As a nutritionist in private practice, I counsel with people one-on-one, which involves working with them to create a plan or goals, and then coaching them along the way. Virtually every client I’ve ever worked with has confessed to a “moment of weakness” - an unintended detour despite every intention of staying on track.
We’ve all been there and to be perfectly honest, such deviations are in our DNA. A recent study confirmed what I’ve witnessed in dozens of clients over the years – we tend to choose immediate rewards over short-term sacrifices that lead to bigger, better long-term rewards.
The other day a client told me about this snag – she woke up early to go to the gym, ate a healthy breakfast and lunch and felt amazingly confident and energetic all day. That afternoon, her office celebrated a co-worker’s birthday - with cupcakes. She knew that one cupcake would reverse, or at the very least cancel out most of her efforts for the day, but her internal dialogue said, “But it’s red velvet, my favorite!” and she gave in.
These scenarios aren’t really about a lack of willpower. It’s more about not wanting to miss out on something you know you’ll enjoy right now. How many times have you heard the mantras, “Life is short,” “Live in the moment,” and “Carpe diem!”? Unless you truly feel like what you’re gaining in that very moment by staying on track is meaningful enough, it can be tough to make a healthier choice.
When you’re faced with a fork in the road, here are three questions to ask yourself that may help:
1) If I give in (to the cupcake, etc.), what am I giving up that affects me this minute – not a week, month or year from now but today? It could be a feeling rather than a result. In other words, even if you haven’t hit your weight goal yet, do you feel confident, energetic and healthy right now?
2) Is what I’ll be giving up worth what I’ll be getting right now?
3) If I say no (to the cupcake, etc.), will I regret it an hour from now, tomorrow or a week from now?
There are no right or wrong answers. Sometimes the cupcake may feel like the right choice. But thinking these questions through can help you sort out your feelings in a way that doesn’t pit your “right now” against your “future unknown.”
So what’s your take on this topic? Do you struggle with instant gratification? Do these questions help? Please share your thoughts!