Time and time again we are faced with internal conflicts, a dividing battle between 2 opposing ideas fighting, pushing and pulling, seemingly begging us to pick them. Both bringing convincing arguments to why their way is better.
It could be;
Get out of bed vs stay in bed,
Go for that run vs watch Netflix, or
Buy that nice pair of shoes vs pay your phone bill,
Internal conflicts are endless, some much larger than others, but for many people (myself included) one of the most prominent internal conflicts we face is eating the healthy option vs eating the not so healthy option. My aim with this post is to help you overcome your internal conflicts and rain victorious in future battles.
Scratching that itch
With any and all internal conflicts or decisions we aim to metaphorically “scratch an itch”, meet a level of satisfaction or gratification. The divides we are faced with can be often torn between the premise of time and weighed against the reward/payout.
The options generally look like this;
An option that can immediately scratch our present need (now/soon) often has small or even negative effects when it comes to meeting our long term (large) goal or need.
Take for example a young guy in pursuit of a relationship;
The immediate desire of intimacy could be met by picking up women in local bars for one night stands weekend after weekend – thus scratching the short term desire for intimacy. But in doing so neglects and hinders the result of the (larger/ later) goal and satisfaction of having a more meaningful relationship and connection.
The divides are clear and decisions are all individual and should be treated as such, but if you are looking to have sustained long term health with both food and body composition, overcoming your internal conflicts with food preference can almost guarantee your success!
In the pursuit of eating healthier, the conflict is often “I want to eat healthier (for my weight/body/future)” vs “I want to enjoy my food”.
So if you are presented with the option of choosing between an apple or chocolate bar, you can meet your short term desire to enjoy your food and scratch that itch by eating the chocolate and loving every bloody second of it (until its gone and the high of its consumption is too) or you could forgo the chocolate for the apple and meet the requirements to meet your long term goal of eating healthier for (weight loss/ body/ health etc).
Now in the event you actually love apples more than the chocolate, you my friend have found the euphoric sweet spot so many yearn for, where both short and long term goals can be met. For many though, this rarely exists…
So for most when faced with the 2 options; eating healthier or getting something naughty, we need to turn to ingredients of successful internal conflict resolution especially on days where it’s not so easy, the days where we are completely down and tired or maybe even angry.
In 2007 Dr Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs published a paper on the “4 ingredients for self-control success”. The paper breaks down what are the fundamental components for practical self-control. If you are looking to beat the internal conflict you are faced with when you have had an absolutely shit day at work and you are craving something naughty, The 4 ingredients of self-control success will undoubtedly help, so please don’t dismiss any of them!
- Strong goals: goals that are clear, well-defined and accomplishable.
For example: I’m going to eat clean for 30 days straight, I will start today on the 5th of July and only eat fresh fruit, veggies, meat and nuts, anything outside of these food groups won’t be consumed. I will also exercise 3 days per week during this time and at the end of 30 days I aim to lose 6kg of body fat based on where I am starting today. (See how there are no grey areas).
- Monitoring: track how well your actions meet your goals. As soon as you stop paying attention to how well your actions are meeting your goals you won’t be able to execute persistent self-control.
E.g. I will be keeping a food diary to make sure all consumption is accounted for and I know I am eating enough to stay healthy and decrease my body fat. I will also be getting feedback from my trainer about how we can do more to improve each day.
- Willpower: the ability to resist temptation. Will power is much like a muscle the more it is used properly over time the stronger it becomes. Much like a muscle though, if you are run down and exhausted it won’t be able to lift the same load- this is why the 3 other ingredients play such a vital role in the mixture.
- Motivation: you need to actually care about reaching the goal; if the goal isn’t something you have a strong desire to achieve you won’t be fully invested in its accomplishment. Your goal should not just speak to you on a physical level but an emotional level, “what your fears concerns are”, this will really help you tap into your motivation.
All 4 ingredients need to work in complete synergy for success, (much like ingredients in a recipe), if you lack a little of one, it’s ok you can still make the recipe and it will turn out, it will just be a little different than what you initially intended. But if you chose to completely neglect one of the ingredients, the end result will be nothing like you pictured.
So as a strategy to help you beat the internal conflict that will pull you away from you long term goal you should every once in a while:
- Assess your goals- I recommend reflecting on them daily for best practice.
- Assess your monitoring ability- how well you are actually tracking it all.
- Assess your will power success- how much self-control you are showing.
- Assess your motivation- how excited you are while actively working towards your goals.
And if any of the above seem to be lacking or falling behind work on correcting it with the use of the other 3.
Life is far from perfect every day and it’s ok to slip up on your diet and training from time to time, but using the above to keep you in-check long term will serve you well when faced with the internal conflict.
You can do it, keep making the right choices.