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Delayed gratification – The weight loss superpower

By Sam Whitaker

  • When it comes to shedding the pounds, the best superpower in your arsenal is delayed gratification
  • Ignoring the short term pleasure for a greater, long term award is far better for your motivation
  • Sam Whitaker explains why delayed gratification is the weight loss superpower

So it might not be as good as super human strength, flight or invisibility but it could be the superpower you need to succeed with your body composition goals.


So what is delayed gratification?

Basically, it means that you're willing to give up short term pleasure or reward for a greater, long term reward.

This is demonstrated in a study dubbed, The Marshmallow Experiment.

In the film 'Five Year Engagement' with Emily Blunt, they run a similar experiment with donuts, if you've seen that.

In the Marshmallow Experiment, the researchers took a group of young children then proceeded, one by one, to sit them in a room with a marshmallow on the table in front of them.

The researcher then proposed a deal.

If the child didn't eat the marshmallow while he left the room, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow when he returned.

So the child could either have 1 marshmallow right away, (small, short term reward), or 2 marshmallows later, (larger reward in the future).

The researcher then left the room and observed what the child did.

Some of them ate the single marshmallow straight away.

A few, however, managed not to eat the marshmallow until the researcher returned and then were rewarded with a 2nd marshmallow.


They were able to delay gratification and as a result, received a greater reward.

They could resist the urge to eat the single marshmallow, in the knowledge that they'll get a 2nd one if they just waited.

Thinking about it, when I was a kid, I don't think I would have been able to stop myself eating that first marshmallow.

What do you think you'd have done?

And why would you care about this?

Well, the ability, (or inability in a lot of cases), to delay gratification is a large factor as to why some people struggle to lose weight.


They can't seem to give up the short term pleasure gained from eating some chocolate cake or cheeseburger for the greater, longer term reward of reaching their body composition & fitness goals.

I'm not saying that you have to always pass up on the chocolate cake.

But the reality is, if you're overweight & unhappy with your body, then you will have to, (pass on the chocolate cake), more often than you do currently.

So can you train yourself to delay gratification?

In my opinion, yes you can.

From my own personal experience and helping others on their weight loss journey, I've seen it to be possible.

I wasn't very good at delaying gratification, saying no to the chocolate cake, in my early 20's.

But gradually, I got better & better at it.

The more I practised, the better I got. (Funny that)

I wasn't really aware at the time I was doing it, but in the attempt to eat better & get in shape, I was effectively practising delaying gratification.

I like to think of eating healthy, exercising & living a healthy lifestyle as a skill, or series of skills that have to be learned.

With the ability to delay gratification one of the skills that go towards eating healthy & being able to lose weight successfully.

Like any skill, you can't expect to be good at it straight away.


And you can't expect to be good at it without practise.

This ability to delay gratification or exhibit self-control is an important skill to have.

As I said, you don't have to be super strict and never eat anything 'bad' ever again, but having developing this 'superpower' will make it easier for you to reach your weight loss goals.

It doesn't matter how much you know about diets & nutrition, it doesn't matter if you know what you should be eating & how much, if you can't demonstrate any self-control and delay gratification a majority of the time.

Can you even juggle bro?

Take another skill, like juggling for example.

You wouldn't expect to wake up one day, decide that you wanted to be able to juggle, and then all of a sudden be good at juggling.

You'd have to spend the time & effort to practise.

So you can't expect to be good at eating healthy, exercising or delaying gratification straight away. So don't be so hard on yourself if you struggle with it to start with.

However, you do need to put in the effort to actually practise.

Don't just expect to get better without practise.


So my advice?

Practise delaying gratification. Duh!

The next time you get offered something you probably shouldn't eat, just say no, in the knowledge that once the moment has passed, you will gain greater, long term satisfaction as you get nearer to reaching your goals.

As I've already said, it won't happen overnight. It might be difficult to start with, but it will get subsequently easier, each time you do it.

Granted, saying no to one piece of chocolate cake won't magically make to lose a bunch of weight.

But the more you do it, the better you'll get.

And the more you do it, the more you'll realise that it's not actually as difficult as you first thought.

And once you've developed the ability to delay gratification, you'll be much more likely to reach your weight loss & body composition goals.

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