Staying on track with your eating goals is challenging when temptations surround you. Food temptations can crop up anywhere from your office, the grocery store, your home, or a homemade treat from a family member. It’s common to feel overwhelmed or out of control when faced with foods you love but hadn’t planned to eat that day.
Fortunately, you can learn how to stay in control even when faced with food temptations. The more you plan and practice your strategies in advance, the more successful you’ll be at managing tempting situations at the moment.
5 Ways to Stay in Control and Conquer Food Temptations
Resisting tempting foods is challenging. You walk by the office kitchenette and see (and smell) donuts. This unexpected treat seems like a perfect pick me up on a stressful workday. Normally, you’d grab one. Maybe you’d even feel less stressed right after eating it. Your brain remembers these associations and thinks eating the donut is a good idea.
However, if you eat that donut, you may have a sugar crash later. You may regret it or put yourself down for ‘caving in’ and eating the sweet treat when you’re trying to eat less sugar or lose weight. Yet, at the moment, it’s hard to focus on how you’ll feel later, which puts you at risk for reverting to old habits to eat the item.
Fortunately, there are strategies to help you maintain control when faced with food temptations, so you can make the choice you want. Sometimes that choice will be not to eat the item, and sometimes your choice may be to have some of it. Either way, using these strategies will help you stay in control, so you can confidently choose what is best for you.
1. Build Up Your Ability to Say No
You’re going to encounter foods that tempt you. You can’t always avoid them. So instead, increase your confidence that you can say no.
One way to do this is to practice since it gets easier to decline tempting foods if you have experience doing so. To strengthen your ability to say no, try this: when shopping at the grocery store, go down the junk food aisles. When you see your favorite bag of chips or cookies, look at the item, and say “no.” You can say it quietly, but be sure to say it out loud. You can even add your reason why, such as “No. I don’t need cookies this week because I’m cutting back on sugar to improve my health.” Then walk away and congratulate yourself.
It may seem silly, but you’re practicing a new response for when you see your favorite food. This tactic takes time. That said, the more you do it, the easier it is, and the more confidence you’ll have when you encounter tempting foods.
2. Work with Others in Your Home if They Want Tempting Foods in the House
If you tend to reach for chips at night when you’re stressed or exhausted, you ideally will want to keep those items out of your home to avoid the temptation while you’re building up your confidence. But, if you live with other people, they may want to have treats around. If this is the case, try:
- Explaining why you’d like to keep the foods out of the house temporarily until they aren’t as tempting
- Working with them to find new places to store those foods where you won’t see them regularly, like keeping chips and cookies in a cabinet that’s rarely used instead of the food cupboard
- Buying brands or treats that you don’t like as much to reduce your temptation but that they enjoy
- Searching for healthier alternatives or recipes that you can make together
3. Learn to Pause and Ask Yourself Questions When Faced with Temptations
Things can happen fast when you’re faced with a favorite treat. Another common situation is finding yourself reaching for your comfort snack at the end of the day like you usually do. When you’re faced with temptations, pause and ask yourself a few questions.
- Are you hungry?
- Why are you about to eat this food?
- How will you feel after you eat the treat?
- Does eating this item fit in with your plan for today?
Slowing down and thinking about your decision can increase your awareness and let you control your decision. Seeing yourself in control of your choice increases your self-confidence and can help you stay motivated to work toward your goals.
4. Remind Yourself of Your Reason for Living Healthier
To help, remind yourself regularly (not just in the moment of a temptation) of why you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Write down your reason. Visualize it—see what you will look like, how you will feel, and what your life will look like when you’re living healthier. Perhaps, you’ll have more energy to play with your children or grandchildren. Maybe you’ll see yourself completing the 5K you always wanted to do or enjoying gardening without being in pain. Perhaps, you’ll be taking fewer medications and saving that money towards a vacation you always wanted.
Your reason will help you stay motivated if you remind yourself regularly of what you’re working towards.
5. Plan to Treat Yourself
Creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t about quick fixes or deprivation. It’s about learning how to enjoy living a lifestyle that keeps you healthy. You can still eat cake, cookies, chips, or your favorite chicken pot pie recipe—occasionally.
The key is to plan for it.
Schedule one day a week when you’ll enjoy a favorite dessert or a savory meal that you’ve been craving. When you plan to eat the food treat, consider:
- Taking your time and eat it mindfully, so you thoroughly enjoy the experience
- Cutting back on the portion size, if you’re having lasagna at your favorite restaurant, cut it in half before eating and order a salad or healthy side to go with it
- Setting aside the time to enjoy the food, so you’re not distracted or multitasking
You Can Conquer Food Temptations, So You Choose What You Eat and When
You don’t have to live at the whim of food temptations. You can learn strategies to help you respond the way you want when unexpectedly faced with temptations. You can take control and be in charge.
There will be times you decide to have the treat. After all, a healthy lifestyle should be enjoyable. But, by strengthening your ability to stay in control when faced with food temptations, you will be having the treat by choice. You can fully enjoy it without guilt because it was a part of your plan, and you know eating the item isn’t going to derail your overall health goals. Finding balance and being in control of your food choices will help you confidently live a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.