I like to build willpower by acquiring new tools rather than adopting new rules.
And it helps even more if I give the tool a name — preferably a goofy one related to the task it performs. Or in the case of the Nash gadget, the name of the person I got the idea from.
The “Legendary Nash” was one of my earlier ‘normal people’ interviews, a friend of a friend who was rumored to be virtually immune to gastronomic temptation.
That wasn’t quite true. He claimed to be just as vulnerable to office treats or salty snacks as the next guy. But he’d developed a couple of damage-control mechanisms that worked pretty well:
1. He avoided keeping overly tempting snacks in his house, figuring they were easier to ignore in the store than in his cupboard.
2. If he did get into a situation where some unplanned snacking got out of control, he’d consider that misstep his next meal.
I like to think of those strategies as two blades on a pocket tool I call the Nash gadget. I’ve been using the first blade for quite a while now as a mental reminder to avoid bringing home, say, cookies in clamshell containers.
The second function has been a bit harder to learn to use. But I think I’m getting the hang of it now.
The other day, I found myself wanting to finish off a bag of pretzels that had been hanging around. There were easily three or four servings in there. But that’s the kind of mood I was in, and I succumbed.
Afterward, I imagined how those pretzels would’ve looked dumped out on a plate, where their true volume would’ve been more apparent. Then I mentally drew a circle around that imaginary pretzel plate, and told myself: That was your dinner plate. (I said it in a factual rather than accusatory way, which seemed to help.)
It hit the spot at the time. It was a nutritional disaster. True, and true. But it’s not like this was the last meal of my life (or so I hoped).
So I moved on with the rest of my evening, vowing to make sure my next dinner was something less ridiculous. And it was.