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Diet & Nutrition, Preventive Health, Weight Loss

How To Resist Temptation With Two Little Words

You’ve resolved to stick to your diet. You’re feeling strong. And then…someone offers you a slice of your favourite: sticky-sweet pecan pie. Or a second helping of divine, cheesy, homemade lasagna.

How do you attempt to resist temptation?

If you’re like most people, you put on a pained expression, stick out your hand, shake your head—I can’t, you say. It’s like a physical act of being restrained.

But a new study suggests that those words “I can’t” are setting you up for failure. It’s a signal to yourself that you’re being deprived, being forced against your will, and that there’s some nebulous outside force controlling your actions. What does that set up? Feelings of rebellion. I’ll show you.

It’s human.

So what’s better, instead? To use the words “I don’t”. At least that’s what a recent study showed. Women who were instructed to use the phrase “I don’t” rather than saying “I can’t” were more likely to stick with their diet goals. Why? Because “I don’t” feels more empowering, and shows a sense of determination. Like you’re in charge, and this is what you’ve decided for the good of your own health.

The cool thing is that this is something you can learn to do. It’s a habit, like any other. (Read this, for a primer on how to change self-talk.)

This was a small study, but it’s an interesting line of research. I’m always fascinated by what makes people decide to do the things we do. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing…but something stops us from doing it, right?

As I frequently find myself saying (in fact, it’s part of my manifesto)…you and your body are on the same team.

The words “I don’t” just might help you act like a team.

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About Kim Foster

Dr. Kim Foster is a writer, family doctor, and mom.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “How To Resist Temptation With Two Little Words

  1. Hi Dr Kim, I have been enjoying your heartfelt and passionate blog for a while now. I am a PT and like MD’s we have some minimal formal training in diets and healthy lifestyles. I also am a recovering sugar addict, and every diet I have tried has lead me to failure or disappointing results. Through extensive further study I have concluded that diets don’t work! I don’t even like the word anymore. Lifestyle change is the way to go as I see it. Permanent change of eating habits 80% of the time. Dr Christiane Northrup taught me about that lovely 80/20 rule. As I have been on this journey of releasing weight, I have found that conscious attention to keeping my blood sugar even has given me the best results, though that initial week of getting over carb cravings was the hardest thing. That strong unconscious metabolic pull from deep in my brain seems to be beyond self talk-it is primal need. My saving grace to get me off to a good start has been a high fiber, balanced sugar, fat, fiber and protein “cleanse” for 5 days. It is called Reset and I have felt a significant shift in my metabolism, it really works for me. Do you have other ways of helping people with sugar and carb cravings besides the “I Don’t” line?

    Posted by Michelle Wald PT, LMT | June 5, 2012, 9:07 pm
  2. I could have used these words today because 2 chocolate popsicles later means I totally did not stick with my plan.

    Posted by Kat | June 6, 2012, 4:38 pm

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  1. Pingback: A Sneaky Trick For Dealing With Cravings | savvy health - August 1, 2013

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Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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