One of the most important concepts you need to learn if you want to take back control of eating is the desire scale. This is a tool we have recently started using in The Coaching Project and it’s …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 174 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, The Weight Loss Coach for Runners and today: The Desire Scale. One of the most important concepts you need to learn if you want to take back control of eating is the desire scale. This is a tool we’ve started using recently in the coaching project. And it’s been so well received that I thought I’d share it with you guys here today.
So when you’re trying to lose weight, sticking to your food plan is what makes or breaks your progress. If you’re constantly giving into temptations, losing weight is going to be very difficult and feel pretty miserable.
Instead, if you can take back control of what foods you eat, when you eat, how much, how often, et cetera, that losing weight will be much easier and a heck of a lot more fun. So in this episode, I explain the desire scale, what it is, how it works, and how it might just be the key to your weight loss success.
So today’s episode is all about the desire scale. And this is a concept that I taught live on a Coaching Project group call recently. And if you’re not familiar, the Coaching Project is my lifetime access coaching program where you get live coaching with me every week. You also get to be part of an amazing community of runners of all abilities, who are all working on becoming their best selves.
This isn’t just for elite athletes. If you’re a runner, meaning you run, and you would love to lose weight and learn how to keep it off for good, then you have to check out the Coaching Project. We focus on nutrition, strength, endurance and mindset to help you become the healthiest and most badass version of yourself. Whatever that looks like for you.
Some people want to lose 50 pounds, other people just want to run faster or run longer. And then there’s a few people who just would love to change their whole relationship with food, maybe get off the sugar train once and for all. If you’re a runner, and you struggle to lose weight, don’t know what to do from a nutrition standpoint, and would love to learn how to eat healthy and maintain that as a lifestyle, then you are a perfect fit for the Coaching Project. To learn more and sign up now just go to runningleancoaching.com/join.
So how do you lose weight? And these concepts apply, whether you’re a runner or not, runners are not magically exempt from these principles. Okay, if you want to lose weight, you have to change what you’re doing, right? You’ve got to change what you’re eating, maybe stop eating certain foods and maybe start eating other foods, maybe cut back on the sugar and maybe increase your protein.
So you have to kind of change what you’re doing a lot. A lot of times it means that we have to restrict ourselves from certain foods. Let’s say you love eating pizza, and you love eating ice cream and you eat these things all the time like pizza a couple times a week. Ice cream is a nightly event after dinner, you know, you’re like, “Oh, I just need to eat some ice cream every night. That’s just the way I am. That’s the way it is.”
If this is your default, then you’re probably gonna have to change that. If you decide, hey, I want to lose some weight. So I probably need to cut out the sugar, I need to cut out the, you know, carbs, the grains, you know, so I’m gonna stop eating pizza, and I’m going to stop eating ice cream, I’ll do those two things.
Well, this is going to feel terrible. At first, okay. Restriction is kind of required. If you want to lose weight, if you want to change what you’re doing, you’re gonna have to do things differently and it’s going to feel a little restrictive at the beginning.
Now in my program, the way I do things with my clients is we restrict in stages. So we might cut out sugar first, we might reduce our overall carbohydrate intake, we might reduce some other types of foods. But we do these things in stages so that it doesn’t feel too terrible. Okay, just FYI.
But there is going to be some level of restriction and some level of man, this feels terrible. At the beginning, especially right after a while you get used to this stuff, not that big of a deal. But at the beginning especially, it’s going to feel tough, and it’s okay, this is normal.
This is just your brain doing what it does. Your brain is always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. You know what pleasure feels like to your brain? Ice cream and pizza. You know what pain feels like? Not eating pizza and ice cream. But you have to understand that the thing that’s actually driving that behavior, there’s an emotion that’s driving that behavior of feeling and that feeling is desire.
So what is desire? A desire is a feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. It’s a feeling of wanting to have something, it’s a feeling, it’s an emotion. And as we know, feelings and emotions are created by your thoughts.
It’s not the thing itself that’s driving you to want it, it is your thoughts about the thing. For example, pizza, just sitting there has no effect on you whatsoever. And if you’re somebody who has never eaten pizza in their life, or just doesn’t like pizza, and looking at a pizza, they’re not really going to feel anything.
