No matter how strong your willpower to lose weight, tone muscles, and otherwise improve your health, temptation will sometimes get the better of you. No matter how much you prepare yourself by keeping unhealthy foods out of your house or cooking rather than eating out, you’ll occasionally feel powerless and want to give in.
It’s important that you feel in control of your cravings, especially when you’re aiming for long-term dieting success. In this article, we discuss the psychology of food cravings as well as 5 practical tips to stave off temptation and keep your weight loss efforts on track.
BLAME TEMPTATION ON THE BRAIN
Your mindset has a lot to do with whether you feel tempted by unhealthy foods, or if you can acknowledge passing cravings and say no. Also, how you react to your thoughts can either reinforce poor decision-making habits or enable you to develop new ones that help you stay on track.
Repeating an action, such as eating chocolate or another treat, will cause your brain to increasingly crave that indulgence. Often, the more you give in to these temptations the more they will affect your ability to make positive decisions and resist temptation.
Studies reveal that being unable to resist the urge to eat unhealthy foods is a top-down, conditioned response in the brain that predicts reward from eating certain foods and affects our desire to eat the food. This means that if you derive enjoyment from eating pizza or other unhealthy treats, your body can predict this pleasure and prompt you to eat it, reinforcing these positive feelings.
However, this is not to say that you can’t “retrain” your brain to withstand temptation and stay on track. Below, we have 5 quick tips to help you do just that.
5 QUICK TIPS TO AVOID TEMPTATION IN YOUR DIET
Unless you consciously train yourself with methods to withstand temptation, you’re always going to lose. Luckily, doing so doesn’t take months of time or an impressive show of effort. Rather, you just need to be dedicated to making a change.
1: DON’T TREAT IT LIKE DEPRIVATION
Most cravings arise out of feelings of deprivation. According to Michelle May, MD, “Depriving yourself is about resisting, and resistance is difficult. Choosing whether to eat something is empowering.”
Instead of thinking about what you aren’t eating, think about what you will eat. If you stay focussed on healthy choices, you won’t feel as if you’re deprived and will instead look forward to eating your favorite fruit and vegetables.
2: STOP USING FOOD AS A REWARD
It’s too easy to justify unhealthy food as a reward for a long day at work or school, or any other reason. It’s also easy to use food as a crutch for bad days or failures. Often, temptation arises out of either scenario giving you justification to give in to your cravings.
It’s more important to address how you feel, and celebrate or handle your feelings in a different way. Emotional eating, whether for positive or negative reasons, will only add to your problems.
Instead, turn to exercise, journaling, or talking to a friend to deal with your emotions. Doing so will help curb temptation and make you a happier person in general.
3: PLAN YOUR MEALS AND SNACKS
If you’re like most people, temptations are at their worst when there is no plan. You arrive home late from work and nothing is prepared. This makes it easy to justify swinging by your favorite fast-food restaurant because you’ve no time for anything else.
Instead of putting yourself in a last-minute predicament where cravings dominate, plan ahead for the week. This means you must prepare meals for each day, including snacks, so nothing is left to chance. In all likelihood, this will eliminate most cravings and if you already have food in the fridge, you won’t be as tempted to stop for fast-food on the way home.
4: EVALUATE WHY YOU CRAVE FAST FOODS
Most people can readily identify which foods are their dieting “downfall.” Can you do the same? If so, you’ll have a better handle on your cravings and why you’re tempted by certain foods.
Once you’ve determined which foods are most tempting, you should also consider why. Is it because you aren’t eating consistently throughout the day, causing blood sugar levels to drop and bring about cravings? Have you made it a habit to eat a bowl of ice cream every night and are finding it difficult to stop?
Finding the root cause of any craving is a great way to take control of it. For example, if you know that you aren’t eating enough during the day and have nighttime cravings, you can adjust your intake of healthy foods to stay full and in control.
5: DON’T MAKE EXCUSES
It’s easy to make an excuse to buy a dessert when you really want it at that time. Whether it’s because you’ve been going to the gym regularly or have been eating “well,” finding an excuse when your brain wants a reward is never difficult.
The best thing you can do is learn to recognize the excuses and justifications as you make them. For example, your friend having ice cream isn’t an excuse for you to do the same. Likewise, if you see someone who is in really great shape eating a cookie, you may justify it to yourself as well.
When you’re mindful of these excuses and justifications, it’s a lot easier to banish them and move on with your day (without the treat, of course).
Stop Temptation in its Tracks With 5 Simple Steps
Retraining how you think and feel about your favorite unhealthy foods is going to be a challenge. However, by making yourself aware of what you crave, when you crave it, and why you crave it, you can take steps forward to ensure temptations don’t ruin your weight loss efforts.
You can always rely on a comprehensive supplement like PhenQ to suppress cravings while you’re still getting to grips with your own self-control. Doing so is a great way to stay on track and remain motivated, no matter where and when you find yourself tempted by the next treat.