Unless you’re an extreme outlier without a trace of an addictive personality, do not play the “just one bite” game. It doesn’t work.
You know how this works. Your fantasy football draft is this weekend. You want to have a good time, but you don’t want to ruin all your hard work. You’re prepared to make a strong decision, and I’m not talking about player selection. You’re planning on staying your nutrition course.
Draft day rolls around, and everyone is cracking open a cold one. Having a beer is no biggie. You’re being social, sipping slowly while debating why Andrew Luck will never be as good as Manning (zzzzz). Just as you finish the last gulp, you see the giant bowl of chips next to the crock pot filled with baked pimiento cheese dip.
Slow cookers are just cruel. They fill the house with their tempting aromas. Those salt crystals glisten on the chips, beckoning you over. “Just one plate,” you think. “A small one.” You stick to your guns. Four chips and a small tablespoon of cheesy goodness. Oh, and one more beer, because it will pair gloriously.
Round 12 comes around. Your beer is done; your chips were finished by the time Matt Ryan went off the board. Out comes the host with a hot apple pie and homemade vanilla bean ice cream in pre-chilled tasting decisions. Game over. “I’ll get back on track tomorrow.”
How many times has this happened to you while on a mission to reach your fitness goals? I’ve mused before that sugar is an addictive drug. With each hit, we become more ravenous until we’ve binged. Can you fathom a nicotine addict taking a single rip of a cigarette or a cocaine addict stopping at a quarter line of blow? It doesn’t happen, yet we casually assume it will with liquor, sugar and processed foods. From authoritynutrition.com:
The brain knows that when we eat, we’re doing something “right,” and releases a bunch of feel-good chemicals in the reward system, such as the neurotransmitter dopamine – interpreted by our brains as pleasure.
High Times magazine fills their pages with glossy high-res photos of pot plants and giant blunts. Now go scroll through Instagram or Pinterest and check out all the photos of scrumptious grub. The visual stimulation is persuasive, and your brain releases happy chemicals to encourage you to continue to indulge.
The brain is hardwired to seek out behaviors that release dopamine in the reward system. The problem with modern junk foods is that they can cause a reward that is way more powerful than anything we were ever exposed to in nature.
Whereas eating an apple or a piece of steak might cause a moderate release of dopamine, eating a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is so incredibly rewarding that it releases a massive amount.
That wiring in your brain forms a fairly simple machine. If some is good, more is better, and if it feels good, do it. Our systems didn’t evolve to handle the amounts of processed junk we feed it. The overload makes us crave bigger and better highs, crowding out natural foods and leading us to make poor decisions. You may want to eat healthier, but, in the moment, you choose short-term gratification over long-term well-being.
A single bite of Cherry Garcia? Good luck with that. You’re no match for natural selection. This principle holds true for even “healthy” processed foods. If I’m pressed for time and grab a bar because it’s easy, I find myself wanting one the next day and the day after. One isn’t satisfying any more, I want two or three. It’s a hideous cycle.
Here’s a better approach for success at your fantasy football draft:
- Chow down on a few eggs, an apple and carrot prior to your arrival.
- Drink two glasses of water immediately before your entrance.
- Make a pact with yourself to keep your distance from the crap.
- Throw a handful of almonds in your pocket. Eat them immediately upon any cravings and then pause. I promise the craving will subside.
- After the draft, grab your calendar and write the words “Chunky Monkey” for a day in October. When that date arrives, have a little party in your honor. You earned it.
You’ll feel powerful and confident after controlling the whole process. Planning leads to fitness success. You’ve got this.