Food For Thought

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Practice 'The Wait' to Help Gain Self-control Over Food

Coach Caroline, 08/01/2016

Free food is hard to resist.

Fresh, homemade brownies are even harder to resist. Ergo, free homemade brownies are damn near inescapable. Am I right or am I right?

This held true for me until fairly recently. I never would have tested myself intentionally with fresh homemade brownies (knowing what a binge trigger they are for me), but a couple of months ago, my boyfriend arrived one evening and presented me with a smallish foil bundle. My eyes widened with excitement—and fear.

“Somebody made some brownies for burger night,” he explained. I peeled open a small edge, just enough to enjoy the heavenly aroma that nothing but fresh homemade brownies can exude. Man, they smelled good! Inside my skull a brief skirmish ensued along the lines of:

I want that!

Don’t do it.

But I never get to...


But how ‘bout just this once?

Luckily, this internal fisticuffs came to a happy ending when I reminded myself, “The pleasure brought on by these fresh homemade brownies would be immense but exceedingly fleeting, and then I’d have to live with the calories, spike in blood sugar, overworked pancreas, and guilt for the next several hours.”

“I’m takin’ ‘em out to the trash,” I announced. And after one more glorious inhalation, I did just that.

This scenario repeated itself again a few weeks later, either because my boyfriend forgot the outcome of the first act or who knows what goes on between a man’s ears. Regardless, the outcome was identical—a quick trip to the community refuse bin outside followed by great relief (instead of the guilt and remorse following a brownie binge).

After both brownie encounters, I gave myself lots of kudos for ditching those fresh homemade chocolate yum yums. I didn’t feel “deprived”, nor did rejection of them require a herculean effort on my part; I was just plain happy to be able to choose health.

Let’s Back Up a Little

But say you’re new to this self-discipline-with-food thing. If so, the brownie situation would probably be overload for you—your dopaminergic pathways would be far too stimulated for any normal, sane person to just say, “no”. In this case, one way to begin strengthening your restraint would be to utilize the wait strategy.

For instance, if my hungry brain had eliminated any possibility of tossing them, I could have decided to eat the fresh homemade brownies later, after a healthy meal. Had the offending treat arrived after lunch? I could wait and have them after my healthy supper. Did the morsels arrive after supper? I’d wait to savor them to the fullest extent after a huge salad for lunch the following day.

This is how you build willpower—not by forswearing all sugar from here to eternity (after finishing off the brownies, that is). Instead, the wiser, more thoughtful part of your brain can take back some control now. Even if your willpower isn’t strong enough to ditch them altogether, you can get stronger by waiting until a specific point in time -- preferably after your next healthy meal.

Beware, the I-can’t-wait you will use every ploy in the book to manipulate you into eating those brownies now, but the only way you will be able to stick to a nutrient-dense diet style for the rest of your life is by learning impulse control, and the wait strategy is a perfect method for that.

Use It or It Won’t Work

As usual, the more you practice the better you’ll get, and every time you wait before fulfilling an urge—every time you delay gratification—your brain changes a tiny bit. Over time, these changes add up to an ability to say no to health-degrading food and yes to the good stuff!


Want to know more about Caroline’s strategies for sticking with a healthy diet? Schedule a call with her today and learn how to build willpower!

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