Have you ever asked yourself: “Come on, how hard can it be to stay on this diet? It’s just 30 days?” Or sworn to yourself: “I’ll be so good and not buy anything for a whole month once I’ve got this dress with those adorable shoes.” These are both examples of the Deprivation-Indulgence Cycle that so many of us are subject to: we deprive ourselves (making us feel bad) and then overcompensate by indulging, thinking this will make us feel good, but the snag here is, we don’t feel good for indulging: we feel guilty.
We feel guilty for not living up to our ideals, for yet again letting ourselves down, letting ourselves spiral further down into self-detestation. As a self-love activist, I have to stop you right here if this sounds familiar to you.
When you start depriving yourself of food, of shopping, of binge watching series on Netflix, promising yourself to be stricter with yourself, to have more of a spine, to practise self-discipline, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not that you haven’t got self-discipline or a spine, it’s just that coming to anything from the space of deprivation is counter-productive. And doomed to failure.
When you deprive yourself, you naturally want to indulge to make up for the deprivation. So don’t deprive yourself.
You think that to lose weight, you must be really tough on yourself, and if you have a tendency to overspend, it’s natural that you want to restrict yourself before finding yourself in debt with only clothes, perfumes and shoes to show for it. If you’re neglecting your social life and if your productivity is suffering, it’s clear that you want to curb your instinct to turn to Netflix, but there’s a way of going about it.
So let’s create some awareness around where you might be subscribing to this Deprivation-Indulgence Cycle.
Make a List of Pleasures
First of all, think of what gives you pleasure. Beautiful clothes? Excellent food? Being in Nature? Sharing moments with friends and family? I would encourage you to make a list of these (so useful to know what brings you pleasure. That way you can create more of it 😉
To be happy, you need to have pleasure in your life. When you deprive yourself of pleasure, that’s when you buy into having to apply the deprivation model, the all-or-nothing model: if I can’t eat chocolate till I’m sick then it’s not worth it.
Ask yourself how much delicious food you need to taste to feel the pleasure of it? If you’re a chocoholic, ask yourself how much chocolate you need to eat before you feel pleasure. Chances are that after just one bite of a smooth, rich, quality chocolate bar, you feel pleasure. If this is enough for you to feel pleasure, you have hit your goal: pleasure. No need to go on and gulp down the rest of the bar. That is called indulgence, not pleasure.
Go over the items on your list of pleasures and decide how much of it you need to feel pleasure. 1 bite of chocolate, meeting up with friends twice a week, 1 weekend away in the countryside per season for instance… Please make the list as long as possible. You can include huge pleasures with tiny pleasures. In my example, a huge pleasure would be going away for the weekend and a tiny one would be a bite of quality chocolate once a day.
Schedule it (No, I’m not joking!)
Once you’re clear on what brings you pleasure and that you’ve quantified it, you just need to get out your scheduler. Schedule in the huge as well as the tiny pleasures. When you’ve scheduled in your weekends away and your bites of chocolate, you have made sure that you’re going to feel pleasure. You’re not threatening yourself with deprivation and no pleasure. You’re doing the only thing a self-lover can do and that is to take care of her needs and making sure that she gets them met. By scheduling them in 😉
You might be saying: “But I can’t eat chocolate this month because I’m on a diet!” Can I just suggest that if you want to lose weight, a diet is not going to be helpful: you’re much better served by having your needs met through your desires. Just thinking about dieting speaks deprivation. Don’t go there.
But let’s not make this about dieting. Let’s make it about pleasure. Once you’ve scheduled in a lot of deliciousness during your week, month and perhaps even year, you’ve made sure that you’re going to feel pleasure. You’ve set yourself up to succeed IF you don’t skip a pleasure.
Let me explain: when it says: “Take a bite of chocolate” in your scheduler, YOU MUST DO IT! If not you’re cheating. In the moment, you might be saying: “I don’t need chocolate now,” but think of yourself as a little child: if you promise it something and then withhold it, it’s going to get mad. So are you. You promised yourself a treat so don’t withhold it. You might not need it THIS INSTANT, but you’ll feel deprived later and, as you’re beginning to see, no doubt, this will lead you onto indulgence, big time.
If you find yourself being tempted to buy that gorgeous dress or overeat on that dessert, ask yourself: Is this behaviour serving me? If your answer is YES, then go ahead and offer yourself the pleasure. If the answer is NO, whip out your scheduler and find out just when this craving can be satisfied. Make a firm commitment to honour that. Breathe in, breathe out. Wait 2 minutes and check in with yourself: are you still tempted? Or wasn’t it just a passing craving, a thing you used to give into in the past but that you’ve found out is no longer serving you, the self-loving being that you are now that has got your highest interests at heart?
One thing to keep in mind: justification is unnecessary. Most people waste a lot of energy justifying. There’s no justifying pleasure. Pleasure just is. Knowing that something gives you pleasure is enough knowledge to act upon. Find a way of meeting this need. Schedule it in.
My clients sometimes tell me: “Katrine, I don’t want to live my life on a schedule” and I used to agree because one of my core values is FREEDOM. But then I realized that making sure my needs were met and scheduled into my life gave me so much freedom: no need to be always making sure I was getting this or that need met: I knew I was which actually opened up to a lot more spontaneity, oddly enough.
So try it out for yourself:
1. Make a list of huge as well as tiny pleasures
2. Evaluate how much of a good thing you need to actually FEEL the pleasure. Remember: NO NEED TO JUSTIFY; pleasures just are
3. Schedule them in and under no circumstances try to skip one
4. In the face of temptation, ask yourself: “Is this behaviour serving me?” Chances are that it isn’t so don’t.
If you do give in to temptation, reschedule your pleasures to make up for this… accident. It’s not because you’ve got one punctured tyre that you have to puncture another one, meaning if you’ve already indulged in pleasure, don’t overdo it by adding onto that.
Spend the energy you used to deprive yourself on something much more fun and fulfilling like finding new ways of connecting to pleasure: how many things can you actually find that give you pleasure?
If you want help with your mindset on bestowing pleasure instead of deprivation on yourself, why don’t you request a FREE one-on-one session with me here:
About the author:
Katrine Horn is a speaker and life coach who guides women to create the life of their dreams, to recognize their intrinsic value and release the illusion that life is a struggle. Katrine teaches women how to manage their emotions leaving them free to embrace opportunity when it comes their way. She helps them enter their Zone of Excellence where there are able to step aside to allow their highest good to find them.
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