In the past few years, willpower has been getting more and more attention. From blogs to news articles all of which point to our limited ability to exercise constant decision making of all kinds, including choosing a salad over a basket of fish and chips. It seems we are able to make a finite number of decisions before our system needs replenishment. This is a great argument for both planned snacks, and avoiding difficult decisions, but it also indicates that contrary to what many people believe, willpower or the lack of it has little to do with character.
If we are to believe the current scientific research, dieting is probably the worst thing we can do if we’re trying to manage our weight, though planning could be the best. The fewer choices we’re faced with, the less decision fatigue we suffer from. Though some people are content to eat the same thing daily that would drive me nuts! I like variety, and though there are at least one thousand ways to prepare chicken, and I love about 995 of them, I do not want to eat chicken for dinner every night. Fortunately that is not the only solution to limiting our decisions.
What if you decided that what you eat is much less important that when, why and how you eat?
When should you eat? There is no magic time, I am not about to reveal some secret ritual that will magically melt away pounds. You should eat when you are hungry. When I do this, I find I eat breakfast at a sort of usual time- I get up, shower and dress, and head down to the kitchen, and guaranteed I am hungry. I am very hungry in the morning, and by 10:30 or 11:00 I am hungry again, so I eat lunch. That will last me until around 3:00 when I am hungry again. If I have dinner plans with someone, I will have a small snack, but if not I may have a meal, and be done for the day. This is what is currently working for me, but I DO NOT think it is necessarily the best schedule for you. You have to figure that out for yourself.
Why should you eat? Because food is a wonderful thing. It nourishes both your body and your soul. It fuels you, and keeps you going. It feels good to eat delicious things, and to share that experience with others. You should eat because you owe it yourself and those around you. People do not enjoy being around hungry, cranky people. I imagine if you are reading this blog you don’t need too much convincing that eating is a good thing!
How should you eat? Slowly. You should be eating something you want to eat. Something you enjoy, and so you should eat it slowly and savor every bite. If you are in a rush, eat some nuts, and come back for a meal when you can give it the attention you and your meal deserve. Another reason to eat slowly is that you will realize you are satisfied before you are stuffed. Eating too fast means that you’re consuming faster than your brain or belly can process what is happening.
As for what, the thing that is most important is that you eat something you want to eat. In my experience, if I am craving something, and I don’t eat whatever that thing is, no matter what else I eat, I will not be satisfied. I will often keep eating, in an effort to quiet that craving for whatever item I feel I must forbid myself to eat, and the next thing you know, no matter what I was craving, I have consumed way more calories than I would have if I had given in to my craving. Chances are if you have no forbidden foods, and you are thoughtful about your choices, and eat mindfully following the above guidelines (these are not rules!!!) your cravings will moderate, as will your food choices.
Many years ago I read an article about an experiment that was done with a bunch of kids over a period of weeks; the group was offered a broad selection of all kind of foods to eat, and though they stared out eating cake and cookies and chips, within a few days they were choosing a fairly balanced diet, including fruits and vegetables. I cannot site this, as I read it a long time ago- way before Al Gore had invented the internet, and though my memory may be dimming, I am fairly certain that I am recounting this with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
I do not imply in any way that this is easy to do. It requires a great deal of attention and intention for a while. I am trying very hard to do this, and it is practically my full time job and it is hard. I am successful some of the time, and I hope to increase that to most of the time. The beauty of all this however, is that it requires no willpower at all, so I can concentrate on developing my character!