That Foul Friend, Temptation

Each day, I’m inundated with emails and social media notifications of the things I enjoy. Namely: new books, new records and new types of bourbon.

Each new email into my inbox is a veritable Russian roulette in “what can I be tempted by now”?

Every time I hop on social media, it’s a crapshoot of which ad I will be enticed by since many of my online searches might revolve around books, records and bourbon. As a result, those algorithms know exactly what types of things might be of interest to me.

Each day, is a lesson in temptation. Do I buy the shiny new thing to add to an ever-growing collection?

I have “collected” things all my life: from comics to cassettes (yes, I’m THAT old) to CDs and so on and so on. Of course, there simply isn’t enough money to buy it all but that doesn’t stop me from caving in when I get that dopamine hit of “Buy Now” in whatever form it takes.

It’s more insidious than that, though.

Feeling that need to buy the shiny new thing may be due to a sense of scarcity. Are there limited quantities? That makes it more enticing for me. Marketers know this which is why they make use of limited editions and show notifications of “Only 3 left!!”

Buying something new may also come through a sense of entitlement. In other words, I earned/deserved that because I did “such-and-such thing” and this is how I show myself appreciation.

Or, sometimes I’m stressed out about something and retail therapy feels like the only (albeit hollow) solution.

Much of this plays into the notion of F.O.M.O. (a.k.a. Fear of Missing Out). In other words, if I don’t buy that thing now, what if I never get to own it, drink it or consume it?

And, like a lot of things in life, actually experiencing the “thing” is not quite as fulfilling as the reward of simply purchasing it.

When I was younger, this incessant need for the next material thing would supersede my priorities like paying my bills. As I’ve gotten older, that same impulsive behavior is there I just have to be very cognizant of it and remind myself (where possible) of where my priorities are in line with my desires.

There’s more to dive into on a later date about my tendency to succumb to those material temptations and the parallels with my weight loss clients.

For me, it’s those physical gifts that tempt me. For you, it may be food…

If you’re trying to lose weight, think about how scarcity affects you. Do you eat everything in front of you because you have a fear you won’t know when your next meal will be? This happens sometimes for clients of mine who may have experienced some degree of poverty in their childhood. However, these same clients are rarely ever experiencing true scarcity as adults. For those of us raised in the “Clean Plate Club”, perhaps it wasn’t about scarcity but the belief that we had to finish everything on our plate because that’s how our parents raised us.

Think about that sense of entitlement as well. I have clients who succumb to the ice cream, the chips, the treats and the snacks for no other reason than because they “had a hard day” and they “deserved it” or they bargain with themselves by saying “I skipped the fries with lunch so I earned the chocolate after dinner!”

And, sometimes stress is the main culprit for why my clients can’t stay consistent with an eating regimen. When things get tough (as they invariably do), the food plan is the first thing that goes to hell in a handbasket.

A breakdown in dialogue between coaches and clients highlighting these problems might go something like this:

Clients say: I need more willpower.

Coaches say: You need better habits.

One thing I continue to talk about with my clients is the notion of the food environment. If the tasty, easy-to-overeat foods are around, guess who’s going to dive into them when the world gets weird: You are.

By the way, were you living in the domestic U.S. last week when all that madness was happening at the capitol? How’s THAT for weird?

This is why it’s helpful to step back sometimes and ask yourself: How often am I tempted?

Are chips lying on the kitchen counter? That’s temptation.

Did your kid forget to finish his fries and nuggets on his plate? That’s temptation. (One nibble and a couple fries won’t hurt, right?)

Are there any candies leftover from the holiday season that probably should have been thrown away by now and keep lingering in hopes that your willpower will win the war? (Good-effing-luck with that!)

Y’all we are not even 2 weeks in 2021 and I can tell you with all confidence that the weirdness of 2020 isn’t over yet. Willpower, while nice in theory, won’t last. Just ask my bank account.

Shape your environment better. There is absolutely nothing wrong in admitting some things are not easy for you to control right now and if weight loss is your goal, food is the place to set your sights. Are you designed for success or just more temptation?

For myself, when I know that finances need to be on point, I have to push certain emails into my spam folder, unfollow certain pages on social media, and remind myself what the priorities are. I’m not much different than you, I just have different things to be impulsive about.

Temptation is EVERYWHERE.

How will you control it?

(Featured below L to R: Superdrag-Head Trip In Every Key, as great of a power pop album as one could ask to listen to; The Dutch House, a novel by Ann Patchett I just finished reading; and Blanton’s, a good bourbon with a reasonable pricepoint and an absolutely obnoxious secondary market price).

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