I have no willpower.
I have not given up, but I have repeatedly disappointed myself over the past few days. I had multiple social events that revolved around dinner and I just didn’t have the follow through and commitment to avoid eating things that were not TWC compliant.
At a happy hour that kicked off the weekend, I was mindful but I did enjoy two beers and some chips. I had a bit more staying power as there were healthy options and several people attending were also participating in the Challenge or had done it before.
At a dinner party on Saturday, the appetizers involved some delicious cheeses and crackers. There were no veggie options and I was hungry. In hindsight, I should have prepared better by having a healthy snack before going and then being firm with myself to avoid the cheeses. But I didn’t. And then there were desserts. It was a small intimate gathering, and I didn’t want to be “that person” who doesn’t have dessert when everyone else does. I had no medical reason as an excuse and was too self conscious to just watch everyone else eat. Again, in hindsight, it would not have been a big deal, so maybe it was an excuse to eat dessert after all (and the desserts were very good!)
Sunday I ate healthy during the day, anticipating another dinner out. I was poured a glass of wine, so there went that point, and then there were Mediterranean spreads with bread to share. I definitely could have skipped that, but I didn’t prepare myself with a “no bread” pep talk … or at least didn’t make it a firm “no” so I had some. I did order a grilled fish with vegetables and had a cappuccino (lost the dairy point) while everyone else had dessert.
I was ready for Monday to kick off a great final week of perfect points … and then attended a huge pre-prom potluck party for my daughter’s senior class. The amount of good looking food was distracting. I held back for a while, but again, let go of my willpower after staring at plate after plate of things I love. I had very small tastes of a few things, but the points still counted. I beat myself up for giving in.
I decided: Before attending a social event, I must make a conscious, firm decision about how I will behave in terms of eating. No matter what, the fact is I am distracted by food.
I hate to admit it, but …
In a social setting, where I might feel somewhat anxious or out of place,
- Dipping some chips in salsa, putting food in my mouth, is a mindless activity, compared to making small talk or having a deep conversation (even if enjoyable conversation!)
- Having a glass of wine or beer in hand is socially acceptable and a social crutch
- I am distracted when surrounded by many appealing food options, and giving in to the distraction can feel like a relief
- I don’t pay attention to what I am eating and yet I find myself thinking about what I will eat next, and even think about missing out on something if I don’t have a taste!
- Having the excuse of getting some food is a way to end a conversation
What is Social Eating?
When I started writing this post I didn’t know that “social eating” was a thing. But this article defines it as, “Social eating can be described as the consumption of calories in a social setting whether or not one planned to eat.” The article confirms my strategy of being conscious of what is to come – preparation – is a key to self control in a social situation.
Combine social eating with the emotional messages I send myself … “I deserve this,” or “This is a special night out with friends – I shouldn’t limit myself,” or “You only live once!” … is a recipe for regret. My mind is so focused on NOT eating the things I want to eat, that giving in and eating what I want to eat seems like a relief. Only after I stop and think about it, I realize that cheese/dip/cookie (usually) wasn’t worth it and kicking myself for being weak. And, usually giving and eating to stop myself from being distracted only leads to eating more than I needed to anyway. I rarely ever look back and think “OMG am I so glad I ate that cheese!”
Do I Care Enough To Change? And Is Change Possible?
One question I ask myself is, “So what?” I don’t actually socialize that much – this weekend was busier than most. Is the solution to stop socializing for fear of eating the wrong things and eating too much because I have no self control? Or, are there steps I can take to develop “coping” skills that will allow me to enjoy myself in social situations without being distracted by food and the eventual regret I feel afterward for having no willpower?
Willpower is defined as the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. Recent research found that willpower can be strengthened with practice. Interestingly, another study looked at the phenomeon of willpower depletion. This theory is used to explain what happens after we’ve resisted temptation after temptation – that self-control is depleted. Specific stresses, such as interacting with others and maintaining relationships, can also deplete willpower. Resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. In these cases, willpower is like “a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.”
Avoiding temptation is one effective tactic for maintaining self-control. Another, more practical method I discovered again backs up my “preparation” idea. This technique is called an “implementation intention.” For example, creating an “if-then” scenario to plan for situations that are likely to lead to breaking one’s resolve. I think this is a useful strategy to try. As this article states, “having a plan in place ahead of time may allow you to make decisions in the moment without having to draw on your willpower.”
Perhaps practicing this next time – being prepared and playing out scenarios ahead of time – will be what works for me. And if so, the more I implement it, the more natural it may become.
The Total Wellness Challenge ends in less than a week. But I think I will carry on the lesson learned about self-control, social eating, and mental preparation beyond the TWC.
Or at least I plan to now! 🙂