Instant gratification is often seen as a bad thing within our fitness culture. Supposedly, the path to long-term success in fitness and weight loss runs through denial and being able to deprive yourself.
I used to believe this myself until I started to see some serious flaws in the plan. For one, denying yourself what you want can be a great way to build discipline, but at what point do you give yourself permission to indulge? Having a plan to always put off enjoyment is like those signs that promise FREE BEER!…….tomorrow. The promise for gratification is always there, but it’s never here.
Being able to delay gratification is certainly a helpful asset in any measure of success, but if your plan is to always delay gratification indefinitely you can risk straight-up deprivation. Deprivation can be stressful on both body and mind. As I’ve mentioned before, building up endless stress amounts of stress is not a good plan for success. Everyone has a finite capacity for stress, and piling on endless amounts of stress is a sure-fire way to eventually crumble.
The more stress you build up, the bigger the backlash you experience. Dieters who binge and purge know this all too well. The longer they are “good” and follow the straight and narrow the bigger the binge can be. This isn’t due to a lack of discipline or personal weakness. It’s simply from the natural way the pendulum swings back and forth where every action (of building stress) has an equal reaction (of stress relief).
So what can you do about all of this?
I suggest adopting habits that bring you both short-term gratification and long-term benefits. For example, adopt dietary habits that help your long-term health like eating plenty of dark leafy greens but find ways to enjoy them right away. I’ve recently re-discovered how amazing arugula is and am using it in everything from salads to putting it on my burgers.
The same thing goes for exercise and physical activity. You don’t have to endure boring workouts or activities you don’t like doing. Join clubs or find fun forms of physical activity that make being active fun and enjoyable.
You don’t have to give up short-term enjoyment to receive long-term benefits. It’s a myth that the more you suffer today, the sweeter the rewards will be in the future. Making things harder and more stressful in the short term just means you’re paying more for the same results compared to using methods you enjoy in the short term.
At worst, denying too much instant gratification can even jeopardize your consistency and long-term progress in the first place. Finding ways to satisfying your need for instant gratification can be one of the most important steps towards long-term success.