I don’t know about you but when I see a piece of pie, cookie, or candy I feel drawn to it like a magnet. I crave it. Once I found out I missed out on donuts at work and literally felt sad and like I missed out, which I found disturbing. So I’m addicted to sugar. I can pass by chips and sometimes cheese and crackers, but dessert – Never! This bothered me and I wanted to change it. I didn’t want this vice.
If I can overcome temptation with food by being disciplined then I can be more disciplined in overcoming spiritual temptations as well. I can create better spiritual habits as well. If I give into the small things like chocolate or cookies so easily then how will I resist stronger temptations from the devil?
Here’s where I started my battle with temptations…
First Steps to Avoiding Food Temptations:
- Don’t have it in the house. Something I’m sure all of us have heard, but it’s one of my best weapons against temptation. If I don’t see it, I don’t crave it. Except I can make it…so the hard part was not cooking, baking, or researching desserts. If I do make a dessert, I give away the extras so I no longer have it in the house.
- Set limits. Mine was desserts once a week on the weekends. This way I still got to experiment with new recipes but didn’t get in the habit of associating the weekday evenings with desserts. Then I didn’t deprive my sweet tooth.
- Don’t look! At the church buffet I avoided looking at the foods so I wouldn’t start a craving and only took one dessert of the three usually offered.
These helped but I needed more. This was a problem. It frustrated me I couldn’t say no, plus a dessert could be a whole meal’s worth of extra calories easily. Multiple this over days, and weeks and you’ve gain some pounds which are harder to work off. Just telling myself I have to work extra hard if I eat that chocolate doesn’t help me. Telling myself I’ll just eat one doesn’t happen. So what do I do?
Then I read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It was enlightening, full of concrete examples and research about how habits form, how to change them, and create better ones. I highly recommend the book because it was sensible and easy to implement. Right away I analyzed why I ate desserts and came up with 5 ways to avoid my vice.
The book states that once you start craving something nothing will satisfy it; you need the reward, the feeling/sensation you’re seeking and it can impact your mood negatively when you don’t get it. So the author talks about how to curb the craving in the first place. You have to figure out the root of the problem in order to change the action. To read more check out this video and article.
Steps to Retrain Your Brain to Change Your Behavior:
- Isolate the craving. Take 15 minutes to figure out the cause. Why am I craving sweets right now? Sometimes I crave sugar, while other times I crave because of an experience associated with a food like pizza and soda.
- What is your routine that goes with your craving? For me I associated desserts with relaxing with my husband, watching a movie and drinking tea at night. So as long as we had our routine I often thought of desserts.
- What is your reward? Sweetness! If I started thinking about a specific dessert I started craving and couldn’t let it go. Then I’m disappointed if I don’t get it and I’m a woman on a mission to make a dessert.
- Change the rewards. So I could change the routine with my husband so I that I no longer associate evenings with desserts but that would affect our time together. So instead I change the reward. Find substitutions: I substitute healthy sweets when I have the craving; this will satisfy the need without a lot of calories. A small smoothie, dried fruit, fruit leather, cottage cheese and fruit, or a half a piece of fruit are substitutes I can feel good about. Sometimes we want a little something more. For ideas on substitutions I love vegan blogs like Oh She Glows, Chocolate Covered Katie, Fat Free Vegan and Maple Spice because I can eat their desserts and not feel guilty. All of them but Chocolate Covered Katie (which is mainly sweets) have healthy alternatives for other meals as well.
4. Split it with someone. If you’re out or at a gathering and find the temptation too much this can be a good strategy. My husband and I started doing this at church coffee hour with the desserts. If there were 2 different types of cookies we would each take 1 cookie and split them. Then we could have a bite of each flavor. This way you got a taste, which is what I wanted, but without all the calories of a whole cookie. We did this with veggie burger recently too; so it’s a versatile strategy.
5. Ask for help and pray. – My husband and I became a team when it came to food temptations. When we craved things (often dessert) we would suggest a healthier alternative or a later date so it could be a treat. Having a support system to keep you in check and remind you of the strategies above helps. I also started praying for God to help me be more disciplined, especially before times I knew I’d be tempted, and I’ve found it’s helped. I feel like a crave sweets much less now.
I don’t have to give in. I can change. You can too.
May you find the roots of your own cravings and successfully avoid temptations.