Particularly when just getting started improving our eating habits, there’s a lot of benefit to not being around foods that we find tempting.
When we identify certain foods of which we can’t eat “just one”, or that consistently encourage us to overeat or otherwise act out of alignment with our health and fitness goals, there’s benefit to just straight up avoiding these foods.
If we have a hard time eating just a cup of ice cream, we can choose not to keep any at home.
If we’re triggered by doughnuts, we can choose to get our coffee from somewhere other than Dunkin’.
If we struggle to moderate with trail mix, we can keep different snacks on hand.
Strategies like these can be good short-term measures for building momentum and good long-term measures for managing patterns we struggle to break.
The thing is, despite our best efforts, we won’t be able to avoid our temptations forever.
Permanent avoidance isn’t the goal anyway.
Our goal isn’t to pretend these foods don’t exist.
Our goal isn’t to quarantine ourselves from flavorful food.
Our goal isn’t to white knuckle our way through life, trying desperately not to eat certain things.
Our goal is to be empowered in these situations.
Our goal is to understand why we’re drawn to these foods.
Our goal is to break the power food has over us, and put ourselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to if and when we choose to indulge for no reason other than pleasure or flavor.
The fact of the matter is that these temptations aren’t going anywhere.
We will always – always – be presented with the opportunity to choose “now” over “later”.
We’re not powerless, though.
There are steps we can take to stop living in fear and avoidance and start living in confidence and control.
The first step in this process is to identify which foods we find to be problematic.
We can’t solve a problem if we don’t know what it is, so first we’ll want to pay attention to repeat offenders – the foods that most often steer us away from our normal habits.
Identifying these foods will not only help us plan ahead so far as knowing not to keep them around or buy them, but also put us in a position in which we aren’t caught off guard anymore when these foods elicit cravings.
Once we’ve identified the foods that repeatedly steer us from our goals, we can ask ourselves what it is about these foods that make them so challenging to turn away.
What value do these foods provide?
What roles are these foods playing in our life?
Is the problem as simple as “they taste good”?
If so, this awareness may be enough for us to recognize that we’re prioritizing flavor over looking and feeling awesome, and stop engaging in the patterns that are holding us back.
We might find that simply acknowledging that hearing choirs of angels every time you eat isn’t as important as looking and feeling awesome is enough to get some traction.
Chances are, though, we’re already aware of our situation, and are struggling just to get started making a change.
We might find that what’s pulling us to these foods is something deeper.
We might find that problem is much deeper than “that tastes good and I want it”.
We might need to dig a little bit to figure out why these foods have such power over us.
What is it – beyond flavor – that these foods offer?
What role – beyond pleasure – are these foods playing in our life?
What thoughts and emotions are involved?
Are we using these foods to medicate stress?
Are we turning to them for comfort?
Are we eating as a way of coping with loneliness?
Are we distracting ourselves from life’s problems?
What stories are we telling ourselves in these instances?
Have we “been so good” lately?
Do we “deserve this” because we’ve had a rough day?
Do we “need” a treat?
The reasons we turn to food for reasons other than nutrition are innumerable.
Sometimes these reasons are perfectly appropriate, like when celebrating special occasions or traditions.
Many of us, though, eat for reasons other than sustenance regularly.
Day in and day out.
To break this pattern, we need to identify the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that are involved in these situations.
We need to figure out a way to manage these needs of ours without turning to food.
We need to get to the root of what we’re feeling and thinking, and take steps to address the underlying problem.
Finally, we’ll have to make a decision.
Right now, in this moment, will we choose flavor or will we choose something bigger and better?
Will we eat it or will we not?
What happens if we choose to indulge?
What happens if we choose not to indulge?
There is no right answer, and what we’ll want to do will vary depending on the situation.
If we’ve built momentum and we’re confident this deviation won’t result in a backslide, perhaps an indulgence won’t be a big deal at all.
If, on the other hand, we’re struggling with consistency and know that you’ll beat yourself up afterwards, perhaps the indulgence just isn’t worth it.
Regardless of whether we choose to indulge or not, we can assess how you feel afterwards.
If we choose to indulge, how do we feel physically?
How do we feel emotionally?
What are we thinking?
Was it worth it?
If we choose not to indulge, what are we telling ourselves?
Are we pleased and proud or do we feel deprived and miserable?
Do we feel stronger or weaker?
What’s at the root of these thoughts and feelings?
What’s driving our efforts?
Are we acting out of fear and desperation or are we acting out of resolve and self-love?
It may seem like exploring all of these concepts is overkill for something so simple as eating something for pleasure, but doing so is a critical step in equipping ourselves to handle these temptations.
There will always be temptation.
There will always be opportunity to put pleasure before health.
There will always be reasons to deviate.
Only you can determine whether these reasons are adequate.
Only you can determine how you should respond to temptation.
Only you can determine what you’re going to do when faced with these decisions.
Because you will be faced with these decisions.
Day in and day out.
For the rest of your life.
Life’s too short to spend it fighting with temptation.
Put in the work to address what’s going on between your ears in these situations.
It may not be easy.
It may not be a quick process.
It will be worth it, though.
You’re worth it.
You’ve got this.