snack”, and my immediate obedience to the impulse can be a problem! It’s as if I’m in some sort of trance and wake up with my face deep in a bowl of “healthy” cereal.
So, how can we resist temptation for a GREATER reward? How can we use impulse control and self regulation to meet our weight loss goals.
The pleasure and satisfaction of eating food is immediate. It’s tough to compete with. The pleasure and satisfaction of reaching a weight loss goal is sometimes MONTH’S away! Human behavior has shown us that if you have a choice between a slimmer you in the future or a cookie today, most of us will choose the immediate pleasure of a cookie today.Head this on a Hypnosis Download here.
So, how do we practice delayed gratification? How do we practice self control, self regulation, impulse control. How do we choose a future reward over immediate gratification?
Here’s some strategies that have helped me in the last few years, and hopefully can help you too.
13 Strategies to practice delayed gratification
- Visualizing or imagining your future. This really needs to be number one as it’s the heart of the definition of delayed gratification. (source). Can you truly visualize the persony ou want to be clearly enough that any immediate gratification is less appealing? If you don’t truly believe the “greater reward” is achievable, you’ll choose the instant results. So, start visualizing and imagining your future, slimmer self.
- Simply eat it later. Check out this book review I did called, “Eat it Later“. Just giving a pause for 10 minutes to several hours before you eat something is practicing delayed gratification. It doesn’t mean you’ll never eat something. You just don’t have to keep eating every single time the impulse strikes.
- Ask Questions- I feel like I’ve been this idea to death, so read about that here. Ask yourself, why you are eating when you aren’t hungry! Really get to the root of your reasons.
- Clean up your environment. An immediate way to practice not eating something impulsively is to not have that food in your house. When I was trying to give up Diet coke, I simply would stop buying it by the case at the grocery store. I could get it at a gas station when I’d get gas, or in a restaurant, but not having it in my pantry created a natural resistance to impulses.
- Put obstacles between you and the temptation. Similar to cleaning up your environment, putting something between you and the cravings can help you practice. One thing that has helped me is not working on my laptop in the kitchen. It’s amazing how just being in the kitchen can make me want to eat something when I’m not hungry.
- Know which distractions work for you. This one needs some explanation. When I have an impulse to eat something when I’m not hungry (the scientific community calls this, “Eating in the absence of hunger”, I can usually count on Youtube or a puzzle to take my mind off of it right away. Sitting down to build a puzzle, or watching short entertaining videos on Youtube distracts me long enough for the impulse to go away. This is different than the advice I’ve always hated of “just go for a walk if you need to get away from the kitchen.” Except it’s 10 degrees and snowing today and a walk does NOT sound better than a treat! LOL Here’s my Youtube channel if you need something to watch!
- Choose a reward closer in time. If your “greater reward” seems to far in the distance, and possibly not achievable, you’ll always choose food. But, what if you chose something that got you more excited than a cookie, but wasn’t so far away? Perhaps losing 10lbs, or 2 pant sizes. Can you imagine that? I have a post with 51 non-food weight loss rewards that might help you think of some things that could motivate you.
- FOMO and YOLO do not pertain to food. Fear of missing out and you only live once! I feel like we’ve all had these thoughts when it comes to food. But, save the FOMO and YOLO for social situations that actually will have lasting memories. Your afternoon treat is HARDLY memorable.
- Recently, a thought that has been working wonders for me is to shrink the future reward to tomorrow! How do I want to FEEL tomorrow if I overeat today? How do I want to feel when I get dressed TOMORROW?
- Be a grown up! Eating food on the way home from the grocery store because you can’t wait till you get home is the ultimate in not being an adult about this. I’d give crackers and snacks to my 2 year old on the way home from the store, but as an adult, can you seriously not wait 10 minutes. (talking to myself of course). Also, snacking while cooking! Ever cook something for 2 minutes in the microwave, but grabbed a snack from the pantry while you waited? Seriously?? Do I have no shame?! Can I not wait two minutes?
- Enjoy the process. If we LIKE eating healthy and working towards our goals, the delayed gratification can also be an immediate reward.
- Make healthy eating part of your identity. When I see a hot dog and chips, I know, 100% of the time, I won’t eat it. That’s because I’ve always been the kind of person who doesn’t like hot dogs and chips. Unfortunately, I’m also the person who LOVE’S cookies. So, yeah, 75% of the time, I WILL eat a cookie. So, who are you? Are you the person who doesn’t overeat because her goals are more important? We can practice being that person.
- And finally, it’s easier to not be impulsive when we get enough sleep, and even practice meditation! Fatigue is the root of all my bad decisions.
I think too many people focus on the idea that most people lose weight, but can’t keep it off. Thinking this way is not going to help you in any way. I am proof that you can keep the weight off! I’ve done it for almost 3 years now, and I never plan to gain the weight back. So, don’t let that rhetoric get in your head. You can lose weight this year, and you can keep it off when you practice delayed gratification over impulsive eating!