Would you be surprised to know that the fastest way to get back on track after indulging is to try less hard?
In this episode, I'll walk you through how to do that, step by step!
Click below to listen now.
The difference between people who can quickly get back on track after indulging, and those who can't isn't willpower.
It isn't motivation, self discipline, or self control.
The difference is that they've learned to practice this 1 skill that makes them resilient: That's the ability to bounce back quickly after a setback.
In this 22-minute episode, you'll discover the no willpower antidote to "What the hell, might as well eat the whole pie!":
Click below to listen now.
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Do you ever feel like it’s impossible to get back on track after you indulge, no matter how hard you try?
Would you be surprised to know that the fastest way to get back on track, is to try less hard?
In this episode, I’ll walk you through how to do that, step by step!
How I help you
It’s Abby Roaquin, for those of you who don’t know me, I’m an RN by profession.
I’ve spent the last 24 years as a healthcare professional coaching patients with Type 2 diabetes, Obesity, High blood pressure, and other conditions related to insulin resistance.
I believe in focusing on habit change as a solution to permanent fat loss. Temporary and rigid solutions like going on a diet lead to temporary results, and to even more fat gain.
I know this because I’ve also struggled with Obesity and Prediabetes.
I’ve reversed both conditions for 8 years now by changing my eating habits into flexible carbohydrate restriction, intermittent fasting, and a practice called mindfulness.
Small but continuous improvements to your habits, and therefore your lifestyle, lead to permanent fat loss.
And that is what I’d like to help you achieve!
He who tries less hard wins
So, today we’re going to talk about the What-the-Hell Effect, also known in behavior science as dietary disinhibition.
It’s very common, and it sounds like this:
“Well, I already had a bite! What the hell, might as well eat the whole pie!”
We also know how that story ends, right?
It does not end well.
We get trapped inside this endless cycle of unwanted behaviors of eating processed, refined sugar, and processed, refined starches.
We eat too frequently throughout the day because we’re stressed or going through an emotionally rough time.
It takes over.
We lose control.
And we can’t get back on track, no matter how hard we try.
Well, that story’s ending is about to change!
Because I’m going to tell you the antidote to the What-the-Hell Effect and how to deliver that antidote so you can get out of the cycle, fast.
The best part? It also keeps you out, before it even gets a chance to take hold.
But don’t worry.
There’s no willpower required.
Plus, after we talk about that antidote, I’ll tell you about a lightweight strategy that gives you back control, right away.
Again, not to worry!
You don’t have to summon a mega dose of motivation and self-control.
In fact, the fastest way to get back on track is to try less hard.
And I’ll show you exactly how.
So make sure you stay until the end for that!
How to recognize the trap
I’ll walk you through this.
Let’s begin by taking you back to the last time you indulged.
Say, you’re staring at an empty plate of red velvet cake.
Remember that feeling? We all know how that feels because it happens to all of us.
Yes, me too. I know it can be incredibly frustrating.
We might feel disappointed in ourselves, discouraged, or guilty. Our motivation can take a deep dive, and we might also feel hopeless.
But here is where I’d like you to pay close attention.
When you feel these terrible feelings (not if), but when you feel them.
I’d like for you to pause and just notice that they’re happening. That’s all. Just be aware that the feelings are there.
Right now, feel them.
It’s okay, don’t be afraid to feel them. They’re not harmful: they can’t harm you.
They’re just unpleasant.
You don’t have to like them. Just notice them.
You can say this to yourself:
Why is that important?
Because those feelings keep the unwanted behaviors going. And that’s what can be harmful, the behaviors.
Not the feeling.
You see, our default action: Which is what happens automatically whenever we feel bad is to want to make the bad feeling go away, right away.
And what’s the fastest, easiest way to feel better about what just happened?
Well, it’s usually an empty plate of red velvet cake conveniently staring back at us. So to instantly relieve that pain, we say:
“What the hell, might as well blow it! Where’s the apple pie?”
So we have to catch those feelings in the act, so we don’t get blindly carried away by them.
We have to get good at recognizing those feelings when they arise.
Because if not, we tend to act on them impulsively with the same unwanted behaviors that got us there to begin with.
That’s how the cycle continues.
Now that you know how to keep yourself from impulsively reacting to those feelings, by noticing and naming them…
...let’s practice how to respond to them wisely and skillfully.
I’ll go through this exercise with you.
Are you ready?
Think of a close friend or loved one. Picture being with this person right now.
Alright, so I’m thinking of my daughter who’s in 5th grade.
Think about your person.
Now, imagine this person going through a tough time. They made a mistake, ran into a setback, or failed.
Think about what this person might be struggling with now, or have struggled with in the past.
So, I’m thinking about my daughter failing her Math test. She’s really upset.
