I don't Eat Chocolate Monday through Friday: Why willpower doesn't work
I just got done listening to the Hungry For Happiness Podcast episode 62. Today's episode was so intriguing! Samantha Skelly interviews Dr. Glenn Livingston about his book and journey to stop binge eating. Even if you do not binge eat I highly recommend listening to this podcast.
I really loved how Dr. Livingston discusses will power. Have you ever heard of people telling you to eat clean 80% of the time and then leave 20% for eating treats. I've heard it many times. I even tell my personal training clients to do this. Something that I struggle with and never really put into words before this podcast is decoding when does that 20% occur?
Glenn says that willpower is a finite ability and uses the example of eating chocolate. When you are stressed or tired we run out of the will power faster. If you have a long day and you go to Starbucks and you find yourself eyeballing the chocolate sweets how do you know if this will be the only time that you will treat yourself? Every single time you have to decide if this is the 80% when I don't eat chocolate or the 20% when I do eat chocolate. Its life baby. We face chocolate decisions all the time, every week, every day. If willpower is a limited resource then it probably will be all used up by Monday afternoon. To build character (as Glenn puts it) he began to set guidelines for himself. "I'm only eating chocolate on the weekends." When Glenn begins to have thoughts about eating chocolate on a Tuesday and begins to convince himself that it is okay he knows automatically that this is his old binging habits creeping up again. If you decide to not eat chocolate Monday through Friday then all your chocolate decisions have already been made up and it won't whittle down your willpower anymore. I found this so interesting.
Dr. Livingston goes on to say that by setting these guidelines you begin to build character. You are no longer the type of person who eats chocolate Monday through Friday. When we begin to build character and integrity about our values this begins to prevail over our lack of willpower. For instance if you knew you could get away with stealing a tip off of an empty table in the diner and not get caught would you do it? If you are a good person then you wouldn't. You are not that type of person who steals. Ever.
I been on the other side. It was all or nothing. If I slipped up on my eating then I would throw in the fuck it towel and begin to binge. Now that I've done a lot of research and healing I find myself with a new problem of giving into and even distracted by my impulses. Being too rigid is problematic but being to loosey goose has also brought on a handful of problems in my life. Balance is key!
Speaking from personal experience when I am stressed out or tired I'm just not present with my eating. Waiting for the chocolate until the weekend I can take the time to examine why do I want to eat the chocolate? Is the craving even about the chocolate? Or is it the emotions underneath it all? Typically in those moments when I have the urge to eat even when I'm not hungry I usually don't have the capacity to realize its about something else. Its later on when I can reflect after I devoured the food that I realize "Oh hey I'm tired and I just wanted some comfort."
Another point that Glenn brought up was that this system of thinking completely respects food autonomy. Nobody makes the rules for you. You set the standard for yourself. Your "no chocolate Monday through Friday" might look like "I will always sit down when I eat" or "I will always put my fork down in between bites."
All and all, this was an amazing podcast. If you like learning and self improvement click on the link above and give it a listen. I honestly feel like I barely skimmed the surface of Dr. Livingston's message. I appreciated his genuine demeanor , his research, and his vulnerability. It is a entertaining podcast and thought provoking. What are your thoughts?? What will be your chocolate standard? Comment below!