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An effective strategy for avoiding food temptation

When The Temptations sang “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” in 1964, they earned their first top-20 hit. That was sweet, seductive music for sure. But the temptations you face from added fats and sweets in your everyday life affect the way you do the things you do, but not in such a positive way.

Anyone who’s struggled to shed pounds or overcome diet-related health issues knows that temptations are everywhere:

>> In the grocery store checkout line you’re surrounded by processed, added-sugar health bombs. (In England they tested eliminating such foods from the checkout aisles and found a 76 percent reduction in “grab and eat” purchases of snack foods!)

>> The TV and internet bombard you with ads for snacks, sweets and treats. In 2012 fast-food restaurants spent $4.6 billion on all advertising, and Happy Meal display ads increased 63 percent to 31 million ads monthly.

>> Social media is relentless, too. In 2012, 6 billion fast-food ads appeared on Facebook alone!

To embrace healthy eating habits, you need a plan to deal with the temptations you face every day. But first, let’s clear away the biggest myth that may be keeping you from making progress.

Willpower alone won’t cut it. No matter how determined, chances are you can’t endlessly tough it out. It’s only natural to crave sugar when you’re tired and to feel captivated by the enticing look or smell of some calorie- and sugar-packed treat. You need a strategy, not an iron will, to resist temptations.

Keep on reading to find out how.


Here’s how to build your strategy for success, which will help you dodge the food temptations you encounter:

>> Take charge of your surroundings: If there’s always junk food at work, make sure you have healthful snacks on hand. You can enjoy them while your co-workers stuff their faces and ding their health. Pack baggies with trail mix, nuts, veggie slices, even 1-ounce chunks of 70 percent dark chocolate. Stash them in your bag, drawers, pockets.

>> Do a pantry/shelf sweep: If you have treacherous temptations on your kitchen shelves, banish them. And if your spouse or partner insists on keeping them in the house, sequester them somewhere you can avoid seeing them. Out of sight, out of mind.

>> Avoid “hunger panic:” If you’ve got a busy day with no time for meals or are on the road a lot, pack lunch, snacks, beverages and even dinner, if needed. Then you won’t have to opt for a brain-killing drive-thru or grab a sugar bomb just to keep going.

>> Talk to your friends and family about your goal: Enlist an Avoid Temptations Buddy — a friend, co-worker or family member who also wants to eliminate food temptations. You can work together by exchanging daily reports on how you’re doing, sharing healthful snacks at work or home, even preparing healthful foods together as co-chefs.

>> Build in rewards: Everyone deserves a healthful treat! Slow-roast strawberries and almonds and stir into nonfat Greek yogurt. Drizzle melted 70 percent cacao dark chocolate over orange slices. Puree mangoes, pineapple and/or papayas, and freeze the juicy goodness for an icy dessert.

>> Forgive if you forget: Don’t beat yourself up for backsliding. So, you gobbled some fries. Try next time to avoid them — choose an apple instead. And if you do give in to your temptations, make an effort to limit your intake. As Dr. Oz says, “It’s not the first two bites that will do you in; it’s the 14th and 15th!”

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to

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