But if you love pizza, and you look at pizza, and you say, “Oh my god, that is going to be an amazing experience. If I eat this pizza…” that’s a thought. And so that feeling that desire is being created by you.
And so you might be kind of really thinking about this pizza a lot and smelling it, and imagining what it’s going to feel like and your mouth and the cheese and the crust and all this stuff. And you can create a pretty intense, a pretty intense desire, just by thinking about something, okay.
So sometimes the desire can be pretty strong. Sometimes it’s not so much. For example, my girlfriend, Cathy, she keeps this bowl of dark chocolate on her dining room table. And it looks pretty, you know, it’s in a pretty little bowl and, and I’ll go over there sometimes, and I’ll look at that bowl.
And I’ll just be like, I don’t even want that, you know, I mean, I love chocolate, don’t get me wrong. And sometimes I just don’t even want it. I’ll look at it, I’ll be like, doesn’t even look good to me right now. Other times, I’ll look at that, and I’ll be like, woof, I’m gonna, I’m gonna eat some chocolate. And it’s okay.
But it’s interesting, because the desire is not the same all the time, it has a lot to do with what’s going on with me, not not necessarily what’s going on in that bowl, the bowl is not changing, the chocolate is just sitting there. That’s just a circumstance, the pizza, the ice cream, they’re just sitting there. But there are things that can affect the intensity of our desire.
So some of these things could be stress. Stress can have an effect on people’s desire. And I hear this all the time, just about everyday, somebody tells me how stressed out they are. And that’s why they couldn’t stick to their plan. And that’s why they haven’t been exercising. And that’s why they can’t not eat the ice cream every night.
The boss yells at you at work, you know, you got this deadline to or you know, you got passed up for promotion or something like that. So there’s a stressful situation, and you come home and all you want to do is eat. Right? The pizza isn’t causing you the desire, it’s the stress that’s causing that desire to be amplified.
Lack of sleep can do the same thing. When you’re tired your guard is down, right? You don’t have the same amount of willpower. You know, willpower is not something we want to rely on anyway. But when you’re tired, when you haven’t slept well, that also puts your body in a state of stress. But that can make that desire increase in intensity as well.
Being bored. How many people have I talked to you, oh my gosh, that tells me they’re just bored. And you know, they work from home. They sit around all day, and they just get bored and they wander into the kitchen and start opening cabinets until they find something that looks good. They’re not really even hungry. They’re just bored. And so they eat out of boredom. But that boredom can kind of increase that intensity of the desire.
There’s other emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, these will all increase your level of desire, your intensity of that desire. It’s kind of like turning a knob, a volume knob and you’re turning up the intensity because you’re experiencing these, what we would call, like intense negative emotions, right?
Then there’s other things that can have an effect on our, on our intensity levels of our desire, which is things like peer pressure people, you know, you’re in a group of people and everybody’s eating the pizza or drinking margaritas or something and you’re feeling like oh my gosh, I’m just and they’re like saying, “Come on, it’s fine. Just have some. You don’t need to stay on your diet. Come on, you’re on vacation, whatever.”
That can feel like, you know, let your guard down and that can increase that desire as well. And then there’s like marketing messages that we get from the world out there on social media, billboards, magazines, television, commercials, all that stuff. You know, they make the food look so amazingly delicious. By the way, those burgers that you see in the commercials, they never ever look anything like that in real life, am I right?
Look at a Wendy’s burger on the commercial and then look at it in person. It’s like what the? This is not what I expected this to look like. Okay, now all these things I just mentioned stress, lack of sleep, boredom, anger, frustration, anxiety, peer pressure, marketing messages, all these things are neutral.
Really, when you think about it, all of these things are emotional responses to your circumstances. Okay? So all of these things are just emotions, they are you taking your circumstances of your life, and you’re coming up with thoughts about those situations.
I’m angry, because I’m frustrated, because I’m anxious, because I’m stressed out because, and you’re taking all these things, and you or the marketing messages, for example, or peer pressure, these are just outside circumstances that are creating the desire inside of you. So you have thoughts about what’s going on.
