I started my fitness journey at the exact wrong time of the year. Or exact right time, depending on your perspective. I started on October 15th - just before Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. These are four very hard-hitting holidays when it comes to food temptation.
On top of that, my workplace happens to cater lunch every day. And they bring in foods like lasagna (a.k.a. a greasy vat of cheese), chicken cordon bleu, and meat loaf. And dessert - whole trays of eclairs, cream puffs, lemon bars, cookies, cake and more. You're probably thinking "wow, what a great perk!" I thought so too until I changed my eating habits for the healthier and realized I couldn't eat most of what was brought. Oh, let's not forget the closet full of Costco snacks - candy bars, chips, oreos, etc. You can see how I gained 70 pounds.
What are the secrets to resisting food temptation? Well there are many, but I'll boil it down to 8 that were helpful for me, hopefully they will be helpful to you as well.
1. Remember your goals and commitment
Hopefully you've made a goal to eat food that will help you feel more healthy and lose weight. If you haven't, you should read my blog post on starting out. You need to constantly remember that commitment and let that fuel your fire to change. Don't sacrifice what you want most at the moment for what you want most. Ask yourself, "is it worth it?" If it is, see #7.
2. Don't have it around
This one sounds simple, but deserves some thought. If you have unhealthy food around the house, you're making it easy for yourself to eat it in a moment of weakness. Make it hard for yourself to obtain unhealthy food, and I'm not talking about putting a chain and lock around the refrigerator. Get rid of the soda, get rid of the TV dinners, the sugary treats and candy, the refined foods that have 30 ingredients. Just get rid of them. If you have to hop in the car and go get a burger and fries, at least you're adding some time for you to think about what you're doing. And instead of a burger and fries you'll get the salad with the low cal dressing, or the grilled chicken sandwich, right?
3. Stock up on yummy healthy food
Related to the last point, stock your shelves with yummy, healthy food. When you have a craving, you can turn to food that won't put on the pounds. Have fun - grocery stores these days have aisles devoted to healthy eating. Of course, not all of it is healthy, but look at the nutrition facts and ingredients and get things that taste good and are good for you. At work, I put a bunch of healthy snacks in the fridge and in my desk drawer. They are all factored into my daily meal planning.
4. Eat frequently
As I said in my other post, one strategy to avoid cravings is to keep hunger at bay by eating frequently. If you're eating smaller meals every 3-4 hours, then your cravings won't get out of hand. Protein-rich foods are especially filling, and good for weight loss.
5. Don't think of food as a reward or consolation
How often do we feel like - it's a special occasion, let's have pizza! Or ice cream sundaes! Or chips and dip! Or I've had a rough day, so I deserve some food that will comfort me. Start getting out of that frame of mind. Find other ways to reward yourself, or find better foods. I find eating a sirloin steak and shrimp just as rewarding as having a treat or pizza. Kashi and blueberries now tastes like a treat to me. And they are much healthier.
6. Let people know that you're trying to be healthy
At some point, people will start to notice that you're living a more healthy life. It was great when I first heard "Hey, have you lost some weight? You're looking good!" And I wasn't eating the cakes anymore that were brought in for birthdays. They noticed, and some started to ask questions about what I was doing. I freely told them that I was eating better and exercising, and that I was feeling more healthy. That's great! When a lot of people around you know about your decision, it makes it easier to stay on track. You can even become a leader for change! A few of us at the office who were trying to eat more healthy banded together and we got our lunch caterer to start bringing healthy options. It's a bit embarrassing to be eating junk when everyone knows you're trying to avoid it. So buy some junk secretly on your way home, hide it in the closet, and...umm, no, what am I saying?
7. Give in
Ok, fine. Go ahead an eat whatever it is that you're craving. You certainly don't want to build up a whole mental attitude that there are forbidden foods. Eat it. Enjoy it. Savor it, slowly. And tell yourself "As long as I'm consistent 90% of the time, I can splurge once in a while." Obviously if you splurge every day you're probably not going to reach your goals, but an unplanned cheat once in a while isn't going to derail you. Let me put that more strongly - don't let an unplanned cheat derail you. That scoop of ice cream isn't an appetizer for pizza, wings and whatever else you can find. It's a scoop of ice cream, you'll enjoy it, get that craving out of your system and continue on your weight loss journey. Don't get depressed about it or let it cause you to doubt your commitment. You're human, and while the cravings diminish over time, I can tell you that for me, they have never vanished.
8. Make choices ahead of time
Don't leave food choices up to moments of temptation. If you've had a busy day, there isn't food in the house and you're hungry, you're asking for trouble. At work, if you automatically reach for a doughnut whenever they appear, you obviously don't have a plan of defense when treats attack. When you're in a good position to think, write down all of the kinds of temptations that might come up and determine how you will react. If you have a plan beforehand, then it will be easier to do the right thing. Or like I said in my other post, plan on a cheat meal each week...look forward to it, enjoy it, and keep your fitness goals on track.
It gets easier! The same treats are here at the office every day, but I don't even notice them anymore. They simply aren't things that deserve my attention, I'm a fit, healthy person and I think and act like a fit, healthy person. Not that old fat person I used to be.