Now, think about your person’s struggle.
Now, I want you to think about what you would say to your close friend or loved one who’s struggling.
I’ll pause here to give you some time to actually say them out loud if you can. At the very least, say it to yourself.
What would you say to them when they’re struggling?
Alright, I’ll share with you mine.
This is what I would say to my daughter in 5th grade who failed her Math test:
So that’s how you’d talk to a close friend or loved one, right?
You tell them it’s okay, you’re there for support, you ask what they need, and how you can help.
But how do we talk to ourselves when we’re the ones struggling?
What do we say to ourselves when we’re staring at an empty plate of red velvet cake?
If your words to yourself weren’t as kind, or supportive, and helpful as those you’d say to a close friend...
...you’re not alone.
Because our tendency is to beat ourselves up. And frankly, we can be harsh and quite mean to ourselves sometimes.
It’s the voice of our Inner Critic.
We all have it.
It’s the voice that says things like:
Remember those terrible feelings?
They’re not inherently bad, we feel them because they remind us when we’ve acted against our values.
Acting on our values makes us happy, and our lives meaningful.
In this case, it’s our value of health, well-being, self-care.
But after the reminder, the feelings have done their job, and it should end there. It’s a helpful signal.
Makes sense, right?
But what happens is the Inner Critic takes over.
And we believe all the unhelpful things this Inner Critic has to say. So instead of feeling better, we feel worse.
And to relieve the pain, we indulge.
And the cycle continues.
What then is the antidote to this?
In a word: Self-compassion.
In other words…
… be kind to yourself.
3 reasons you don't administer the antidote, and miss out
Now, I know you’ve heard this before.
“Just forgive yourself and move on,” you’ve heard them say.
But stay with me.
You’ve heard about self-compassion before, but I also know it’s hard for you to try, or do consistently.
So, let’s talk about the 3 most common reasons you can’t, or won’t practice self-compassion and get them all out of the way.
Because it’s a powerful antidote, and it’s time you use it to get out of the What-the-Hell cycle.
Number 1. Maybe you’re not convinced it’ll work.
How and why does self-compassion work? Isn’t it just all woo-woo-feel-good stuff?
Number 2. Maybe you’re afraid it’ll make you even more self-indulgent, or complacent.
Won’t it make you less likely to achieve your goal?
Number 3. Maybe you find it hard to give yourself permission to be kind to yourself.
It’s not your easiest go-to solution.
Alright, let’s get all 3 of these barriers out of the way, one by one.
Number 1. You’re not convinced it’ll work.
Scientific research shows that self-compassion is a tremendous source of strength and emotional resilience.
People who practice self compassion are more resilient through difficult times.
That’s exactly what we want: Resilience. That’s the ability to bounce back quickly and get back on track during a setback.
Self-compassionate people are not weak, they’re tough.
Now, let’s set aside the science just for a moment...
… and just think about how your friend would feel if you talked to them the way you talk to yourself when you’re struggling.
How would they feel if you said those things to them during a setback?
We wouldn’t even dare say those things to them, right?
Because they’re not helpful.
In fact, they’re harmful.
Is it any wonder we feel unmotivated and helpless after a setback?
The things we need to get back on track, like motivation, and a “can-do” attitude…
...we lose them when we’re unkind to ourselves.
Number 2. You’re afraid self-compassion will give you license to indulge even more, to be complacent, so it’ll keep you from achieving your goals.
A lot of us feel this way.
We think that being hard on ourselves is what keeps us in line. That we need to kick ourselves in the butt to get back on track.
So, if we keep saying “It’s okay”, and “It’s fine” every time we indulge…
... won’t that attitude make us eat the whole cake?
Well, think about your close friend or loved one again.
Would you let them eat the whole cake?
No, you wouldn’t.
Because you care about them, so you want what’s best for them.
The same effect happens to us when we’re kind to ourselves.
When you come from a place of self-care, you’ll naturally gravitate to want what’s best for yourself.
You wouldn’t let yourself eat the whole cake, because you care about yourself, so you’ll want what’s best for yourself.
So don’t be afraid of being self-compassionate.
You can stay ambitious and determined, and you can reach your goals, without being mean to yourself.
Self-criticism isn’t required in order to succeed.
On the contrary, resilience, the underlying trait of successful people, is strengthened by self-compassion.
Number 3. You find it hard to allow yourself to be self-compassionate. It’s not easy.
Alright, so how do we give ourselves permission to do it?
We need 2 thinking shifts:
Number 1) We need to accept that we all go through setbacks and difficult times, and
Number 2) We change our target. Instead of aiming to eat right every single time, we aim to build a set of skills.
So, let’s talk about how these 2 thinking shifts make self-compassion easier to do.
