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When you find yourself straying from your diet plan, learn to draw on your inner strengths to keep you on track.
It’s no wonder that so many dieters find it hard to stick with their plans. “If I never went anywhere, or saw anybody, it would be so much easier,” a patient told me recently. “It’s really hard to stick to my diet when there’s so much pressure to eat—and overeat,” he said.
Having to fight the urge to eat is a common complaint among struggling dieters. It isn’t so much the internal pressure of gnawing hunger, it’s the outside pressures to eat that can be their undoing.
When outside pressures beckon, it helps to understand what those pressures are, and how you can draw upon your inner strengths to push back. As with any other “strength training” exercises, you’ll slowly build the power to take charge of your food choices, stick with your diet plan and set yourself on the road to success.
…and how to push back.
Outside force #1: Tempting foods everywhere. The ever-present availability of tempting food is one of the strongest forces pressuring us to eat. Everywhere you go it seems there’s food, even where you’d least expect it. My dry cleaner has a tray of cookies on the counter, my bank offers coffee and mini donuts and my pharmacy has a basket of free candy on the counter. I don’t want or need any of that stuff, but I can see how easy it would be to mindlessly pick up those extra calories. Just because they’re there.
Use your inner strength to push back. When you run into food in unexpected places, remind yourself why you went there in the first place. You went to the bank to make a deposit, not because you were looking for a snack. When you come upon food unexpectedly, ask yourself these questions: Am I hungry? If I hadn’t seen this food, would I have thought about eating it? Would I walk a block in order to get it? Taking a moment to consider the temptation should stop you from giving in.
Outside force #2: Pressure from family and friends. Social situations put a lot of pressure on us to eat. When you eat out with a group, there’s pressure to “go with the flow” and eat the way everyone else does, even if that doesn’t fit in with your plan. Meeting friends for drinks means not only the pressure to drink but also to indulge in high-calorie bar food. With family, you might feel pressure to “show you care” by eating more than you intended.
Use your inner strength to push back. When you know you’ll be in social situations that might pose a problem, take a moment to remind yourself that you’re in charge of what goes into your body. Reflect on your eating plan, and decide ahead of time how to make the social situation work for you. You can show your strength when you dine out with others by ordering first, and determine your drink and snack limit before happy hour starts. With pushy family members let them know that the food is delicious, but gently remind them that you’re watching your calories.
Outside force #3: Pressure of everyday life leads to emotional eating. Our lives are busy and stressful and can stir up emotions and bad feelings that may lead us to eat when we hadn’t intended to. We may turn to comfort foods when we feel stressed or anxious, or use treats as entertainment when we’re bored.
Use your inner strength to push back. Many people use food as a way to distract themselves from experiencing an unpleasant emotion. But the pleasure is usually momentary, and is often followed by another unpleasant emotion—guilt. Instead of turning to food, take a few moments to turn your focus inward. Sit quietly, close your eyes and focus on your breathing, keeping it slow and steady. By calling upon your inner strength this way, you can learn to simply experience the emotion without any judgment and let it go. Just a few quiet moments can be enough to stop you from acting on impulse and eating something that you might regret.