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Path to Health - Day 17: How to Overcome Temptation

Eating clean consistently is hard. If you're used to eating whatever the heck you want all your life, it can be really hard. Now, I've already talked about how I don't believe in just switching cold turkey to a new diet to lose weight. But if you're in a weight loss competition or are under doctor's orders or something and you simply need to dramatically change your eating lifestyle, then temptations are going to be an ever-present reality.

You're working hard to lose weight and get healthy, but chances are not everyone around you is on the same path. Your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else you spend time around are probably going to keep eating double bacon cheeseburgers and double-stuffed Oreos and whatnot. And at some point or another, you're gonna want some. Willpower alone won't save you every single time. So what do you do? How do you overcome the cravings and make sure you don't screw up your progress?

Contingencies. Having a contingency plan is the answer--just a plan readied to address a scenario you are sure is probable to arise sometime in the future. And the more contingency options you have, the more successfully you may defeat temptation (since you can't always rely on the same single plan every single time). I've actually made a note in my tablet (which I have with me practically everywhere) titled "In Case of Temptation," and it has a list of options for me, which include the following:

Drink Water - A lot of the time, we may think we feel hungry between meals, but simply drinking a glass or two of water can help our bellies feel full so we don't have as much desire to eat something.

Meditate 2 Minutes - Meditation is simply sitting and being fully present with your immediate environment in the current moment. You can do a quick Google search to find article after article expounding all the health benefits (both long and short term) of meditation, but the key here is to train yourself to be completely mindful of what it is you're actually thinking and feeling. It doesn't mean you have to go into some weird trance or try to empty your mind of all thought or anything like that--just note any thoughts you DO have for two minutes as you have them, and them let them pass. You'll probably feel rather refreshed even after just two minutes of this. (And if you're new to meditation, don't worry about letting your thoughts carry you away as our brains often do. It's a practice that requires patience and a gentle approach. Just let yourself grow into it naturally.)

Read an Article or Book - The simple key here is to distract your mind with something other than food. Read up on a topic that you enjoy learning about, or read a little bit more of that book you've been meaning to finish. You'll forget your temptation while engaging your mind by either learning something new or working its creative juices.

Take a Walk - Sitting around with friends at a party while they gorge on pizza and beer? Well, maybe that's not the BEST place to hang out if you're trying to lose weight, but if you find yourself surrounded by temptation, just get up and stroll around a bit. Let your muscles stretch and work a little--sitting excessively is bad for our health, anyway!

Practice Gratitude - This is sort of along the same spirit as meditating, but it's being more active with your memory. Take a moment to just reflect and be thankful for everything you have in life, whether it's something small like the ability to see colors or something monumental like how much weight you've already lost so far through your efforts. You can find plenty to be thankful for in life, even if it's just being thankful for the current moment. Try to gear your emotional state towards one of gratitude, and you'll feel more abundance in your life. And that feeling of abundance will replace the feeling of lack that causes temptation.

Clean Something - Just like reading, cleaning helps engage your mind in an activity that helps you forget about food (unless maybe you're choosing to clean stuff in the kitchen, but even still, cleaning can be a help here as well), and at the same time it makes the space around you that much more welcoming and peaceful. I usually feel pretty good after cleaning something and seeing the result. It can be as quick as making your bed or as involved as sweeping and mopping the whole house (for those extra-heavy temptations!).

Work on a Project/Hobby - Got something you love doing in your spare time? Or maybe you just need to tackle that report for your boss? Take the sign of food temptation as a sign that you could be doing something more productive with your time. Your brain is thinking about unhealthy food because it isn't engaged in something more meaningful to you, so just like with reading or cleaning, take some time to address something you enjoy doing or simply need to get done off your To-Do List. I personally prefer working on a hobby of mine, because as I stated in the past, if you do what you love, you'll love yourself more. Love yourself more, and you'll treat yourself better.

Note Your Craving for Cheat Day - If you do a Cheat Day (which I recommend if for no other reason than to shock your metabolism once in a while to prevent your weight loss from plateauing), then you can take the temptation you're having now and write it down to indulge later. You're basically making a promise to yourself saying, "Yeah, I want this now, but I'm gonna have it later."

Remember that You're Awesome! - This seriously works. Sometimes when we feel temptation creeping in, what we're really feeling is a sense of inadequacy within ourselves. There's still something deep within us that tells us that we're weak, that we are doomed to failure. Don't let that happen. Just remind yourself that you not only CAN do this, but that you currently ARE doing this. Eating right is an act of love to yourself, and that includes forgoing the unhealthy stuff.

Have a Healthy Snack - So maybe you've drunk some water and tried one or two other practices above and you're STILL feeling hungry enough to want to cave into temptation. You're probably just not getting enough nutritional food at your regular meal times, so have something healthy to tide you over--I recommend something rich in protein, like a tablespoon of peanut butter, a small handful of nuts, or a couple tablespoons of cottage cheese. Some people find herbal tea works for them in this instance as well. Find a healthy snack that works for you and try to have that on hand...just don't go crazy. This should be a last-resort option.

Don't Beat Yourself Up if You Cave - There are 10 options listed here to help you defeat temptation, but even still, there is no perfect system. These are tools that will work the majority of the time, but we all stumble and cave once in a while regardless. It happens. The key is to not let it get you down. You don't have to say to yourself, "Oh, I had that brownie at lunch, so I guess my whole day is ruined! Might as well gorge on pizza and ice cream for dinner!" If you fall down, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and carry on as you were before. Don't turn a tiny stumble into a huge one by torturing yourself over it or using it as an excuse to do more damage. You'll only be reinforcing negative beliefs about yourself by doing so.

Also, having the occasional junk food at a celebration is fine. Life should be celebrated and enjoyed! Awesome things happen in life, such as promotions and weddings and graduations and birthdays. There are many great reasons to celebrate the good times with your friends and loved ones. And the reason we want to get healthy and treat ourselves well is so that we can be around longer to enjoy more of these types of happy occasions, so it would seem rather useless if we just forewent every single celebration just because of the junk food involved. It'd be equivalent to always saving money but never spending it on anything you want, ever. So enjoy life's celebrations from time to time, but at the same time remember that this isn't Ancient Rome--there isn't a holiday or celebration every other freaking day, so don't go overboard with this. Keep special occasions special, and use the tools above for everything else.