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Raiding the Fridge

Why are some foods more appealing late in the day? Self control or managing small temptations all day long don’t seem to be such a problem. Yes, you are busier, engaging in activities, making decisions and otherwise occupied. In fact, the typical person makes approximately 200 food related decisions in the course of a day. However, according to author Dan Ariely, “This is a well known phenomenon known as depletion. All day long we face small temptations and do our best  to resist them…We maintain control over ourselves, but our ability to resist urges is like a muscle: The more we use it, the more tired we become, until at night, it just becomes too weak to stop us.” So, out comes the ice cream or chips that you would not give a second look at earlier. What’s the alternative? Go to bed earlier? One way to overcome the problem is to keep all tempting things out of your house. Out of sight is also out of mind unless you are willing to go to extremes to satisfy a momentary lapse and find an open grocery store.

However, another perspective is that these are learned behaviors. Reaching for the cheese curls over the bicep curls may be a habit more tied to your environment than you think.  According to author/psychologist Jeremy Dean, if you eat enough chips on the couch, you will automatically associate couch time with chip time. “We see major shifts in behavior when people move to a new house.” It’s easier to change our habits in a new setting.  You don’t have to relocate to start fresh, but you do need to be aware of the cues that point you to a pint of ice cream and replace that with a healthier alternative. So, change it up. Sit in another room, limit your TV time or turn it off completely.

 Awareness of the associations and links to automatic behaviors is the first step in creating change. Add a new behavior like an evening walk or a phone call to a friend. The benefit is two-fold; you have added activities that can improve your physical and psychological well being in a relatively “pain free” and low cost manner with options limited only by your imagination.    


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