I just finished exercising. Starting, as always, was hard. I know it only takes a couple days without exercise for me to start putting on fat and losing muscle definition.
I also know if I get some cookies and start eating them I’ll feel pleasure right away.
There’s no obvious reason I should choose the distant, unpleasurable reward of a fit body over the immediate pleasure of eating sweets and junk food. I know I’ll feel that pleasure. I don’t need anyone else to see it for me to feel it. I can get it myself.
The world is increasingly populated with people who choose the pleasure of candy over the complexity of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes I think one of the defining characteristics of our time is the willingness of men to develop breasts from obesity.
Maybe the years of pleasure and avoidance of the challenge are worth it.
Actually, for them it is because they’ve chosen it.
Still, I’ve decided always to choose exercise, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. I was about to add that I haven’t eaten meat in nearly a quarter-century, but I don’t imagine I’d find pleasure in eating it anymore. It lost its appeal. Then again, if I think about it, junk food has almost lots its appeal too. It seems more weird to me all the time — more like something a multi-national corporation does to you than food I’d want inside my body. Or maybe something they do at you.
I was also going to add that it seemed like a cruel twist of nature that we had to live in a world where pleasurable things were unhealthy, but then I remembered unhealthy things aren’t pleasurable in nature. Humans took the unhealthy parts out of food as nature creates it — the sugar, caffeine, fat, and so on — and processed them into pleasure-producing products that resemble food.
I’ve found the trick to avoiding ice cream isn’t to use willpower. Willpower loses out to emotions driven by the perception that you’ll get pleasure soon, which Nestle and all the other producers of “food” profit on. The trick is to see that stuff, however pleasurable, not as food, but as some horrible abomination. I read a book that called all that stuff a “chemical shitstorm,” which makes sense too.
The point is to use the human phenomenon that our beliefs filter our perception to our advantage.
Otherwise you have to live with the perpetual challenge of depriving yourself of pleasure. But you don’t have to. You can change your perception. Eventually it feels more natural this way — eating fruits and vegetables and seeing the NestleKeeblerPepperidgeFarmKraftMinuteMaidTropicanaMcDonaldsKentuckyFriedEtcEtcEtc stuff as abominations.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book