A reader recently asked me how she could overcome her constant desire for sweets. It’s a good question, since it’s a struggle that many of us have tried to defeat. The way that I see it is that we can’t control the things we desire, until our hearts have been changed. Fortunately they naturally change over time so that many of the things we once enjoyed aren’t so appealing anymore, but there are some things that we develop a passion for that never seem to go away, no matter how old we get.
Take chocolate for instance. Some of us developed a weakness for chocolate in our teens and it’s plagued us ever since. For others, like me, it’s potato chips. I just can’t seem to get enough salt. I figured that by the age of 43 this chip phase would be gone, but nope—it still rears its ugly head every time the TV goes on–or when it’s off for that matter.
So how do we separate ourselves from these passions? That question would be similar to one asking “How do I run a marathon?” The answer is simple—a sensible training program will get you there. Sure you can run without training, but all you’ll manage to get is a sprint. In order to complete in a marathon, athletes must train for months or years.
In dieting, the sprint is otherwise known as the “Yo-Yo Diet.” You start off at a great pace, but soon find out that you aren’t equipped for the long run. You can barely make a mile, never mind 26.2. A few months or a year down the road, you start again with the same uncontrolled enthusiasm you had before, and once again you lose steam. If you want to achieve long term success, you must train yourself as an athlete trains for a race—no pain no gain.
Dr. Joyce Beck, author of The Complete Beck Diet for Life, often writes about strengthening our resistance muscle, which she defines as, “a psychological muscle that is strengthened by resisting the urge to eat unplanned food.” She also says, “Life becomes so much easier when your resistance muscle is strong.” If you’re looking to find motivation and change the way you think about food, Dr. Beck’s books, The Complete Beck Diet for Life and The Beck Diet Solution are a great read.
Ways to strengthen our resistance may include:
- Passing on the junk food in the grocery store
- Making a healthy choice when eating out
- Passing on the goodies at group meetings
- Taking one trip to a buffet instead of two or more
- Eating until we’re comfortable rather than stuffed
- Limiting treats to once or twice a week, rather than daily
Our resistance is quite weak on the first three days of a new diet plan. If we can just get past the first three days, things usually seem to get a bit easier. Again if we get past the first three weeks, we start to see the muscle is strengthened and working for us.
Does this sound like a foreign concept? Compare Hebrews 12:11-12:
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
–Hebrews 12:11-12, The Message
So, the answer to the question, “how could one overcome a constant desire for sweets?” is resistance training. No, it isn’t easy at first, but it does get easier the more we train ourselves to say “no.”
Saying “no” should never include a pacifier. If you’ve had enough sweets, then don’t fall into the trap that so many dieters do of purchasing low cal alternatives to squeeze a little more in. A few years back, just after I took off 40 pounds, and had maintained for a while, I decided that indulging in low-cal gelatin would be a great afternoon treat. What could it hurt?
I started to get my gelatin ready the night before (cherry is my favorite), then enjoy a large bowlful the next day, in the heat of the afternoon sun. It was working for me, until I tired of the same old afternoon treat, and started rummaging through the cupboards for something better. Pretty soon ice cream and I were bathing together in the hot summer sun, day after day.
Had I just stuck with the plan, which didn’t include an afternoon treat every day, I wouldn’t have had another bad habit to kick. A better idea would have been to plan for an occasional treat.
Imagine how our children would be if every time they cried for a cookie we handed them something sweet. Teaching our children to know when they’ve had enough is an important part of their training. It’s also a part of ours.
Learn to train yourself to eat enough, to make the best choices, and to stick to the plan. That’s how you’ll win this race!
Be strong, ladies. And until next month, Live Well!
©2009, Darlene Schacht
Find more articles on faith focussed weight loss in Darlene’s monthly column, “Live Well!”