My good friend Shelley writes a world-renowned blog on Debt Reduction. One of her most recent articles talks about the temptation/struggle of excess spending when you actually have more money to spend (vs. saving and wiser, more planned uses of money). This got me thinking about how we all have temptations we have to deal with, and the willpower we use to deal with them.
I have gone 7 straight weeks on the Atkins diet now, and have not cheated or slipped once (yes, not even once, not even a little bit!) That's been the case on every diet I've ever seriously committed to, marathon training I've done, weight lifting programs I've been on, etc. People look at that and tell me that I must have extraordinary "willpower". It's fun to get a compliment like that, but I'll admit that in this case what they're calling "willpower" is really rooted in what I would describe as an "obsessive" personality (to a degree anyway). Once I decided to start doing this diet, there are clear rules to follow and I have no trouble following them and almost nothing can make me deviate from clear rules (that I've decided to follow). This phase of the diet is very simple and safe for me - follow the rules and you will lose weight. There are no decisions to make, no optional paths to follow. Two good recent examples - Thursday Erin baked a whole bunch of cookies for work, and many were still out (and they smelled SO good!). I was home alone, no one would know. Did I flinch? No, not really. Almost no force on earth would have made me eat one of those cookies, because the rules were in place in my head, and I was following them. Last night after handbell practice, one of my dear friends brought in some leftover wedding cake from her daughter's wedding, which I attended earlier this year. I had had a piece of this cake at the wedding reception, and it was some of the best cake I'd ever had. Did I flinch? No. The only potential hard thing I might have had to deal with was offending someone by not taking a piece of cake, and having to explain why. But pretty much nothing would have made me want to eat a piece of that cake.
What's going to be the hard part? The reason why I end up in these situations needing to be on diets in the first place? That will come when I've lost all the weight I want to lose. "Eating in the Real World" is what Atkins calls it, and the South Beach book has a similar section. For some people this is much easier than the diet itself - "moderation" is what it's called. Enjoy that occasional cookie or piece of wedding cake, and do a good job the rest of the time. My personality doesn't seem to work that way though. I don't know how to enjoy an occasional treat without the "rules" in my head having to be altered. I don't know how to skip a day of marathon training (I did miss days but they were always for planned reasons). For me the easy part is now. The hard part is yet to come.