Common Willpower Pitfalls During and After Dieting

Although I don’t like to think of what we do at Beyond Macros as a diet- because we are really changing habits- these dieting pitfalls are still important to anticipate. I’ll describe the two most common willpower traps like diseases:

  1. A case of the “Screwits”
  2. Treatyoself-itis

A Case of the Screwits

This is a terrible disease that manifests itself as a downward spiral of giving in to indulgences. It all starts with the seemingly benign “cough” of a small indulgence in response to stress.

Your workday has been stressful and the cake Pam brought in a cake for Jim’s birthday is looking mighty tempting. It’s paleo anyway, how bad could it be. “Screw it, why not”. You eat one little sliver and the screwititis disease has taken hold.

The cake is delicious, and its paleo, so its healthy right? You get another small sliver. And then another. And since the small slivers don’t satisfy, you feel guilty that you’ve eaten so many. Screw it, you’ve already eaten more than you expected, its a cheat day now and you’re stressed anyway, so you cut off a full slice.

Unfortunately, the day hasn’t gotten any easier despite the cake. Your feel bad about it but your coworkers want to go grab a drink with Jim for his birthday after work. It means you’ll miss your workout, but screw it, you already cheated today, what’s one more?

You go out for drinks with co-workers instead of going home and eating the post-workout meal you prepped.

And so on.

How do you cure this infectious disease?

One of my clients who is in AA enlightened me to one of their sayings “It’s never too late to restart your day.”

You can use this mindset to cut this Screwititis disease off at the roots. It doesn’t matter what just happened, it’s your next choice that defines your day. Just because you didn’t control the last impulse doesn’t mean you can’t control the next one. Internalizing this can help prevent a runaway train situation from occurring. Cheat days are far more damaging that one cheat food.

But a cure is a “just in case” more important is that there are also a few immunizations to the Screwits.

  1. Have compassion for yourself.
    1. When you have a lapse in self control do you become critical of yourself, or do you show yourself compassion? Psychology research shows that women given a message of self forgiveness after eating a donut are less likely to continue indulging vs. those who are not given the .
  2. Create a buffer between stress-or-guilt induced impulse and action.
    1. Wait 5-10 minutes between when you feel an impulse to eat a food that will make you feel like crap and the action of eating it, you may just avoid the train wreck altogether.

I love this approach because it also develops some space for awareness. First, awareness about what is causing you to feel so stressed out that a cookie feels like the only solution. It also creates space to develop some awareness about what you ACTUALLY want in a situation where you are feeling stressed out or impulsive. What will stop the itch, because a scratch will only make things worse.

This immunization also works for our next related disease, treatyoselfitis.


Treat Yo’ Self-itis

Treatyoselfitis is actually a virus that hides out in your good choices waiting for a moment of weakness in your willpower immune system.

You just lost 15lbs. You just did so many things to earn that 15lbs fat loss. Surely you can trust your decisions, I mean, they got you here, right?! And now that you hit your goal weight you don’t have to eat at a deficit anymore.

So it’s fine to order fries with your salad. After all, you’re ordering a salad and you make such good decisions that helped you lose 15lbs! The fries don’t count, it’s just a little treat.

This is a sneaky disease because it blinds you to its presence, until the symptoms become too obvious to ignore. The bad habits sneak back. You don’t feel as good as you did.

The scary thing about treatyoselfitis is that even the thought of making a good decision, like joining our online coaching program, is enough to make you feel justified in any choices that only feel “a little bad”.

The most common manifestation of this disease that I see is “I worked out hard today, I earned the right to overeat dessert.”

It’s best to immunize yourself against this disease.

I already mentioned one of the immunizations- the buffer between impulse and action- here is another-

  1. Get in touch with your want power. What is your goal?
    1. If it’s to be healthy and fit you score one point for exercising and lose a point for overeating dessert. You worked against what you want and went nowhere. You need both exercising and eating well in order to take steps towards your goal.

By beginning to ask yourself IF an action will move you towards or away from your goal, you will find that it’s a lot easier to take the right steps. Are you the type of person who makes healthy choices?

It might not feel true right now if you have a track record of giving in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be that person.  

Which of these Willpower traps have you fallen victim to in the past? And what will you do differently this time around?