You’re stressed out, you’re, you know, bored, you’re tired. And you’re starting to have these thoughts that you know, if I just eat some pizza, or eat some ice cream that’s going to make this feel better. And so that’s what increases the desire, okay?
So it isn’t those things themselves that are increasing. And I want to make sure that this is very clear: that you are always in control. This is all about your thoughts and feelings, your thoughts and your emotions, okay? Desire is just another emotional response. It’s an emotional response to outside circumstances.
But I understand it can feel really intense, and it can feel very uncomfortable. And most people, when they experience this amount of desire, they want to make it go away, right away, they want to make it go away immediately. They want to satisfy that desire as soon as possible.
So some examples of this, like, so you’ve had a stressful day at work. And you’ve eaten dinner, and you’ve maybe even like over eaten at dinner, you’re stuffed, but you don’t care. You just want to eat some ice cream. So you eat some ice cream. That doesn’t make any sense.
Like logically it doesn’t make any sense to eat that. Right? But the desire was there. And you had to like satisfy that desire. Or you’re at the beach with friends, you’re on vacation, everybody else is drinking margaritas. And you kind of told yourself, you were you allowed yourself to have one Margarita per day on vacation like fine, like, that’s fine. You know, you’ve decided that whole time, but then you find yourself drinking like eight as fast as possible. Like downing them, you know? Because you feel overcome by desire.
In both these situations, you feel overcome by desire, it’s intense. It’s real. It feels like an emergency. Like you got to fix this situation right away. But I want you to think about this. What if there wasn’t anything to fix? What if there wasn’t a problem? You’re seeing desire as a problem. But what if it wasn’t a problem? What if it was just neutral?
What if you could learn how to turn down the volume of that desire? So if your desire for ice cream is usually at a 10, or an 11? What if it was a 3? Would that be better? One of the biggest keys to losing weight and keeping it off is learning how to control your desires.
So if you love ice cream, and you love eating ice cream, and you eat ice cream every single night, and you just have to have it every single night, you can’t go night without it. The desire is super strong. And every night you just give in to that desire, you cannot stop yourself. This is an automatic behavior. Now you feel out of control.
What if you could turn down the volume of that desire until it was no longer something that was so compelling for you? What if it was on the same level as something that was like eggplant? I used this example on the call the other night. I do not necessarily like eggplant. I don’t really hate it. But I don’t really like it. I think it’s weird.
I don’t know why they call it eggplant. It doesn’t look like an egg. It’s got a weird texture. I’ve eaten a lot of eggplant in my life. Like eggplant parmesan, for example. You know, you got some sauce and some cheese and it’s alright. It’s okay, but I’d rather just put some chicken in there instead of eggplant, or mushrooms, anything except for this eggplant stuff. It’s weird. I think it’s weird.
So if you put eggplant in front of me and you make eggplant and you put it front of me, I’ll eat it but I’ll just be like, Man, no big deal. I really couldn’t care less about it. I’ll eat it if I have to. Don’t hate it. I don’t think it’s gross or anything like that. It’s just weird. And really, there’s no desire there. I don’t have any desire or cravings for eggplant.
I never tell people I’m trying to moderate my eggplant consumption. I just have zero desire for eggplant. Okay, so what if you felt the same way about ice cream? What if you could take it or leave it? What if there was no intense desire? No cravings? What if peer pressure didn’t matter? You know, if somebody tries to peer pressure me into eating eggplant, I don’t care, I’m not eating it.
So your desire for ice cream can be, “I could care less.” You would no longer be fighting the urge to eat the ice cream. There’s no more urge. Why? What would that do for you? I think that would be pretty amazing.
Another example is I used to smoke cigarettes and I couldn’t go like an hour without a cigarette, I’d smoke about a pack a day. And I did this for like 10 or 15 years, I quit some time in there and picked it back up again. So maybe 15 years off and on.
But once I quit, and it took a little while, but once I quit, the desire is gone. I don’t crave cigarettes anymore. I don’t want cigarettes anymore. Something that used to be part of my life, I could not go without. Now I couldn’t care less, cigarettes are eggplant to me now. Right? You could put a carton of cigarettes in front of me, I have no desire to smoke a cigarette ever again. And I never thought it could be like that.
