Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Giving In Makes You Weaker

Today, I finished my lunch and decided to have a bite of chocolate at the end for “dessert”. One of my weaknesses is that I often crave something sweet at the end of a meal. I don’t always give in to this desire. Often, I’ll just make a cup of tea and put two packets of Splenda in it to make it sweet. I get the illusion of satisfying my craving.

Today, I finished eating lunch, I figured that I’d give in to my craving this time because I hadn’t “spent” many calories and my plan for today was going to allow for a little latitude. Normally, I’ll eat one chocolate and then I’m satisfied. Today, for the first time in a very long time, one lead to a desire to have another. I was thinking about having another, because I could “afford” it. But then I thought that this was a slippery slope. Having a small treat at the end of a meal is fine. Having one that leads to another is not and it was important to discard the idea “on principle”, and I realize now why that is so.

Most people understand that not using a muscle makes it weaker and using it makes it stronger. If you sit around long enough, your muscles atrophy and moving in certain ways gets harder. This is a concept that most adults, if not educated children, are familiar with.

The thing that people don’t teach us is that the same applies to psychology. Self-control atrophies just like an unused muscle. I have been practicing this and internalizing it since I started changing my lifestyle but hadn’t “externalized” it until now. Everything that I have done has been a graduated series of exercises to improve self-control when it comes to food.

It started by gradually reducing portions rather than eating as much as I wanted. It continued when I started to calorie count one day a week with the message that I could have a food “tomorrow” if I still craved it (a form of teaching myself delayed gratification, though that wasn’t how I conceptualized it at the time). This form of conditioning strengthened the mental muscle that deals with self-control when it comes to food.

Today, I realized that this muscle needs to be flexed regularly to keep it in shape whether or not it is imperative in terms of calories counts to do so. Once I stop resisting urges, I weaken my self-control. So, that is the principle on which I avoided a second piece of chocolate. It’s not about some vague “rule” or notion of self-discipline, but a fact of how the mind works in terms of keeping control.


Carissa said...

I've never thought about it like that... but it makes total sense! Good job on not eating that second piece! You work that mental muscle, girl! :)

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Carissa, and thanks so much for your kind and supportive comment!:-)

dlamb said...

Such a brilliant way of conceptualizing this idea, which is applicable to numerous behaviors that fall under the heading of poor impulse control (in my case).
Incidentally, I hope it is ok to mention this here, though you wrote of this topic a couple of days ago. The subject is yogurt, which, I generally detest when it is not loaded with sugar and STUFF. Even then, it makes/keeps me hungry, but the "plain", especially FF., which I usually get, is horrid to me. Sour and unsatisfying. As you said, I usually have to choke it down.
Anyway, I had one of those 32 oz. containers in my refrigerator since...February maybe? It was unopened so, still "fresh". I tried your draining suggestion and though I was surprised that it retained its sourness, silly me, I was able to use it to make "faux mash potatoes" with boiled cauliflower but ALSO, to make "dessert" out of it, by adding one of my SF syrups.
I used it instead of my beloved low fat ricotta and low fat cream cheese. The lower calories were well worth the difference in taste. I will definitely do this from now on and save myself the awful taste of that sour watery gagger (again, I realize it is a personal taste kind of thing and do not intend to malign anyone who enjoys the stuff).
I use massive amounts of SF syrup and I found one that in "caramel flavor" (my favorite), is the consistency of pancake syrup, almost. I will not mention the brand name because I don't know if that is allowed but it makes for a really good, low cal., creamy dessert. THANK YOU!

screaming fatgirl said...

There's another way that you can make yogurt better which I learned from someone else and that is to use sugar-free pudding mix with it. The flavors that work best are lemon and cheesecake (lemon, especially). Take about a cup of plain, unsweetened strained yogurt (unstrained is okay, too, but is thinner) and mix a tablespoon of intsant sugar-free pudding with it. Allow it to rest in the refrigerator for a little while to thicken and it's like instant low-calorie cheesecake.

I think the idea of using sugar-free syrup in it is an excellent one, but I didn't have access to such syrups in Asia. Now, I can't get them, but after I leave where I am in about a month, I will probably have access. I used to special order Da Vinci sugar-free vanilla syrup (it was one of the few things I could get there, but at a very high cost). I used it for lattes since I had to ration my small, costly supply.

I have learned that a lot of yogurt in America is full of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Where I lived, most of the yogurt was distinguished by fat content, and very little had any added sugar or fruit. It was quite a culture shock for me to come back and find plain out yogurt a minority rather than an overwhelming majority (and it's more expensive here to boot!).

dlamb said...

Oh wow, I will DEFINITELY try that. Thank you for the suggestion.
I get my syrups at Home Goods/TJ Maxx/Marshall's. I believe all these stores may be owned by the same umbrella corporation, because they appear to carry exactly the same brands for the same prices. There are numerous flavors and they can cost as little as $4.99/750 ml bottle, to no more than $5.99.

Theoretically, I know I could make my own. All they contain is some flavor extract, splenda, water and coloring but somehow I don't.
I do not buy "regular" vanilla, because I can truly make that on my own but other flavors I just buy, especially ones for which I cannot find the flavors/extracts at the supermarket, including French Vanilla (though I always wonder what the difference is).

dlamb said...

Oh, yes, I meant to add but... poor impulse control... I am SHOCKED at how expensive yogurt is! Just shocked! I do not even understand why. The lowest price yogurts, even store brands, for plain 23 oz containers are $2.19 or so. Almost as much as some cheese, per pound.
I never buy any but plain. I see no point in buying something I can make myself with the flavor preserve I wish, the amount I wish and certainly without the sugar added variety of preserve. I make no judgements but I cannot see myself paying 75 cents for 4-6 oz yogurt with a teaspoon of strawberry preserves and a boatload of sugar. I just can't and I would not do it even with unlimited funds, just out of principle!