Thinking shift number 1. We need to acknowledge and accept that we all go through setbacks and difficult times.
It happens to all of us.
It still happens to me, even if I’ve been eating this way for 8 years!
Anyone who’s tried to change their habits run into missteps throughout their journey.
Take comfort in that you’re not the first, and you’re the only person who’s stared at an empty plate of red velvet cake.
It probably won’t be your last, nor will it be mine.
It’s not a flaw in your character, it’s just a part of the self-improvement process.
When you accept that we all share difficult experiences, it’s easier to be kind to yourself.
Thinking shift number 2. Change your target. Instead of aiming to eat right every single time, aim to build a set of skills.
What do I mean by that?
Eating to lose fat, and eating to maintain fat loss, is not something you either do or don’t do. It’s not all or nothing.
So it doesn’t matter how many times, or how long you’ve been off track.
If you see them as honing a set of skills…
...you have not ruined it all.
Nothing’s been lost.
Because the skills you’ve learned stay with you forever.
And getting off track, like when you indulge, is not a failure, but an opportunity to practice the skill of getting back on.
When you accept mistakes as opportunities to get better at fat loss skill, instead of seeing it as a failure to eat right, it’s easier to be self compassionate.
How to administer the antidote
We have all 3 barriers to self-compassion out of the way!
I’ve got great news!
That was the hard part.
Once you get them out of the way, the easiest part is how to administer the antidote.
So how do you exactly practice self-compassion, in the real world, in the moment, right when you need it most?
It’s quite simple:
All you have to do is replace the voice of the harmful Inner Critic with the voice of a kind, helpful friend.
So, instead of saying:
“I can’t believe I let myself eat donuts again!”
“It’s okay, I get to practice the skill of getting back on track!”
You say to yourself what you’d say to a close friend or loved one who’s struggling.
It puts you in the right frame of mind.
And you start to believe that your choices and your actions influence your success. As a result, you take back control.
How to take back control
Alright, speaking of having control over your choices and your actions.
How do you take that first step to get back on track, right after you indulge.
Well, here’s how not to do it:
Because the bigger the action, the harder it is to do, and the longer it takes to get back on track.
It’s too hard!
Remember: You haven’t ruined it all.
Nothing’s been lost.
So there’s no need to make up for any losses.
Your goal isn’t to do something massive to make up for the indulgence. Your goal is to simply change your trajectory.
Which means, any small step in the right direction takes you back on track.
Think small. Think very small. Like:
If you’re still feeling resistance, it means the action is still too big for you.
The solution isn’t to summon a bigger dose of willpower.
The solution is to pare it down.
Pare it down as many times as you need to, until you no longer feel the resistance and you say,
“Well that I can do!”
This can be infinitesimally small.
If it’s laughable, that’s good! You’re on the right track.
It doesn’t matter how small it is.
Any small step in the right direction changes your trajectory.
Instead of using sheer willpower, you will use momentum as leverage to build upon that small action.
The hardest part is getting started.
But you can get around it, by making your action as easy as you need it to be to get moving in the right path.
Because once you’re in motion, you stay in motion.
And your actions will organically grow and improve.
In a nutshell
So let’s recap!
Here’s how to get out of the What-the-Hell effect:
First, recognize when you feel terrible about an indulgence.
Say, “I’m feeling [this: name your emotion]".
This keeps you from impulsively reacting to the emotion with unwanted behaviors.
Then, accept the feeling. Because it’s just giving you feedback. You’ve acted against your values.
Then, be a kind, helpful friend to yourself.
Replace the harmful voice of the Inner Critic, with kind, helpful words of a close friend.
Say, “It’s okay, [then say what you’d say to a close friend who’s struggling].
Lastly, take a small action in the right direction. If you find resistance to that action, it’s still too big.
Pare it down until you no longer feel the resistance, and you act.
And that my friends is the antidote!
Self-compassion: We help ourselves up when we fall, instead of kicking ourselves when we’re down.
Self-criticism fuels the What- the-Hell effect.
It prolongs the setback, sometimes indefinitely.
So, if self-criticism isn’t working out for you…
...try to treat yourself like a good friend and see how that works!
Get these tips the way you want it
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Just hit Reply, and let me know, so I can be sure to create stuff that’s helpful and useful to you.
Thank you for listening, thank you for your time.
Be well, and bye for now!
1. Associations Among Self-Compassion, Eating Behaviors, and Stress in College Freshmen. Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, Oct 2016.
2. On the Role of Self-compassion and Self-kindness in Weight Regulation and Health Behavior Change. Frontiers in Psychology, Feb 2017.
3. Dieting, restraint, and disinhibition predict women's weight change over 6 y. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2009.