Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

[No unsolicited guest blogs accepted, thank you]

Learning to Delay Gratification

Many of you may look around at friends, family, or perfect strangers and wonder how the dickens they can stop themselves from overeating or noshing when they’re not hungry. One answer is that they’ve learned to delay gratification. Although this behavior involves genetic tendencies, childhood learning is also major behavior-shaper.

Parental modeling and instruction are strong influences in developing the ability to delay gratification. Did your parents model waiting for rewards or have difficulty controlling their impulses? What did they teach you about the benefits of restraint? Moreover, how did they teach this lesson—compassionately or punitively? If you were unfairly punished for surrendering to impulse, might you be rebelling against restraint today?

Trust affects kids’ patience (SCIENCE NEWS 11/17/12) describes the findings of a new study: “Kids’ beliefs about the reliability of the people around them can dramatically shape willingness to wait for a sweeter payoff…” This means that if you trust you will receive something better by holding off, you’re more likely to do so. The question then, is how predictable, reliable, and consistent your parents were in following through. Did they say you’d receive a reward for not acting impulsively, then fail to give you one? It’s easy to see how that response would undermine your ability to resist temptation because there was no reinforcement of healthy behavior. Many disregulated eaters grew up in chaotic households where follow through—negative or positive—was inconsistent at best, hindering their ability to wait for reward today.

To develop a stronger capacity to delay gratification, first, acknowledge the problem—not critically, but with curiosity and without judgment. Then look to your childhood to understand how this behavior developed. True, there’s a bit of biology in many of our abilities, but there’s also a great deal of family shaping. Look at whether or not you received consistent follow through when you restrained your impulses and trusted that you’d receive a reward as promised—praise, a hug, or tangible compensation—and what kind of punishment—fair or unfair—you received when you gave in to impulse.

To become a “normal” eater, practice delaying gratification. If you crave food when ‘you’re not hungry or want to stop eating when satisfied, tell yourself to wait a minute and keep saying that until the urge passes. Reward yourself with heaps of pride and self-praise when you restrain your impulse. Keep a focus for 3-6 weeks on delaying gratification, not only in the food arena, and you’ll be rewarded with stronger restraint.

Perfect Eaters, Perfect People—Not
Book Review: My Secret Affair with Chocolate Cake

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.karenrkoenig.com/

This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.