On Temptation: To Succeed, Prepare For The Worst

Flower choc cupcake
What is your kryptonite?

If you’re overconfident in your ability to make healthy choices, your compliance could suffer. You might wonder how that can be. Isn’t confidence a good thing? Yes . . . to a point. We all have weaknesses. Failing to acknowledge them could lead to blind spots. Temptation is easier to manage when you’re honest about what you can and cannot handle.

Here are some suggestions for practicing humility and productive pessimism:

Accept that you’re not perfect.

Franklin Roosevelt calmed Americans during the Great Depression. That didn’t stop him from sinking into hysteria after Pearl Harbor and forcing Japanese Americans into internment camps. Gandhi’s wife developed pneumonia. He refused to let doctors treat her with conventional medicine, which led to her death. Tiger Woods is one of the most disciplined athletes in the world. Even so, he didn’t have enough self-control to be a faithful husband.

Lego Wonder Woman
Who do you think you are?

This isn’t meant to be critical. The legacy of these men will remain, regardless of their mistakes. The point is that presidents, spiritual figures, and professional athletes can make poor decisions. Do you think you’re any better? You are not Superman or Wonder Woman. You are a flawed human being. That isn’t meant to be an insult. It’s a general statement about the human condition. Nobody’s perfect. Deal with it.

A bit deep for a healthy living article, huh? Don’t worry. The next three points will help you apply this concept to the pursuit of health.

Get addictive substances out of your house.

Smoking can be a method of coping with stress triggers: upsetting news, financial uncertainty, raising children. Research shows nicotine inhibits negative emotions such as anger. Cigarettes allow a temporary escape

Because of its addictive qualities, attempting to quit smoking is difficult. Some people can set their mind to it and quit cold turkey. For most, this is too much to tackle at once. A step down program may be more effective but the first step is usually to get the cigarettes out of the house.

Poor habits thrive when they’re easy to do. Make it a hassle. If you want a cigarette, make it so you have to drive down the street to the convenience store to buy a pack and since they aren’t allowed in the house, smoke it outside in the cold. Smoking seems less appealing when it’s not convenient.

You also need to replace your addictive habit with a healthy one. For more information, open this blog in a new tab and especially note the fifth point.

The first step to overcoming temptation? Get it out of your house.

Be aware of the environments that lead you astray.

You might have an easier time making healthy choices at home than you do at the office. That’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Most people have the same struggle.

Work party inviteWork can be a tough place to avoid temptations. Bowls of candy, celebrations involving cake and eating meals out of the house can all present some tough temptations. Understand it’s okay to say no to the co-worker offering you a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

No one is out to get you. It’s just that some people express love with food. That doesn’t mean you should feel bad for declining a cookie. You’re not going to hurt anybody’s feelings (and there will be more for everybody else!).

Planning ahead or changing your routine can help you handle these situations. First, eat a fulfilling breakfast before you go to work. Make sure to include some fiber and protein in your meal since they will satisfy your appetite longer than carbohydrates. Eggs, oatmeal, and fruit would be a good start. It’s hard to refuse food when you are starving.

Doctors having lunch
If the lunch room spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E, take lunch somewhere else!

Second, if your break room is where temptation collects, take your lunch elsewhere. The weather is warming up, so why not have a picnic outside? You don’t have to bring a blanket. A bench will do. Nothing like that available? Eat in your car. This doesn’t mean you can’t socialize with your co-workers. Just go eat lunch first. Cake won’t be as tempting after you satisfy your appetite.

Limit the consumption of trigger foods to special occasions.

If you can’t control yourself around a certain food, don’t keep it in your cabinets. That doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself forever. Total deprivation can lead to binge eating, which brings its own set of issues (shame, embarrassment, negative feelings which can trigger more cravings). Think you might have an eating disorder? Click here for a free online eating disorder screening from the National Eating Disorder Association.

Pause and reflect. Are there any foods that cause you to lose control? Common triggers foods include ice cream, cake, candy, and anything else that’s high in fat and sugar. That shouldn’t be very surprising. Identify the foods you overeat and get them out of your house. It can’t tempt you if it’s not there.

Instead, limit consuming your trigger foods to planned (but more rare) special occasions. Look on the calendar for an upcoming special event. If there is nothing on the calendar, pick your own special day. Identify it as a time when you can allow yourself to indulge in your trigger foods.

Got a craving before that day rolls around? Write it down or make a mental note.

Give yourself a gentle reminder: “I can eat this food. Just not right now.”


About the Author

Daniel Wallen is the CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of the Wallen Way. He is a personal trainer, Lifehack contributor, and author of, “The Busy Woman’s Guide to Getting Fit, Fierce, and Fabulous

Dr. Mark Brittingham is the CEO of BSDI and creator of the Motivation Alliance®. He has provided assessment, training and inspiration software to the health and fitness industry for over 20 years.


14 thoughts on “On Temptation: To Succeed, Prepare For The Worst”

  1. I enjoyed all info. Thought Tiger Woods comment a lil over the top. But still interesting.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Pat. Sorry you feel that way RE: the analogy, but that’s the most current example I could think of to illustrate the point that we’re all human here.

  2. Great read after I just inhaled the chocolate chip cookie for Hospital Week. I have made a serious attempt to rid the house of trigger foods – in particular – chips! This summer will be a challenge as we fire up the grill for hamburgers which HAVE TO HAVE homemade chip dip and chips – I will need to keep a close eye on the amount of times I eat that. I have found I do pretty good monitoring my weight by allowing myself to eat whatever I want – just not as much as I want.

    1. Chips are a big trigger food! I remember when I was a teenager, my dad kept Pringles at home, and I was constantly munching on them. Maybe you could get them out of the house and limit yourself to a small back of chips from a vending machine once a week? Just a thought.

  3. Have eliminated most trigger foods in the house. Allow myself 1-2 days a week to splurge, but just a little. For example I bought snack bags of Sunchips. I share one with my daughter and it is usually enough to satisfy my salt craving.

  4. Sweets are a big trigger for me. Especially cheesecake. When something like that tempts me I will give in but take a smaller piece. Satisfying my craving with a little will help with keeping me from bingeing on more later.

    1. Oh man. You had to bring up cheesecake, huh? True, that is some good stuff! It’s a good move JL to have a little bit and satisfy the craving versus a big binge. I try limit myself to three bites – I can have anything I want, but only 3 bites. I savor each one, then put the fork down. Three savored bites is better than eating 3 pieces of cheesecake because I built it up in my head for so long and couldn’t stop myself! I’ve heard of another little trick when you are craving sweet – eat a little bit of sour and the craving goes away. If you try it, let me know if it works!

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