Conflicting desires is a theme I see frequently when I ask my clients what their biggest obstacle is to losing weight. Having conflicting desires can look like wanting to eat on plan and exercise, but also feeling like work and family needs to be the top priority. It could be wanting to eat healthy, but also desiring to eat whatever you want.
It’s human nature to want one thing but also want another, conflicting thing.
But I have good news! This isn’t actually a problem. We make it a problem by thinking it’s a problem… and then we make that mean something is wrong with us.
Success and desire
We think that people who are successful at weight loss have all figured out. That they know how to have consistently aligned desires or how to eliminate desire altogether.
We think that they only desire food that is “good” or “healthy.” We think because we have conflicting desires that we are broken or doomed to be unsuccessful.
The truth is, people who have been successful at weight loss haven’t eliminated, conquered or aligned all their desires.
They just don’t make it mean anything personal when their desires conflict.
They don’t panic at the first sign of desire to go off plan. They don’t freeze when someone brings a plate of brownies into the break room. They don’t think they have to obey the desire to quit.
They know that desire is a feeling created by their thinking.
They have learned that they can have a desire for something and not do anything about it. They have found that desire can’t hurt them and that it doesn’t have to dictate their behavior.
They also know having two conflicting desires doesn’t have to mean anything about them. They have learned how to toggle the controls in their brains and decide which desire wins.
They’re still humans, they still have desire driving them. They just know what to do about it. The presence of a desire that conflicts with your goal or a desire that doesn’t align with the vision of your future self, is okay.
Desires don’t hurt us
We desire things all the time that aren’t realistic, possible, or useful. We feel desire every day for things that we don’t act on. We don’t think it’s a problem in a lot of areas.
Right now, is there a virtual cart, somewhere on the internet, that you put things in but didn’t purchase? You had the desire to have those things and the desire to save money or shop around for a better deal. That desire won. That cart remains there, you didn’t checkout.
Do you ever see someone’s vacation on social media and want desperately to go there right that minute? I feel this especially in the winter. I see someone on a tropical vacation and I just want to drop everything, head to the airport, and get to Hawaii. But, have you ever actually picked up and done it? We desire that vacation but we also desire keeping our jobs and so we don’t abandon all of it and go.
Have you ever been running late and had the desire to speed to get where you’re going faster and then you see a highway patrol car? You want to save time, but you also want to avoid a ticket and be safe.
Choosing to not buy things, go on vacation, or speed doesn’t hurt us. We can use our adult brain to make the choice that most aligns with our values. This can be done with food and weight loss too!
Desire can be a tool
Our human brains desire lots of things. Desire is a beautiful feeling that drives us to create amazing lives and have amazing experiences.
It is one of those things that can be a tool or a weapon, depending on how we choose to view it and use it.
Rather than berating ourselves for or panicking over the conflicting desire tug of war in our brains, we have options. Do you ever have thoughts like:
- This desire shouldn’t be here.
- I wish I didn’t want that food.
- Why do I always do this?
- What is wrong with me?
Instead of getting hung up on these thoughts we can instead recognize our conflicting desires.
For example, when I wake up in the morning, I say to myself, “Of course I want to stay in this warm bed instead of getting up and going to work out. It feels so comfy here and I love being warm and comfy.”
Or when I experience the desire to eat off my plan I say, “Of course I want nachos instead of a salad that’s on my plan. Nachos are warm, crunchy and yummy, and they seem more fun than salad right now. My brain’s really wanting fun in the middle of my workday.”
Don’t push the desires away. Don’t ignore them. Don’t beat yourself up for having them. Acknowledge them and bring them to the surface. De-mystify and de-vilify them.
YOU decide which desire wins
Recognize that your desires don’t have power unless you give them power. Your desires do not man the controls. You do. Your desires don’t decide what you do. Your adult brain gets to do that.
Desire will show up both for things that align with your goals and get you closer to the person you want to be, as well as for things that don’t. But, you are always the one to decide which desire wins.
Once you’ve acknowledged the conflicting desires with, “of course,” then you can start making decisions about which desire is going to win.
Here’s some questions you can ask:
- What do I want most?
- Which desire is aligned with my future self?
- What happens if this one wins? What happens if the other one wins?
- What is behind this desire?
If you are ready to start your permanent weight loss journey, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.