In his book, Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, Frank Partnoy writes that, "given the fast pace of modern life, most of us tend to react too quickly."
The result is that many of us cause ourselves more headaches through our rapid response instead of solving the issues that bother us so much. In the case of eating and weight, it's especially true. Learning to be more mindful — and waiting long enough to do so — is a skill that leads to more success.
Yet, people think that when they've gained weight they need to grab the first promising diet program that comes along, the newest weight-loss product or even a familiar diet that has failed repeatedly. Far better to take the time to understand how we tick as individuals and learn about what weight-loss research has found yields the best results.
Jumping into action can be particularly unwise if you're not prepared with tools that work. Partnoy writes about the considerable research showing that children who learn to delay reactions are happier and more successful in life. Not only that, but it seems that children who are able to wait for things have better self-esteem, cope with stress better and are slimmer.
Successful people tend to know when to delay their reactions in order to gather and process information that will help them be more successful in the end. In this sense, procrastination can be a virtue — if it's done with purpose.
How does this translate to fitness, health and weight management? Here are a few ideas to help you hone the skill of "delaying for success":
• Evaluate your program: When something has gone wrong with your latest weight-loss attempt, take some time to ponder. Why was it hard to follow? What was similar about this attempt and the previous ones that also haven't worked? Was there anything about this program that might have set you up to fail? Don't stop at just these questions. Think deeply about why things might have gone wrong (other than telling yourself that you're to blame for everything).
• Educate yourself: With the Internet, information is at our fingertips so there's little excuse for not being better informed. Be careful, however, not to be led by "get thin quick" promises offered by advertisers. Instead, be selective. Look for reputable sites with information supplied by scientific researchers who aren't trying to sell you a magical product that promises to end all your weight concerns. Start with government sites such as healthfinder.gov, and well-respected academic medical centers such as mayoclinic.org.
• Explore who you are: For example, are you an introvert (someone who would prefer to exercise alone) or an extrovert (someone who thrives with plenty of company in most things they do). Are you competitive? What kind of hobbies do you like? Are you a perfectionist or are you more easygoing? Tailor your life plan for a better body to the type of person you are.
• Experiment: This is one of the biggest tools of success. By experimenting we discover what works and doesn't work for us. Experimenting allows us to tweak our regimens so that we develop a more and more effective method of change. All this is done intelligently using the information from our research. Experimenting is not just randomly trying diet after diet from commercials and ads just because they sound good. Instead, it's based on sound methods that have been scientifically tested and trying them on yourself to see how they work for you.
It may take some time to do all of these things but, in the end, it will take less time than repeatedly failing with old methods. Delaying action to do the right things is just what the doctor is ordering.
Lavinia Rodriguez, Ph.D., is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Send your questions to her at [email protected]