Another example of this is I’ve been married a couple of times. And both times I was in love. And I couldn’t imagine life without that other person. The desire was there. It was very intense. Now after being divorced from both these people for quite a while now, to me, they’re both eggplant.
Please don’t tell them I said that. But now I could like take it or leave it, right? There’s no intense emotions around these people anymore. It’s like I can see them and be like, Oh, hey, there’s that one person I used to be married to. Like, it doesn’t doesn’t matter to me anymore.
You’ve probably had that experience. Think about a boyfriend or girlfriend that you had back in high school or something you couldn’t live without. And now you’re like, geez, I haven’t even thought about them. But like the desire is no longer there. So what if we can just turn down that desire to where it’s just gone? Wouldn’t that be amazing.
So this can be how you feel about ice cream and margaritas and pizza and french fries and giant pretzels and chocolate and wine or whatever. And listen, this does not mean that you can never have a glass of wine again. Or that means you can never have ice cream again. Or chocolate or whatever, you can. I’m not suggesting that you never eat or drink this stuff again.
But what if we move that desire from 10 to like a 3? Wouldn’t that be amazing? How much easier would it be to stick to your plan and avoid eating junk food? I’m telling you, it’d be a lot easier.
How much weight could you lose? Probably a lot. What could your body look like? How much better would running be for you? I hope you’re beginning to see how powerful this is. Because if you work on this, and start learning how to turn down the volume of that desire, losing weight will be an extremely more pleasant experience.
Now you can do it the other way where your desire is always at like a 10 or an 11. This one goes to 11. That was me with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, for sure. But trying not to eat ice cream when your desire for ice cream is at an 11, that’s a very terrible place to be. I’ve been there, that is not fun. This is the miserable way to try to lose weight. That’s the hard way.
The easy way is turning down the volume on the desire and just its eggplant. Okay.
So how do you do that? How do you turn down the volume of the desire so I’m going to share with you one of the tools that we use in the Coaching Project and this is something that is very simple for you to wrap your head around and it will begin the process of turning down the volume of that desire.
And this tool is called The Desire Scale. So The Desire Scale is how you rate the level of desire you are experiencing at any given point in time. So think of this as a scale of like, you know, 0 to 10. For me, like I said, eggplant is like a zero. I have zero desire for eggplant.
If I was starving, I’d probably have a higher desire, maybe a two or something for eggplant, I’d probably rather just fast for a week than eat eggplant. You know what I mean? Anyway, so, 0 to 10. Zero is like no desire completely neutral. 10 is like the strongest desire you can imagine, right?
So, let’s use this example. I just finished dinner, but I want ice cream, but it’s not on my plant. Like, I ate chicken and broccoli for dinner. And that’s just that’s what I had on my plan. That’s what I was gonna eat. And I’m not eating ice cream, but you really want the ice cream after dinner.
So the first thing I want you to do, you’re gonna ask yourself three questions. First, what’s the desire level? On the desire scale 0 to 10? What is it? A four? Is it a seven? What does this feel like? Is this a nine? Get really good at understanding the number.
If you can just come up with a number in your mind to correlate with how you’re feeling inside, this is going to be huge for you? Okay. So the first question is, what’s the level of the desire? Is it a 2 or a 3 or a 10? Whatever. Make sure you lock in that number. Okay?
Second question. What’s the emotion driving the desire? Because there’s always something underneath the surface, there’s always something pushing up that desire, it’s typically going to be some other emotion. And so you need to name it.
What is the word that describes that emotion? Is it stress, boredom, anger, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, guilt, shame, whatever it is fear. What is the one word? That is the emotion that’s under the desire? What’s driving that desire? What’s pushing that desire up? Okay, step one. Your first question is, what’s it on the desire scale, 0 to 10? Two, what is the emotion driving the desire? What’s the name?
Third question. Can I wait 20 minutes? Oftentimes, the desire will go away, or diminish greatly in around 10 or 15 minutes. So if you can, wait 20 minutes. And the answer will pretty much always be yes, by the way, you can wait 20 minutes, then you will get through that moment.
