Tackling Temptation: Nothing as tempting as temptation itself

Dec 19, 2023

I’m not sure how I attract, and am attracted to, men who have great metabolisms and can eat pretty much anything they want without gaining weight. I’m not so lucky.

When I lived on my own it was easier to deal with temptation. I could avoid unwanted calories by not having tantalizing food and drink in the house. I didn’t have to see delectable treats when I opened a cupboard or endure the aroma of bacon that I know I shouldn’t eat.

Tempt: to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain — Merriam-Webster Dictionary

It’s interesting that traditionally temptation has been linked to the idea of sin or doing something wrong. Is it really fair to consider having a second piece of pie a transgression?

I think it makes more sense to understand that temptation occurs when you have an incompatibility between something you want and goals that you’ve set for yourself. A bag of Cheezies may taste good but it won’t help you achieve your desire to be slimmer or healthier.

If you’re trying to save enough money for a downpayment, spending cash on something that isn’t absolutely necessary feels off because you know it isn’t moving you towards a chosen goal.

Avoidance is a strategy, but not one that embraces enjoying life to its fullest. It can encourage you to miss out on valuable experiences as you say no to offers of dinners out or catching up over a beverage.

Some people are more prone to cravings than others, but everybody has specific areas of weakness. Temptation is often associated with food, but it can just as easily be time on your phone or other electronic devices or skipping exercise in favour of inactivity.

Humans have a limited amount of self-control, although some people have more than others. You probably know where you sit in that scale. Regardless of how much impulse control you have naturally, one of the best things you can do to battle temptation is to be aware of its existence.

Temptation is intricately intertwined with the brain’s reward system. A rodent study discovered that rats that were more prone to temptation experienced a dopamine spike when presented with the cue for food.

In other words, they received feel-good hormones from the brain when they thought food was on its way. These studies also revealed that rodents that experienced more stress when they were young were more likely to have difficulty with temptation when they were fully grown.

So, if temptation is part of life, what’s the best way to combat it?

• Practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Meditation is one way to do this as it’s been shown to increase mindfulness and help regulate emotions.

• Establish healthy habits. These are instrumental in resisting temptation. Eat regular meals, have an exercise regime, and plan when you’ll spend time on devices.

• Replace “no” with “not now.” Choosing not to indulge at this moment doesn’t mean you’ll never have another opportunity. If you’re desperate for chocolate, have it earlier in the day rather than in the evening.

• Find an accountability partner. Having a buddy to share your struggles, victories, and exercise classes with increases your chances of success.

Managing temptation doesn’t mean relying solely on abstinence or avoidance. Look for moderation rather than an all or nothing approach. Few people have life paths that look like a Roman road. There will be twists and turns and that’s okay.

Giving in to temptation isn’t wrong or sinful. It’s a choice. But you’ll feel better if the majority of your decisions are in alignment with your goals and values.

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