The humorist Robert Benchley quipped, "Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing." There is a parallel with overeating. Delaying is easier than the hard work of developing healthy new eating habits.
If you have a negative eating habit you can find corresponding negative habits of the mind, emotions, and behavior.
1. You have a negative habit of the mind when you dwell on food. This habit may include conning yourself into thinking that if you allow yourself one last binge, you'll be good forever. Then, you repeat the con later.
2. Emotional habits involve caving into fattening food cravings without reasoning. You think you've got to consume that candy bar. You think you need it right now. You meander to your candy shelf and eat even when you are not hungry. Do you have a choice?
3. Behavior habits are programmed activities where you follow an eating routine as though you had no other choice. You eat your regular meals and snack through the day. You refuse to pass your favorite donut shop without getting an extra snack. While there, you add extra cream and sugar to the several cups of coffee you drink.
Each phase of a negative eating habit, reinforces the other. Your mind is swirling with tension. You eat to calm down. Your eating is now on automatic pilot. This distraction feels temporarily relieving and reinforces eating when tense. This reward has a chemical and muscular phase that is driven by your lower mental processes. However, if you know what you are up against, you can make enlightened choices. You can decide to execute the choice. You can do what you decide.
Without some restraint you will not get very far. However, a reliance on restraint--particularly the white-knuckle variety--can lead to disappointing results. By putting your hope on this approach, you really haven't done much to break a complex habit of consumption.
Millions delude themselves into thinking that white-knuckling is the quickest and easiest solution. This is as effective as the former US President, Ronald Reagan's wife Nancy's anti-drug "Just say no" slogan. How well did that work? Millions continue to have costly drug problems.
Eating temptations will accompany you throughout your life. When white knuckling doesn't work for you, here are two alternatives.
1. Rather than looking at restraint as a one-time event, look at change as a process of improving. By improving over time, you'll relapse less.
2. Allow yourself to experience spontaneous eating urges. Find out how long it takes to live past the urge without acting on it. Repeat this experiment seven times. Average the duration for the urges. This gives you a measure of time between when the urge starts and wanes. By observing your food urges, you may change your thoughts and feelings about them. You can consciously show yourself you can live past the urge. This may work better for you than white-knuckling.
Beat the Wheedler
You have to eat and drink to live. Saying you have a consumption drive for food and water is reality. But when you develop craving for fattening foods, and routinely cave into cravings, you have a harmful habit of consumption. If you periodically find yourself in this double bind, how can you escape this trap?
You can find a connection between excess eating, consuming addictive substances, and procrastination. All link to seeking relief. But the relief you get in the short run is like borrowing from a loan shark. You make the wrong decision. You fall into the postponement trap. This automatic process is costly, especially when delaying weight loss actions is an ongoing and health dangerous practice.
If unhealthy habits of consumption are damaging, then why not stop now? You may fool yourself into believing "Better days are coming. I'll wait. My weight will someday melt from my body like spring snow." This is a form of Wheedler thinking.
Wheedler thinking has plagued humanity since the dawning of language and self-conning. The Wheedler is the con-artist, conceiver, and finagler within you. It's the kind of sabotaging thinking you may hear when you are at odds with yourself on losing weight, dropping an addictive substnce, or producing versus procrastinating. When you're faltering on your no-diet plan, tune into your thinking. You may hear a wheedling voice. For example, "You can have that extra helping of Bavarian chocolate cake. Tomorrow you'll be good forever."
Catch the Wheedler by thinking about your thinking. You may hear the word later iterating through your mind. The "I'll stop later" message also can erupt while you're eating fattening food or using addictive substances.
Rather than try to quash Wheedler thinking by decree, accept it as a natural but negative thinking habit. Play with contrary ideas. If you think: "I need that piece of pizza right now or I'll die," you have a Wheedler assumption that you can capably question. What would you do if someone paid you a million dollars to permanently stop eating pizza? Would you do what you could do and pass on the pizza? If you think the million dollars is worth more than pizza, you've subverted a Wheedler con. But don't rest on your laurels just yet. This voice will be back.
The Wheedler has a few simple messages. "Later" is a typical ploy. If you take this Wheedler logic for granted, how has that worked out for you? If you are like most, the answer is: "Not well at all." Let's look at another questioning opportunity. Ask yourself: "What makes the future a better time for losing weight and keeping it off?" A rational answer to this question can throw chaos into your Wheedler thinking. Bottom line: what has not worked before is unlikely to work now.
(C) Dr. Bill Knaus