And this is huge if you can get through that moment. Okay. So those are the three questions I want you to ask yourself. And then what I want you to do is decide ahead of time on a number, where if your desire is above that number, you’re going to go ahead and like eat the ice cream. So let’s say you’re going to use 8 as the example.
If you got a number, if you’re feeling the desire to eat ice cream, and it’s above an eight, like if it’s a 9 or a 10, then you’re allowed to eat the ice cream, like you’re going to decide this ahead of time. Here’s why we want to do this. When you’re learning how to change your desire, this is not about never giving in or never eating ice cream again, or making you feel so terrible that you want to, you know murder someone.
We don’t want to do that. So if you’re at this place where you’re just feeling completely out of sorts, and you just really need to eat the ice cream, eat the ice cream. But it’s got to be above that number that you agreed upon ahead of time, right?
You don’t make this decision in the moment, you make this decision ahead of time. And so if you decide that you’re going to eat because the desire’s just too overwhelming for you, then do it and you’ll probably feel a little bit better momentarily. But you need to learn from that experience. Okay.
So here’s why all this works. First thing, you start getting really good at knowing how intense your desire actually is. And this is key. I really, really wanted the ice cream. I just had to have it. So I ate it. Saying that that’s like really vague and arbitrary. What is really, really want the ice cream? What does that even mean? Right?
So we want to become really self aware. We want to start being more objective about our desire. What does this feel like? Is this a two and then you’ll start getting really good at understanding what a two feels like, or what a four feels like or what an eight feels like.
And you’ll start getting really good at knowing when you’re going to give in to that desire and when you can walk away, right when you should hold them and when you should fold them. Right. So you’re gonna get really good at understanding, you know, at what level, you can walk away, and you shouldn’t be able to push that up, you should be able to go, “Well, you know, maybe it’s a four and I can only, I can’t give in if it’s more than that.” But then you start to get really good at like, “No, you know, I can handle a seven, I can handle an eight, that’s fine.”
This is huge right here, right? So you start to become really aware of where you are on the desire scale, what these desires feel like. And you start to become more in control of these desires, and therefore the behaviors around those desires. So the desire is no longer driving all your behavior, you’re not on autopilot any longer, you’re back in control.
So this is really, really huge. The next reason why this works is that you begin to understand the emotions that are driving that desire up. Most people are afraid to talk about emotions, but guess what, we all have them, get over it, start dealing with them, start understanding that the reason you want ice cream has nothing to do with being hungry.
It’s all about how pissed off you are that Kevin got the promotion at work instead of you. Stupid jerk, Kevin, that’s why you’re wanting ice cream has nothing to do with the fact that the ice cream is just sitting there, okay? So you get really good at understanding the emotions that are driving your desire and driving your behavior.
Those underlying emotions are huge, if you start to get a hold of what that feels like, you are no longer on autopilot, right, you are taking back control, right? Lastly, you begin to practice, not giving in to every little spark of desire. So you’ll learn how to make better decisions in every moment of your life.
So whether there’s a desire to eat or drink something, you know, that you can handle like not doing it, you don’t really actually want it but you, you start to understand that this is just a little bit of a desire. And I can make a good decision here.
So you’re making decisions ahead of time about what numbers like whatever your trigger number is. So let’s say you decide it’s an eight. But then in the moment, you’re like, Oh, this is only about a four. So that means it’s a no go. So you don’t have to give in to that. And you begin to learn that you can wait 20 minutes from the desire and it will just go away pretty much, usually, this is great.
This is something that you can do every single day and practice this. And this is how you actually turn the knob. This is how you turn down the volume of that desire. Now, this is not something where you’re going to do it one time, and it’s going to be like, “Oh, I’m fixed.” You got to practice this. You got to do it every day. Right?
Practice it. Get good at it. Because in time, you can get so good at understanding how your brain works and how desire works that you can look at a lot of things used to think you couldn’t live without like ice cream and pizza and be like, huh, eggplant. Cool. All right. That’s all I got for you today. Love you all, keep on Running Lean, and I will talk to you soon.
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