Have you ever found that the hardest day to stick to your eating plan is the day you weigh yourself and get a loss? I do it every time. I get on the scales, see a positive result and it’s like my brain clicks into ‘eat more’ setting – and I either spend all day nibbling or spend all day fighting temptation. However I’ve now found out why it happens.
I’m reading the book Maximum Willpower: How to master the new science of self-control by Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal. It is amazing. I’ve learnt so much reading this book – including why days where you get a good result on your plan are a key time for falling off the wagon.
Put extremely simply, all dieting/habit change requires willpower – but this puts two parts of your brain in a constant battle for supremacy.
In the red corner we have ‘Long Term Goal’ brain – he/she is the part that keeps you focused on eating well every day so that the weight comes off.
In the blue corner we have ‘Instant Gratification’ brain – that’s the bit that sits on your shoulder cooing ‘just have the biscuit, it’s yummy.’
For successful weight loss to happen, LTG brain has to win most of the time – but when you stand on the scales and realise you’ve made progress (ie lost weight) it actually relaxes it’s dominance a little bit, Instant Gratification Brain then nips in front, starts shouting BACON SANDWICH or CHOCOLATE really loudly and it becomes that little bit harder to resist everything for a while. Clever eh?
So, what’s the solution?
According to Dr McGonigal, the key is remembering that you’re committed to your goal which brings LTG brain back to the forefront. So, get off the scales, give a little dance of success and then ask yourself. ‘Right now why am I losing this weight? And how much do I want to succeed?’ If you reinforce your reasons you increase commitment, and that bacon sandwich you’ve been coveting suddenly seems like a threat toward your goals not a reward for your success. LTG brain wins the prize, Instant Gratification Brain is lying in the corner looking dazed – huzzah, we’re back on track.
Let me know how it works for you. And I strongly recommend anyone with willpower issues takes a look at this book. It really does explain how the brain works regarding resisting temptation.
Images of model and pastry: freedigitalphotos.net