Delayed Gratification: The Weight Loss Superpower
OK, so it’s not as good as invisibility or the ability to fly but delayed gratification can be a very useful superpower if you’re goal is to get in shape. Especially when you consider the super-fast broadband, TV on demand, instant gratification culture we live in. Everyone expects things right now. They almost feel entitled to getting what they want right away. And if they have to wait, then they’re not happy.
Try to get away from this feeling of entitlement and develop the ability to take a long term view, be patient and don’t expect things instantly.
So what is delayed gratification?
Basically, delayed gratification is the ability to give up short term pleasure or reward for a greater, long term reward. To explain a little further, let me tell you about a study dubbed, ‘The Marshmallow experiment’. (1)
In this study, the researchers took a group of young children and proceeded, one by one, to sit them in a room with a marshmallow on the table in front of them. The researcher then proposed a deal.
If the child didn’t eat the marshmallow while he left the room, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow when he returned. So the child could either have 1 marshmallow right away or 2 marshmallows later. The researcher then left the room and observed what the child did.
Some of them ate the single marshmallow straight away. Some weren’t sure what to do, fidgeting & wiggling around on the chair, not sure if they should eat it or not. Eventually giving in and eating the marshmallow. A few, however, managed to resist eating the marshmallow until the researcher returned and then were rewarded with a 2nd marshmallow. They were able to delay gratification. And as a result, received a greater reward. They could resist the urge to eat the single marshmallow, in the knowledge that they’ll get a 2nd one if they just waited.
(As a side note, follow up studies showed that the children who were able to delay gratification and wait for the 2nd marshmallow, were more successful later in life. Suggesting, the ability to delay gratification carries over to many aspects of life.)
If you can save up for a holiday you have the ability to get in shape
You practise a form of delayed gratification when you save up for a pricey holiday.
During the run up to the holiday, you don’t have as much disposable income to go out to eat as often, have days out etc, because you have to pay the holiday off and save up spending money.
And while not being able to go out as much sucks at the time, you’re willing to make that sacrifice because you know the holiday will be worth it. You’re giving up the short term pleasure, (going out for the day), for the greater pleasure of the pricey holiday in the future.
You get what I’m saying?
So why am I telling you about this?
Well, the ability, (or inability in a lot of cases), to delay gratification is a large factor as to why some people struggle to lose weight.
They can’t seem to give up the short term pleasure gained from eating a chocolate bar, for the longer term reward of reaching their body composition & fitness goals. They want gratification now, right this second.
I’m not saying that you have to always pass up on the chocolate bar. But the reality is, if you’re overweight & unhappy with your body, then you will have to, (pass on the chocolate bar), more often than you do currently.
So can you train yourself to delay gratification?
In my opinion, yes you can. Just from my own personal experience and helping others on their weight loss journey, I know it is possible.
I wasn’t very good at delaying gratification, saying no to the chocolate bar, in my early 20’s. But gradually, I got better & better at it. The more I practised, the better I got. (Funny that)
I wasn’t really aware at the time I was doing it, but in the attempt to eat better & get in shape, I was effectively practising delaying gratification.
I like to think of eating healthy, exercising & living a healthy lifestyle as a skill, or series of skills that have to be learned. With the ability to delay gratification one of the skills that go towards eating healthy & being able to lose weight successfully.
Like any skill, you can’t expect to be good at it straight away. And you can’t expect to be good at it without practise.
Can you juggle?
Take another skill, like juggling for example. You can’t just decide that you want to be able to juggle, and then all of a sudden expect to be good at juggling. So you can’t wake up one day, decide you’re going to start going to the gym & eating better and expect to be able to do it without any problems.
You’d have to spend the time & effort to practise. So don’t be so hard on yourself if you struggle with it to start with. You can’t expect to be good at eating healthy, exercising or delaying gratification straight away.
With that said, you do need to put in the effort to actually practise. Don’t just expect to get better without it.
So my advice?
Practise delaying gratification. Duh! 😉
The next time you get offered something you probably shouldn’t eat, just say no. Knowing that once the moment has passed, you will gain greater, long term satisfaction as you get nearer to your goals. As I’ve already said, it won’t happen overnight. It might be difficult to start with, but it will get subsequently easier each time you do it.
Granted, saying no to a chocolate bar once won’t magically make to lose a bunch of weight. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get. And the more you do it, the more you’ll realise that it’s not actually as difficult as you first thought. And once you’ve developed the ability to delay gratification, you’ll be much more likely to reach your weight loss & body composition goals.
Take Home Points
- Try to get away from a feeling of entitlement and develop the ability to take a long term view, be patient and don’t expect things instantly.
- Delayed gratification is the ability to give up short term pleasure or reward for a greater, long term reward.
- If you can save up for a holiday you have the ability to get in shape.
- Being able to see past the instant gratification of eating something you probably shouldn’t is a major factor in dietary success
- You can get better at delaying gratification if you practise it
If you want my help to get in shape for your holiday, or to just look & feel better click here