Has this ever happened to you: You set out determined to stick to a diet and then something happens. The need for immediate gratification gets bigger and stronger than your conviction to stick to your diet. From the moment that you give into temptation, it just gets easier and easier to throw in the towel. Pretty soon, you've concluded why bother?
Let's take a look at why this happens and how you can combat this common cycle in the future.
Exercising Restraint is like Exercising a Muscle
When you give into the need for immediate gratification, you deny yourself an opportunity to exercise a muscle... the muscle of self-control. To delay fulfillment isn't easy - it takes work. You don't just set out on the first day of running and cross the finish line of a marathon. You build up to it.
Human beings need to teach themselves that nothing bad happens when they wait until the next meal, or till the next weekend to have the very thing they're craving. This has always been a hard lesson to learn but this lesson has gotten even harder in recent years.
Everyone has become so accustomed to getting instantly gratified. People expect things on demand. Modern times don't give us many opportunities to exercise our muscle of self-control, so it's no wonder that more and more of us are having a hard time delaying gratification when it comes to food.
Instead of viewing a temptation as a pesky intruder in your day, start to view it as an opportunity to exercise the muscle of restraint. The more you use the muscle, the stronger it will become.
The Rebellious Self
When you say NO to the part of yourself that wants instant gratification, there is another part of you that rebels. This is the rebellious self â€" it's the childlike part of you that kicks and screams when it doesn't get what it wants.
Perhaps you've almost felt like two parts of yourself have been at war with each other. One part tells you to delay gratification and stick to your diet, and the other part says to go ahead and eat whatever you want. After all, you can start again on Monday.
You've probably heard these two halves of yourself arguing. If you are going to exercise the muscle of restraint, you are going to have to contend with your rebellious self. The rebellious self is no different than a spoiled child, the more you give in to it, the more demanding it gets.
By showing your rebellious self who's in charge, you will be able to grow up and make choices with the maturity of an adult. The arguing in your head will quiet and you will be the one who runs the show.
By exercising your muscle of restraint and by helping your rebellious self grow up, you will be armed with everything you need to be able to stick to any diet you choose.
Learn more about how to free yourself from overeating.
Dr. Roger Gould is one of the world's leading authorities on emotional eating and adult development. A board-certified psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and former head of Community Psychiatry and Outpatient Psychiatry at UCLA, he is the author of Transformations and Shrink Yourself. Dr. Gould is also founder of the Shrink Yourself online program, an effective, proven program that ends emotional eating.