Rewards, Pleasure and your Psychology
Aside from nourishing us, food also makes us feel good and helps to regulate our mood. It’s one of the reasons why dieting is so difficult as we don’t want to put up with feeling anxious or empty or hungry for very long, understandably.
But dieting and losing weight require SOME type of discipline and deprivation, and so we have an issue on our hands. Willpower alone can’t overcome that so we need to structure our eating in ways that help us manage those feelings of deprivation.
Some of the ways in which people structure their eating to help cope with the difficultly of “being good” are:
– Eating a Ketogenic Diet: That’s one that is high in fat and low (or no) in carbs. With this type of eating one gives up most of their favorite foods (i.e. breads, grains, pastas, potatoes, desserts) but are still able to eat food that is tasty AND filling, so they never feel hungry, or have to worry so much about counting calories.
– Intermittent Fasting: More commonly known as “skipping breakfast,” this type of dieting does require one to get through the first hours of the day feeling hungry, but then they get to eat all the foods they love in the meals afterward, while still losing weight. In the 5:2 Diet, they can even have dessert daily.
KEYS TO HAPPINESS
Psychologists who study this have identified 4 core factors that are influential in your level of happiness:
1- Strong relationships: Especially with a significant other, although strong bonds to others like friends, other family members and your community can be just as effective.
2- Work you enjoy: Pretty straightforward considering you spend most of your waking day, AND most of your adult life engaged in that specific activity.
3- Novelty: Meeting new people, traveling to new places and trying new things in general also seems to make us happy.
4- Something to look forward to: The subject of this blog post. Having something to look forward to allows you to ENDURE DEPRIVATION much more easily since the excitement felt by thinking of what’s to come compensates for the cold, emptiness of the hardship that needs to be endured.
THINGS WE LOOK FORWARD TO
- Vacations – The happiest and most exciting parts of a vacation are the times leading up to it, until about the midway point. After that you know that it’s almost over, feel less enthused and are looking “forward,” into the near future knowing it will be done soon.
- Friday nights – The school and work week ends and everyone is excited and looking forward to the weekend. Even though it’s a work day, people are generally happier on that day than they are on Mondays since they know that a couple of days of rest and leisure are coming up. Conversely, Sundays are much less exciting since the long work week lays ahead.
- Holidays – Most of the fun of Christmas happens during the days leading up to it. All of the preparations, singing, TV specials, parties and activities have us looking forward to Christmas Day. And even though the day itself is enjoyable, much of the enthusiasm of the weeks previous has been tempered somewhat by around mid day.
APPLYING THIS STRATEGY TO OUR DIET AND WEIGHT LOSS GOALS
In order to apply this “looking forward” strategy to our eating, we need to make sure we combine it with the weight loss strategies and management methods outlined in previous blog posts. Two of which were mentioned above, and so we’ll revisit those and talk about a couple more below:
1- The Ketogenic Diet: So we mentioned the advantages of feeling full and eating tasty food with this diet. The key here is to make sure the foods are VERY tasty by looking up Keto recipes online that you think you’d like. I’m not just talking about meat and eggs, something people generally associate with this diet, there are literally hundreds of recipes for cookies, breads, yogurts and other delicious desserts that are quite satisfying. If you knew that you could eat a high fat and delicious dessert (think peanut butter balls) every single night, you would be looking forward to eating and would more easily be able to follow the diet.
2- Intermittent Fasting (IF): Again we talked about the advantages of this way of eating, of having to fast in the morning but then eat the foods we love later on. Many people build desserts, pastas and many more of their favorite foods into their IF routines and make sure to eat something special every evening. Knowing that they have something delicious to look forward to, again helps them more easily get through the first part of the day. Some people at the extreme end of IF, eat only at dinner time, but they make it a nightly FEAST to remember and so again can hang on with less difficulty throughout the day.
3- Cheat Meal: A cheat meal that’s built into your weekly diet plan can actually HELP you stay on track. Of course it’s counter productive on the day itself but if it’s something that can help you stay the course over the next 6 days, it can be an effective long term strategy to help you gradually lose weight over the following months, while still looking forward to eating whatever you like on, “cheat day.” Enjoying your food is something that you should be doing at every meal.
4- Parties/Holidays/Vacations: You want to be able to enjoy life and these moments are there for you to relax, let loose and have some fun in a multitude of ways, including eating. Knowing a celebration is coming up and giving yourself permission to indulge and enjoy will again help you to be “good” with your diet on the days leading up to it. It’s not always going to be easy but it will help, and when you finally do indulge at that party or restaurant, you’ll feel good about doing so and will enjoy it without guilt.
IMPLEMENT YOUR PLAN
Take one, or combine a few of the strategies above to formulate a plan that you believe will best work for you. If you’re not sure which ones then I’d suggest watching yourself and notice when you feel the excitement and anticipation for food and which times of the days (week) you feel okay to push through and use your willpower. That should give you a good starting indication of how you tick when it comes to food.
Make it pleasurable.
THE EATING LOVE GUIDE (FREE)
The Eating Love Guide has helped many people regain control of their eating patterns, resulting not only in weight loss but also better health and improved self-esteem. To read it online, click here.