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About to succumb to temptation?

I’ve had a few conversations with people recently about that moment when temptation strikes and you feel your willpower and focus are about to abandon you.

The people who had given in and overindulged all reported that after a very short period of enjoyment they felt guilty, they struggled to get back to healthy food and then concluded that they hadn’t really enjoyed the “treat” much anyway.

So with Christmas not too far away here are some thoughts about how best to deal with temptation when you’re trying to lose (or maintain) weight.

When you feel your resolve weakening, take a minute to consider your options. You can distract yourself, defer the treat or minimise the damage.

A quick form of distraction is to go and drink a glass of water. When you’re thirsty it can feel like hunger, and if you’re really thirsty your energy levels will be low and you’ll be most likely to succumb to a sugary snack. So have a glass of water and wait a few minutes. You may feel less tempted afterwards, and the distraction may help you refocus on your weight loss goals.

Then ask yourself is this really going to be worth the calories? Is it something you’d actually choose for yourself? All too often we end up eating things which we wouldn’t actually have bought for ourselves. So if you’re being offered a jam doughnut and your idea of a treat is a chocolate éclair, tell yourself you’d be wasting the calories on something from which you won’t get maximum pleasure. If necessary promise to buy yourself an éclair later if you don’t eat the doughnut. Defer the calorie “spend” until you can spend it on something you’ll really, really enjoy.

If you decide to go ahead and eat then you can still minimise the damage. Take the smallest slice or the least bad option if there’s a choice, or can you share something with someone else (who is probably struggling with the same “should-I-shouldn’t-I” dilemma as you)?

Minimising the damage also applies to what you do afterwards – if you’ve had sugary, processed food, it will cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate and in an hour’s time when your blood sugar is plummeting you’re going to start craving more sugar. Be ready for this, accept that this is something physical rather than psychological and eat something healthy. Then you’re back on track. One occasional treat won’t do too much damage but if you abandon your diet for the rest of the day (or week!) that’s when the damage is done.

Generally you’ll be less tempted by things if you aren’t ravenous – so make sure you eat regular meals (particularly breakfast) so you don’t find yourself in situations where you’re so desperate to eat you’ll eat the first thing anyone puts in front of you.

This may all sound a bit obsessive, but if you’re serious about losing weight it’s important that you find a way to avoid switching into self-sabotaging autopilot mode, and the more you practice these thoughts in your head, the more instinctive and natural they’ll become. We should all enjoy really lovely food from time to time, even if it isn’t healthy, but when we do it’s best if we’ve made a conscious, informed decision to enjoy it, and don’t find ourselves regretting it afterwards.

Next month I’ll be writing about how to survive the Christmas season.