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.