It’s Monday. You’ve decided you’re going to finally lose those extra pounds. Starting today, you’re going to eat better. You make a yummy salad and bring it to work for lunch. You vow to cut down on sweets and exercise for an hour three times a week.
Then you stop in the grocery store, and they are giving out free doughnuts to the customers. You had oatmeal for breakfast and aren’t hungry, but you grab a chocolate glazed one and wolf it down while walking to the cash register.
At lunch, your coworkers order some pizza, and you decide to join them. You put your salad in the fridge and think, “I’ll eat it tomorrow.” And you’re too tired to stop at the gym at the end of the day. So much for good intentions!
Probably everyone who has ever tried to lose weight has had an experience like the example above. Since the first humans evolved in Africa, people have acted against their better judgment.
It’s when you choose to do something even though you know you “should” be doing something else. Even when you think you really want to be doing something else.
Aristotle described two different kinds of akrasia. The first one is motivated by impetuosity or the passion of the moment. This can cause a lapse in reason that causes someone to make a choice different from what they know is the better course. Like when you say something in anger that you immediately regret.
Aristotle described second kind of akrasia as weakness of will. Many of my weight loss clients start out telling me they are weak-willed, but I discourage such thinking. It is just an excuse and when we believe that, we subconsciously look for ways to prove ourselves right. Plus, it isn’t true. We are all strong-willed when we put our minds to it.
Years ago, a psychologist conducted what was known as the Marshmallow Test which demonstrated that a person’s ability to delay gratification correlated more to success and a higher quality of life than other factors like IQ or personality tests.
But unfortunately for humans generally, that’s not how our brains prefer to work.
That’s exactly what is happening in the example above of the person who decided to eat less sugar, then ate a doughnut. Eating the doughnut gives us the immediate taste pleasure and the little sugar rush, both of which are very short-lived. Choosing not to eat the doughnut so we can be slimmer and healthier requires us to put the best interests of our future self ahead of our current impulses.
But deep down, we really do care about making good choices. So how do we do it? How do we get our “should” self to win out over our “want” self?
Rather than using the excuse of being weak-willed, try some of these approaches so you can experience the true joy of achieving your health and weight loss goals.
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I work with smart women who want to lose weight and keep it off. I help them discover what is really causing their weight problem, fix it at the source, and teach them how to enjoy the foods they love while permanently losing their desire to overeat along with their excess weight. I'd love to teach my method to you! I’m also a gourmet cook and baker who struggled with my weight for 40 years before discovering the secret to not overeating.