Temptation and Permission

24 January 2011 · 6 comments

I’ve struggled with my diet over the past six weeks. Part of this is because I’ve intentionally tried to move from “weight-loss” mode to “stasis” mode. Finding balance has been more difficult than I anticipated. But most of the problem has come from the constant temptations around the house.

First, there was the holiday season, which was filled with cookies and candy and all sorts of other good stuff. For a time, I exercised a bit of restraint. And I had no problem eating modestly when we went to holiday parties. Eventually, though, my willpower at home collapsed, and I started sneaking food I knew I oughtn’t. We had a bunch of cheap root beer left after Christmas, for example, and I’ve spent the last two weeks drinking the rest of it.

This recent bout with temptation has simply reinforced what I already knew: I can’t allow crap in the house. If there’s bad food here, I’ll eat it. Instead, I need to train myself that cakes and donuts and the like are only for special occasions: for dinners out, for parties, and so on. It’s not wrong to have junkfood now and then, and I don’t want to practice complete self-denial; I just want to be sure I’m not constantly exposing myself to temptation.

As part of my attempt to wean myself from the junk I crave so much, I’m going to implement a policy I used last spring. I’m going to give myself permission to eat anything I want, as long as it’s healthy for me.

Note: When I say “healthy for me”, I mean healthy by my current definition. Because my diet philosophy is constantly evolving, “healthy” will gradually change. Also, my healthy may not be the same as your healthy.

I’ve been going to the corner market for candy bars lately, for example. Because I’ve been hooked on the junkfood at home, it’s just too easy to rationalize junkfood at the office, too. To thwart this, last week I went to the store and bought 20+ packages of “simply natural” fruit cups from the refrigerator case.

Yes, I know that actual fruit would be cheaper. At $1 a pop, these fruit cups aren’t very cost effective. However, it’s too easy for me to rationalize not eating actual fruit. It rots too quickly. I have to peel it. And so on. I just make excuses. I can’t make excuses with the fruit cups, so it removes some passive barriers.

I view the fruit cups as a transition from the candy bars to real fruit. And so far, they seem to be working.

I’m also giving myself permission to eat expensive cuts of meat for dinner. This keeps me away from the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and other crap that I’ve been drawn to lately. And I bought a liter of grapefruit juice to stand in for root beer. Etcetera, etcetera.

My hope is that by removing the temptations from the house (and from my office — I threw out a bunch of junkfood yesterday), and by granting myself permission to spend on whatever healthy food I want, I’ll be able to feel good about my fitness again.

“I feel fat,” I told Kris yesterday. And while it’s true that I’ve gained half an inch to my waistline this month, my actual weight (based on my weekly average) is the lowest it’s been since I started this fitness regimen a year ago. In other words: Things are fine, and I’m just obsessing. That’s just what I do.

1 Kevin January 24, 2011 at 13:52

I’ve had similar problems since losing weight last year. I had to to go back to formally logging all my exercise to stay calorie conscious and I got within a 1/2 lb of my “tracking all my food again” weight (5 lbs over my ideal.)

I found the discipline of losing much more comfortable than that of “staying steady”

2 Morgan January 24, 2011 at 15:49

I found sparkling water to be a more satisfying soda subsitute. With a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon (or a splash of grapefruit juice), you get the bubbles of soda without the sugar and fiberless calories of straight juice.

3 Steve January 24, 2011 at 17:02

You might find the book “The End of Overeating” (follow above link) helpful. The first 75% is a really dry read, but then it gets into the actual tips for avoiding yumminess. One of them is to create inflexible “rules” for yourself while your brain is thinking rationally. Then you can remember these rules when the mode hedonistic part of your brain tries to take over. They don’t even need to be sensible rules– you just need to follow them!

It could be as easy as “I can only have junk food on the weekends”, or “I can only have junk food when sharing it with someone else”, or “only when I flip a coin twice and they’re both heads.”

You can’t rely on your brain’s good judgement when it wants to eat something yummy. It will always find a way to rationalize it.

— Steve

4 Heather January 24, 2011 at 17:13

I think it’s excellent that you’re calling in substitutions — that should make things easier.

There’s also research showing that if you are craving a food (which is different than eating it because it’s there — I get it) and imagine yourself eating it in as much detail as you can muster, most of the time, the craving goes away. Hypothesis is that the mind wants the food — body doesn’t — and picturing it in exquisite detail gives the mind what it wanted. But you have to imagine yourself eating it, not just looking at it, or the craving intensifies.

5 brooklynchick January 30, 2011 at 08:47

I relate to this, as do many of us, I’m sure. When I read about the root beer, I thought – “POUR IT OUT!” But I know I can’t do that – “IT’S WASTEFUL.” Having grown up in a house where nothing was thrown away, after I host a party I’m eating chips and other crap for days.

Not anymore! I have learned to throw away “empty calorie” foods after parties. It’s REALLY hard to do, but it helps with the waistline!

6 Kristin February 3, 2011 at 21:26

Healthy for you . . . you mean like Hostess products and soda were healthy for you in high school? Snicker snicker :)

Previous post:

Next post: