One of the things that appeals to pretty much everyone on the planet is instant gratification.
I do something, maybe something tough, and I am instantly rewarded. Who doesn’t want that?!
The problem is, when it comes to health and fitness, this need can lead us into a lot of unsustainable- and unhealthy- habits and behaviours.
It ALSO allows us to immediately indulge in something that’s not ideal for our goals (instant gratification) and promise to ‘do x’ at a vague, later date that may never come. Examples of both!
I want to lose weight.
I don’t see weight loss in the first week, so I immediately go on a massively restrictive diet. Now, I see immediate results. Hooray!
Problem? I can’t maintain it forever. By it’s nature, a very restrictive diet is only suitable for very specific occasions- ie a weight class categorised prize fighter who needs to make weight very quickly but only for ONE weigh in. Are you a fighter that needs to make weight? Yes? Crack on! No? Then why are you following a diet that is only meant to drag someone’s weight down for one solitary weigh in? You want change for life! Not change for one night.
And the proverbial ‘I’ll do it later!’
I really want to eat this doughnut today... but it’s ok because next week I’m going to make better choices. Eating the doughnut isn’t the problem per se. If you’re trying to lose weight it’s 100% not the best choice you can make however you lose weight so you have to forsake doughnuts forever? Of course not. What a bleak life that would be. I love doughnuts.
The problem? The delaying of the more ideal behaviour. By making the seemingly hard work a more distant, abstract concept, we are able to immediately eat the doughnut and enjoy it, and not worry about the habits we are trying to build until later.
The solution? There’s a few. The first is quite introspective.
Why do I want to eat this doughnut? Is it because it’s tasty and delicious?
OR is it because I’m stressed? I’m upset, I’m angry. Am I eating this doughnut to mask a feeling I don’t want to deal with?
THAT is the reason- will the doughnut stop the feeling? Or will it lead to another and another- and still an unsolved issue? If I can’t solve the problem feeling- are there other, more long term ways of coping with it? Going for a walk takes longer than eating a doughnut, and might help me handle the feeling for longer.
Sitting and breathing for a while might put me in a different mindset, and suddenly I realise I didn’t really want to eat the doughnut.
But what if I REALLY did just want to eat the doughnut? That’s fine too- but don’t use it as a reason to pause all of your other good habits.
Eating a doughnut today doesn’t mean today is a write off, and I may as well have a McDonald’s for tea and some ice cream because I have already had the doughnut so I’ve failed.
There’s no reason I can’t have a doughnut, and following that have a dinner (or tea ) filled with minimally processed, whole foods. The doughnut doesn’t derail all of my habits instantly. Don’t use it as a reason to write off a day, or a week, and THEN go back to your habits.
Habits are for life, and life doesn’t pause them. That’s why they work long term. Play the long game! Stick to your habits, and while the needle on your scale may not move as quickly as if you went on a crash diet, I can tell you one thing:-
It will move the way you want it to for far longer than that ‘28 day to shredded abs bro!’ diet.