It’s a fact of life that the foods with the highest fat and sugar are often the most alluring or tasty. We are in fact hard-wired to seek out and enjoy such foods since our ancestors were never sure when their next meal was going to arrive, so they had to “stock up” as much as possible.
This makes it hard to resist when treats are put in front of you at the best of times, but of course especially so over Christmas, when it seems that temptation is all around you.
However, if you want to reap the rewards of weight loss (improved health, energy, confidence, smaller dress size) then you will need to find ways to handle all the tempting foods that will come your way.
Here are 4 ways you can cope with treats in a way that you will be able to maintain for the long term.
1. Avoid them. This sounds obvious, but most people are not very good at this. If someone places a box of chocolates near your desk at work. Move them further away. Preferably out of your line of sight. Simply having treats in your line of sight makes it more likely that you will eat them.
Similarly, if a particular route you take while walking or in the car, takes you past somewhere where you know you will be tempted, then take a different way. For instance, if you know it’s going to be too hard to walk past that chocolate shop without popping in, then don’t walk past there. Seems simple enough, but most people don’t even think about it.
Also, if you find it hard to resist when you have treats at home, then don’t keep them at home. If you have to, for the kids, then keep them in a cupboard that is separate from the rest of your food at home, so that you don’t have to keep looking at them, every time you go into the kitchen.
The point with all this is that if a treat is in near you or in front of you, you must have the argument in your mind about whether to eat it or not, and every so often you will lose the argument. If it’s not there, there’s no argument.
Look at your daily routine and see if there is any way that you can reduce your exposure to foods that you like eating but know that they slow you getting to your weight goal.
2. The real skill that you want to develop is to be able to face a treat and project into the future, say 20 minutes after you have eaten it. If you can do this, you will realise that 20 minutes after you have eaten it, it won’t really have made much difference whether you had the fatty sugary foods or the healthy alternative.
Often, unhealthy foods make you feel worse afterwards. If you can project forward in your mind and realise how bad that will feel, you can prevent yourself making the decision now, that you will regret later. And remember these skills get better with practice.
3. Don’t underestimate smugness. Feeling smug after resisting something, is a good feeling. I have a lot of clients who relish this feeling, and use it to good effect.
One client of mine was recently at a morning tea, and while everyone else was filling up on cakes and muffins, she resisted the urge, keeping in mind how good it was going to feel afterwards when they had gorged, and she had stayed clear. She also thought of her weight goals and how good it would be to achieve them. Afterwards she did feel better.
She had shown self-control and stayed focussed on her goals. It was a real victory. And as with other skills, she’s found that the more she does it, the easier it is.
4. Have a “quality quota”. I often use this with my weight loss clients. For instance, if a client especially likes Christmas pudding. She is allowed to set a quota, an amount that she is allowed to have over the Christmas period. Let’s say that number is 3. Of course, it’s up to you how much you want to set the quota at (taking into account your weight goals, and desire to achieve them as soon as possible!).
Now, with the quota, this client can have up to 3 Christmas puddings over the whole Christmas period (say from now, till January 3). But the caveat is that if she has a Christmas pudding she must make sure that it is the FINEST, HIGHEST QUALITY Christmas pudding she can find. She is not to settle for substandard pudding. If you are going to enjoy something, you should have the best.
To paraphrase one of my clients “If I’m going to have the calories, I might as well make sure they’re the best”
Try these strategies the next time that you are confronted with temptation. And remember, the more you practice it, the easier it gets.
Dr. Khandee Ahnaimugan is a medical doctor who provides a bespoke behavioural programme for weight loss. To book a comprehensive assessment at his Harley Street Clinic please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +44 (0) 20 3130 4770.
Photo: Dan McKay