Last blog post I discussed the concept of impulsivity being the root cause of obesity for many people.
(The take away was that Impulse control is incredibly important to weight loss success.)
I also shared my views on the difference between being impulsive and being spontaneous.
Living spontaneously means a flexible lifestyle, where you do things of your own accord. It’s not that you are doing things without knowledge of the consequences, but that you’re willing to see where the path takes you, without struggling or trying to force events to occur.
Living Impulsively is a mass-consumption lifestyle, where you do things to meet your immediate urges with little to no regard for the long term consequences – it’s not about the path, but the immediate satisfaction.
So to test my theory, I lived impulsively for ten days. Not only that, but I lived the first four days of this experiment in the Capital City of Impulsivity – Las Vegas.
The basic rules of the experiment were as follows – No purposeful gorging, only eating when I normally eat and when the impulse strikes me I follow that impulse eating what I want, and as much as I want.
The very first thing I learned from this experiment is that impulsivity is highly dictated by outside influences. In other words it was other people asking me to eat that set off the impulse to go and eat.
The second thing I learned is that it is next to impossible to fast for 24 hours when eating impulsively. I never made it through more than 6 hours of day light without eating.
The last thing I learned was in a weird sort of way it is hard to be spontaneous when you are being impulsive because you are regimented by your impulses (weird statement, but it’s true)
The results? I was up about 5 pounds of which I’m guessing about 4 pounds was/is fat.
When you are 174 pounds and about 10% fat, 4 pounds is enough to bump you up to about 12% fat.
Which is noticeable (see pictures below)
In both pictures I have great lighting, I’m sucking in and I’m flexing. It’s the same iPhone Camera, it’s even the same shirt. The only difference is about a pound of food in my system and probably about an extra 4 pounds of fat.
Doing the math, this seems to fit
4 pounds = ~1,800 grams
1,800 grams of fat takes ~21,500 Calories to store
that’s an extra 2,150 Calories per day for ten days.
which puts my average Calorie intake for ten days at about 4,500 – 4,750.
Granted – the Vegas days were probably a little higher, and the non-Vegas days a little lower…but either way these numbers are not exceptionally high, and are very realistic given the way I was eating.
I was never OVERLY full, but I definitely felt out of control – like the food was in control of me. It’s a very helpless feeling. I can also say that there was not a lot of enjoyment coming from my food. I thought there would be, but it was definitely ‘short-term’ gain type stuff.
(The other benefit of this experiment is that it shows that I am not some genetic freak impervious to weight gain..)
So learning to controlling impulses will allow you to eat less, but how exactly do we do this?
I’m not a psychology expert, so I’m not going to pretend to understand this side of weight loss.
Instead, I will simply share what works for me.
Step one for me has always been creating an impartial view of food. I don’t pass judgement on food, I don’t give it absolute values or standards or categorize it into good or bad (I find that most of these labels come from outside influences anyways). This allows me to avoid being drawn to ‘bad foods’ simply because they are labelled ‘bad’ (My experience is that the minute you label something as bad, you start to secretly yearn for it). It also allows me to avoid overeating good foods simply because they are ‘good’.
The second step is fasting. It is very common for me to hear that regular fasting has reduced a person’s desire to eat ‘all the time’. It’s a little bit of a mindfulness thing, as we learn that we don’t HAVE to eat, but it’s also very much a flow thing – you learn to simply fill the times you used to eat with other activities, and you just get into a really nice rhythm of eating less, and enjoying foods when you do eat.
Lastly – To control impulsive eating you need to be acutely aware of outside influences – Ie people asking you to eat, or people pushing you to eat (but not necessarily eating themselves). It could be family, friends, co-workers, etc. You’d be surprised when you stop and realize just how often people try to use ‘food’ as a reason to ‘talk’ or ‘hangout’.This is another thing that fasting once-in-a-while will help you with – making you aware of just how often people ask you to eat.
So for me controlling impulses has a lot to do with being mindful of what you are eating and why you are eating it, getting into the flow of eating less, and not being afraid to say No when people want me to eat.
Sometimes it helps to remind myself is that the reason I eat less is so I CAN eat during times of celebration…it’s kind of like saving for the important things.