Tiger King, Popcorn, and our Primal Instincts

April 8, 2020

It’s eight o’clock on Tuesday night. Ben and I have claimed our respective spots on the couch and are ready for our weekly indulgence – Tiger King.

If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not sure where you’ve been. Even I, the gal who had to ask one of my friends what Lizzo is, to which she responded, “Who, Kate. Who is Lizzo – it’s a woman. A singer…” 

Nonetheless, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, is Netflix documentary, and it is absolutely all of those things and more.

I’m laying on the couch, lights dimmed, slightly questioning why I’m wasting my time watching such a ridiculous show, when my own primal instincts kick in. The roar of a hungry tiger erupts from my belly.

“Popcorn! I want popcorn!”

The thing is: we finished delicious tacos less than two hours ago, and, while I routinely eat every couple hours, I should not be hungry at that moment. 

And, I’m not. I’m not hungry. 

Left wanting more

Has this ever happened to you? 

You’re perfectly satisfied, but want to eat more?

Perhaps, you too, sit down for a show and “need” snacks to go with it.

Or, perhaps your trigger isn’t a show, rather a difficult, monotonous, or undesirable task. You sit down to review Excel spreadsheets for work and find yourself with your head in the freezer searching for a sweet treat. 

Or, maybe for you, it’s stress that sends you scurrying to the pantry for a salty snack. 

Why do we do this? And, moreover, how do we override our primal instincts?

Willpower Instinct

With extra time on my hands, I’ve set a goal to read a book a week. Last week, I read two – Grit and Love Warrior. I highly recommend both. 

This week, I am reading The Willpower Instinct, by Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a Stanford University psychologist. McGonigal combines the science of self-control with lessons learned from teaching and refining her massively popular course “The Science of Willpower” (offered to the public by Stanford Continuing Studies). 

To personalize the material, Dr. McGonigal challenges the reader to test the recommendations proposed throughout the book by picking a specific willpower challenge. Each of the ten chapters details one key idea regarding willpower, the science behind it, and how it applies to the reader’s goals. 

I’ve always considered myself to have a high self-control and willpower. Obviously, you don’t become an Olympian with laziness and giving in when things are tough. However, sitting on the couch lifting the handful of popcorn to my face, I realized that we all have areas of improvement. Even if my “willpower bar” was higher than average, I never want to settle. 

So, I’d like to invite you to join me in the willpower challenge. Throughout the next series of posts, I will share research and insights garnered from Dr. McGonigal’s books and will share my own experiences (and Ben’s as he has agreed to do it with me).

Are you ready to be king of your roaring tiger?

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