Instant Gratification

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Now. Now. NOW! I want it NOW!

We live in a world of instant gratification. It wasn’t that long ago that google would tell you that it completed your search in 1.7 seconds. Today, I googled “instant gratification” and had results before I had even finished typing! If our facebook page doesn’t load within 5 seconds, we get impatient. And it’s affecting our health.

According to recent article in Time Magazine from May 7, 2012,

“… most obesity isn’t caused by a lack of access to affordable produce or time to cook. It’s the result of short-term over long-term thinking. Cooking sucks. Eating a salad takes forever. Fast food is delicious, easy, fun, cheap, reliable and can be scarfed down so quickly there isn’t time to fight with your family. One Thanksgiving meal does more emotional damage than a lifetime of Wendy’s.”*

We are so used to instant gratification that I can’t help but wonder if we’ve forgotten what achieving long-term goals feels like. Because we don’t have long-term achievements in mind, it is so easy to succumb to the here and now, the drive-through burger and fries. It is so easy to fill our bellies right now – if I’m in a rush, I can easily grab take-out and eat it in the car. I bet everyone reading this has at least one fast food french fry on the floor of their car that’s been there for months!

It isn’t just this instant need for food, and our impatience to prepare it, it’s more than that. I’ll admit: I’m guilty of fast food. There are often times when I get home from work, tired and rushing to get some kid out the door to some activity and the easiest option for dinner is take-out. Or, not even in a rush – I’ve done that when I’m just too drained to think about cooking. And I know I’m not alone: the line-ups at the drive-through at 6pm prove it.

No, it’s more than that need for speedy meals. We also use food to instantly calm our fears, anxiety, worries, sadness, loneliness…. the list goes on. I did it myself, just tonight. I was having a bit of an anxiety attack about something over which I have absolutely no control. So, what did I do? I grabbed a bowl of ice cream. And, for the few minutes that the creamy goodness melted in my mouth, I was able to forget (or at least, quiet) my anxiety. But it didn’t last. The anxiety is still there. And now the calories are, too. I know what I should’ve done: I should have called a friend; played piano; gone for a walk; meditated; done some yoga; had a cup of tea… but, the ice cream was quicker. I was afraid of my anxiety and, rather than face it, I tried to get instant gratification through ice cream. And it wasn’t even good ice cream. It was the cheap stuff in the huge container from the grocery store. blech.

In today’s fast-paced society, we have practically instant access to food. And, as we look  at the obesity epidemic around us, I’m pretty certain that this instant access is part of the problem. I bet if all of us chubby folks had to go out into the field and grow our own food we wouldn’t be so fat!

The sad thing is that our culture panders to our need for instant gratification, especially the weight loss industry. We want to lose weight, and we want to lose it now. At the grocery store check-out magazines with bikini-clad models scream out headlines like “Lose 15 pounds by next week! New Miracle Diet: Eat Oreos and Lose 20 lbs!” It’s not just magazines, either. One weight loss program promises that you’ll lose up to 20 lbs/month by injecting yourself full of vitamins. Another one pumps you up with expensive supplements “especially designed for your body type.” Hell, even the name Slim Fast  implies instant gratification! All of these weight loss programs use “before and after” pictures to market their snake oil. “Wow!” we think “Look at her! She looks so good” as we stare at two pictures, instantly side by side. We are conditioned to want results immediately, and the weight loss industry is making big money off of it. If all of these fad diets and expensive weight loss centres really worked, the medical community would be on board, and (at least here in Canada), all fat people would get such programs covered by their provincial medical plans.

How many of us have started a “diet” only to give up after a few weeks because we’re not seeing the results we wanted to see? It’s a month into your new diet, you’ve only lost 5 lbs. You were hoping to have lost at least 20 by now, so you quit.

With the rare exception, most of us were not born overweight. We’re overweight because of our habits. Habits – good and bad – don’t happen overnight, they take years to develop. Why do we expect to have instant success in weight loss when the weight didn’t instantly appear?

I stepped on the scale this morning. I was happy to see that the numbers have edge down ever so slightly. That scale is so instant. I step on it, it tells me a number.

A number. Just a number. Not how successful I’ve been this week.

I love this photo. I would add one more thing:

* The numbers on this scale will not tell you how successful you’ve been at changing your old, unhealthy habits to new, healthier ones.

I’ll admit: my mood can be affected by the numbers I see on the scale. I judge my success by those numbers and if it’s not instantly what I want to see, I feel like a failure.

I can’t help but wonder if I’ve got it all wrong. Of course, I want the numbers on the scale to go down. But I’m in this for the long haul.  If I want long-lasting success, I need to change my habits and, more importantly, my lifestyle. That doesn’t happen over night. This isn’t a quick-fix thing. This is a major change in my life. It requires perseverance, diligence, patience, and, most importantly, kindness. Change is not easy. It takes time and commitment. Yes, I will experience setbacks as my body and psyche struggle to stay within the confines of the comfortable known.

But the rewards will be worth it. Being healthy, fit, active. Feeling alive and empowered. That amazing feeling of success. I can do this. I will do this. I am doing this!

* For the record: I love family dinners! I only have happy memories of Thanksgiving meals. The best one was when my Granny looked at my (now ex-)husband’s new grown goatee, and, rather randomly said, “Your face looks like an anus.” Oh Granny, if you’re looking down from heaven, thank you! That still makes me giggle 🙂 (And it was so true! lol)

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