From the moment I started I knew I would regret it.
Standing at my kitchen counter with a jar and a spoon. And not a shred of willpower to be found.
I’ve found myself in this same place before. Always emotionally weak, stressed out or overwhelmed. Always a jar – peanut butter, almond butter, coconut oil. And the spoon.
When I am stressed or anxious I have a very hard time resisting the urge to eat. Especially when I am already dieting and I haven’t been eating the delicious foods I love on a regular basis.
I love peanut butter. And almond butter. Really any buttery-like substance will do. And for some reason I tend to default to the way I ate it as a child – out of the jar, with a spoon, at the kitchen counter.
The last time this happened I knew I was potentially setting myself for weight gain, but in that moment I did not care.
I did not give a flying f……
Later of course I kicked myself for giving in to the temptation, chastised myself for sacrificing days of hard work for a few extra licks of delicious peanut butter.
Was it worth it?? No.
But why then could I not stop myself from doing it? I know better. Even as it was happening I knew I would be sorry.
Self control is fatiguing.
Stop for a second and let that sink in.
Self control. Is. Fatiguing.
Not just that it is exhausting. Self-control takes a herculean effort at times. It is one of the hardest things in human nature.
Don’t agree? Try abstaining from something you really enjoy. You can make it for a day, sure, no problem. Now try abstaining from it for a week. A month. Longer.
Anyone who has ever tried to break a habit or even given something up for Lent has experienced this. You start strong and can go for days or sometimes weeks if you’re highly motivated. But the more time goes on the harder it is. The more you’re tempted to slip back into the old habit or stop fighting the urge to control yourself.
Self-control is exhausting. It is difficult. It is work. It takes effort.
You should expect to have moments when your willpower is weaker than others. It’s normal and it is ok.
Here are some suggestions to avoid going completely out of control when those times hit:
- Anticipate it. Expect to have good days and bad. Prepare for the bad days by having a game plan and building in some relief such as a treat meal or a special reward. Little breaks in the monotony of dieting can really help reset your motivation and commitment.
- Slow down. When the urge to eat comes or you’re tempted to blow off a workout, force yourself to stop and think about the consequences. Weigh the pros and cons – if you have a some extra calories today will that prevent you from going out of control tomorrow? Missing a workout now might mean you’re rested and rejuvenated for tomorrow.
- Don’t avoid the real issue. Oftentimes other stresses in our lives that have nothing to do with diet and exercise can cause our willpower to weaken. It is a natural instinct to comfort yourself from stress, anxiety or pain and for many, many people that means food. It is easy and in the moment it does feel good. But rather than try to eat away your feelings, you must confront the real issue head on and acknowledge it so you can move forward.
Any type of restriction can set a person up for rebound, and the more self-control you exercise the more likely it is to run out. Think of it like a fuel tank. Go easy on the gas so you can go further before having to refuel. Have a plan for where and how you will fill back up when your gas is running low.
Self-control is fatiguing. Do not make the mistake of expecting it to be an unlimited resource. Give yourself a break now and then.
And for goshsakes hide the peanut butter!