Deprivation is a word that comes up time and time again in our sessions with clients. I wanted to take a minute to address it as we know it to be a massive obstacle on the road to success for many. What exactly is deprivation? It is nothing but an emotion. It arises when one feels like he or she is missing out on a pleasant and desired activity or item that one feels entitled to. The way it manifests itself in our mind is something along these lines:
“Oh man, I wish I had a nice car like Mark over there. That’s a seriously cool car, look how fly Mark looks riding around with the top down! I know I’m supposed to be saving up to buy a house right now but I’m so annoyed that I’m missing out on the joys and pleasures of riding a cool car! How is buying a nice house going to help with the ladies anyway? it’s not like I can parade it around for them all to see? I’m telling you, I’ve got my priorities wrong. I’m gonna end up alone and miserable in my own home when I could have been happy and popular riding a fancy car around! And it’s cheaper than a house too! I may just quit this saving and just splash the deposit I have accumulated so far on a fancy car as Mark has…”
So we have a plan that we’ve created with care and logic: saving money to buy a house. We know it’s a sensible plan and we know why we’re doing it: it’s a long term plan but it will massively pay off once we see it through. We’re delaying pleasure for a little while but in full knowledge that what we’ll get as an outcome is totally worth it and way more than any short-term joy we may be having to miss out on at present. However, we can’t help but compare and feel like what we’re missing out on is worth more than what we’re working towards. Hello Deprivation!
I’m sure you can see where I’m going but let’s look at an example of how this applies to food. So you had to attend your best friend’s wedding and looking for an outfit was just the most dreadful experience. None of your old smart clothes fit properly anymore. You just can’t believe you’ve put on so much weight. It’s ridiculous. You had to go around town trying more clothes that don’t fit properly and settle for an outfit in a size that’s painful to even think about. How could you let yourself go like this? It’s ridiculous. You spent weeks being miserable about this and couldn’t even fully enjoy the wedding in that horrible outfit you had to settle for. And now you’ve even started to get some weird pains that you never had before. You googled what it may be and what came up is actually quite worrying. You shouldn’t have googled it because now you’re feeling a little paranoid about life in general. You can’t even sleep properly thinking about Google’s diagnosis. This has to stop now. You’re no nutritionist but it doesn’t take a degree to know that eating cake or pastries every day is not gonna help the situation one bit. You’re determined. Cakes are for special occasions, not everyday meals. No. More. Cakes. At least not Monday to Friday. You know that’s a smart starting point and have calculated that you would create a deficit of thousands of calories each week if you simply stopped the daily cakes and pastries. Surely that’s bound to make a difference in a few months?! No brainer. It’s happening. Cakes are out, new me is in!
Fast forward to the following day. A colleague is celebrating their birthday and they brought in a selection of cupcakes including your favorite: red velvet! Oh my! Red Velvet is your absolute favorite! You haven’t had one in ages and these look like very good ones: just the right amount of frosting. Look at that! But wait, what about the no cake on weekdays rules? Oh man! It sucks! Why can’t you just be like David? He eats everything he wants and never puts weight on. Your life is so shit. This is your dad’s fault, you inherited his slow metabolism and lack of fitness. You can’t believe you have to miss out on your favorite cake. Look at how everyone is enjoying this moment. It’s not just about the cake, it’s about the bonding experience with the team. You know they must all be thinking you’re a loser for saying no to cake. They pretended to be supportive when you explained the no cake on weekdays rule but that’s just because they pity you. You know in their mind they must be thinking you’re a cake-avoiding-party-pooper. It sucks man. And it’s probably not even going to make any difference. Cake or no cake, you’re still plagued by your father’s slow metabolism so the only way you could ever really lose weight is if you stop eating all the good stuff and what kind of a life is that?! A miserable one for sure. You may as well be miserable eating cake rather than be miserable and deprived of cake. Screw it. Pass me a red velvet!
And just like that, deprivation wins this battle. Now let me ask you a question: how long does it take to eat a red velvet cupcake? I’m guessing minutes. Personally, I could probably polish one off in two simple and swift bites, so for me, it would actually only take seconds. So about 20-30 seconds of pleasure derived from the taste of red velvet in your mouth. If you eat one every day of the week, that’s around 210 seconds of pleasure or 3.5 minutes.
Now let me ask you another question, how much does the discomfort of not being your most fit, healthy and confident self last? In the example above, you spent hours looking for outfits and feeling frustrated and worthless. Maybe as many as 6 hours. You couldn’t fully enjoy your friend’s wedding: so that’s at least another 4-6 hours of feeling a bit low. Then you googled what your pains may be and are now feeling quite anxious every night before you go to bed, thinking about what Google told you it may be. In a week that could easily add up to another 7-10 hours of anxiety and worry. It’s actually likely to be more but if you add it all up we’re looking at anything between 17 and 22 hours of discomfort in one week.
The way you justify eating the cake is that you don’t want to feel deprived. What deprives you more though? You can feel deprived of not experiencing the pleasure that comes from the taste of cake for around 3.5 minutes each week.
Or you could feel deprived by feeling bad emotionally and physically for as many as 22 hours in a week (generally more), which eating cake daily heavily contributes to.
Which deprivation has the greatest negative impact on your life? Which one takes most away from you? Which one weighs more heavily on your body, mind, and soul? I know my answer, but what’s yours?
Many come to me telling me they are worried about changing their eating because they don’t want to stop “enjoying life” or “having all the fun” or “miss out on the pleasures of living”: how much fun, joy and pleasure is there in going around feeling unfit, unhealthy, and lacking confidence, and in many cases, even worrying that chronic disease is just around the corner?
Deprivation is a trick of the mind. But that’s great because it means that you can use it to your advantage! Instead of focusing on all that you’re missing out from not eating cake (i.e. minutes of pleasure), shift the focus constantly onto all that eating cake daily deprives you of. Or even better, shift the focus onto all that eating healthy foods will give you: the joy of feeling fit, healthy and confident every hour of every day. The pleasure of going shopping and buying whatever outfit you want because most things look good on you. The joy of sleeping soundly at night in full confidence that you’re doing your best to take the best possible care of your wellbeing. The pleasure of feeling confident in your own skin and exuding positive energy to everyone around.
Exercise: What are your 3 most unhealthy habits and what do they deprive you of?
Did you know that the pleasure you get from eating something delicious gradually decreases as you keep eating it? This is true on a neurological level and has been scientifically proven. The first bite is the one that will spark the most pleasure by stimulating the greatest neurological response, especially with food that contains highly stimulating substances such as refined sugars and lots of fat. All subsequent bites will gradually generate a less and less positive response as the body gets gradually used to the substance. Because we get so much pleasure from the first bite, we keep eating more and more in an effort to recreate it, when in fact we’re going further and further away from it. Like with drugs and any other stimulants, the body gets used to them so one needs to continuously increase the quantity in order to spark the original response. This concept is beautifully explained at length in one of my favorite books on health and nutrition: The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Lisle. Highly recommended.
This is an extract from my upcoming book “Make The Shift”, out in December 2019: If you’d like to be one of the first to know when the book is our and would like the chance to win a free copy of our book, visit our website www.wholeshiftwellness.com and take our FREE scorecard questionnaire: you’ll receive a comprehensive PDF with your score (check your spam!) and will be entered into a draw! #maketheshift