A Challenge or a Temptation

Way back in the day, when I was trying Weight Watchers for what seemed like the millionth time, I had a really great leader. Although I don’t remember her name, (probably because I only lasted about three weeks) I do vividly remember one illustration that she used to challenge the attendees.

She held up a Kit Kat bar, a few cookies, and a brownie. We all laughed nervously, maybe because many of us would have liked to eat one or all of them. I know I did.

The brownie was hard as a rock, the cookies appeared very dry, and the Kit Kat bar was a little bit grey.

She explained that these foods were her challenge foods. She had these foods in her house when she had first begun her quest to lose weight, and did not throw them away. Instead, she decided that she was going to put each of the foods in her refrigerator and see if she could not eat them.

Instead of these tempting foods being a temptation that drove her to eat, she decided to use them as a challenge to her willpower. I remember thinking, “Wow, I could never do that. Those treats would be gone before days end.”

As time went by for her, those foods became a symbol of her good choices, and she had kept them in her refrigerator for over a year.

I find this philosophy interesting, especially in the light of one of the challenges on The Biggest Loser, which is called a temptation challenge. The contestants are faced with tempting foods and they have to decide how to handle it.

The Weight Watchers leader won her temptation challenge every single time she looked in her refrigerator and said “no” to herself. She proved to herself that her desire for those particular foods were not stronger than her commitment to getting to a healthy weight. And she won.

What do you think about this technique? Would you find looking at a tempting food day in and day out a challenge meant to be won, or a frustration that causes you to grab whatever the food is and stuff it in your mouth?

For me, I don’t think I could have survived the challenge in the very beginning of my weight loss journey, but as time went on, I could have let those treats sit in the refrigerator and resisted the urge to eat them. (Of course after a while, they would have been inedible anyway, which is a whole separate issue!)

Do you believe that purposefully challenging yourself is a good strategy? Diane

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

29 thoughts on “A Challenge or a Temptation

  1. Susan says:

    I don’t believe in having food that is your weakness in your refrig as a means of testing your willpower. Thats crazy its like a recovering alcholic keeping beer in the refrig! I do believe that sugary foods are addictive they hit our brains just like drugs do and you withdraw from them when you stop using them.
    I lost 40lbs 15 years ago and to this day I don’t keep foods I used to feel addicted to in the house, because I know its asking for trouble. There are isles I don’t go down at the grocery store either for the same reason that would be the junk food isles btw.
    I think we should set our selves up for sucess not failure with healthy foods in our houses.

  2. Miz says:

    Im with susan.

    we will encounter things that challenge (in all facets of life) but Id like to think HOME is a safe place to fall.

  3. Diandra says:

    At least it is better than banning everything that *might* challenge you from the house. The BF is allowed to buy and eat whatever he wants, and we keep a pantry filled with “guest snacks”. It is my decision to raid it or not, and I am doing fine. If I want something sweet or salty, I usually make my own snacks that are low-cal and healthier. But I find that I have learned how to relax around all these temptations.

  4. Anne says:

    Hi Diane,
    I think it’s the same as having tempting foods in your fridge for your family or guests. Believe it or not, I am somewhat of a baker. It started out as a passion of mine and ended up taking orders for cakes and cakepops. I still do it, but on a much smaller scale. I resist the temptation to sample anything merely by visualizing myself at my next Weight Watchers weigh in. The thought of a disappointing weigh in has been enough to keep me on the straight and narrow. So far…..and I continue to pray. Lol. P.S. Love your blog…..in addition to my baking blog, I have started my own little weight-loss-journal-blog as well.

    Anne @ Mylifeintheweightingroom.blogspot.com

  5. Alissa says:

    I have a hard time with wasting food. So while it might be a good challenge in self control, I wouldn’t want to do it because it seems a waste to me. I’m often a little disgusted at the BL challenges- I wonder what they do with all of that food or if they just threw it away. Albeit, it’s unhealthy…but still!

    I also have some foods that I just cannot have in the house. I am all about moderation, but if I have Nutella in the house and I can see it- I eat it. So I don’t allow it in the house anymore. So in conclusiou, I don’t think this method would work for me. But I’m glad it worked for her! πŸ™‚

  6. Julie Lost and Found says:

    I say good for her for being able to resist it. That would not be a great strategy for me. Though we are always faced with “temptations” or “challenges” , for the time being, I have enough of them without setting them up on purpose! πŸ™‚

  7. Lori Lynn says:

    Wow. I really don’t know if I could do that or not. I’d like to say I could, but I think it would come down to how I was feeling at that moment, b/c I’m such an emotional eater.

  8. Bobbie says:

    I am of the belief that you have to learn to be around the trigger foods… Sure you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by having those food staring you in the face all day, but you have to learn to live your life around them as they are everywhere in our society. I think it’s a bit extreme what your WW leader did for her exercise, but if it helped her then to each their own. I just know from personal experience I have had to learn to rethink my relationship with food and hold myself accountable. Having the trigger foods stare me down in the fridge each day wouldn’t necessarily accomplish anything for me.

  9. Emergefit says:

    Absolutely! I call this my Ben and Jerry’s challenge and I ask ALL my weight-loss clients to at least attempt it. I think it’s a great exercise in willpower. People think of exercising soft tissue only in a weight-loss agenda. It’s important, if willpower is going to be improved upon, that willpower get tested.

    Have I seen this aid people? Yes. Most have been indifferent to it. For none though, was it the catalyst to throw them over the top and start gaining again or give up all together.

  10. Pam @ The Meltaways says:

    I think it depends on the person. Some people might get a lot of empowerment from doing this, others it could be the source of an epic fail that could cause more harm than good (look at Susan’s example). I also agree with Bobbie that over time, you need to address your trigger foods and make your peace with them, since you can’t obliterate them, but for someone just starting out? I think its too volatile of an experiment, personally.

  11. Babbalou says:

    This is pretty interesting. Whether this is a positive or a negative might depend on whether you have particular times of the day when you’re vulnerable. Back in my corporate days, there was a “treat cube” close enough to my desk that I could smell the sugar. Most days there was a cake or a pan of brownies there. I trained myself to never ever have a single taste. Otherwise I would obsess about wanting more all day long. I was able to tell myself (and anyone else who asked) that I didn’t eat sugar. I’m not sure I could do this at home, however. I am very lacking in willpower for the first hour after dinner. If there are no treats around, I have a cup of tea and an hour later the desire for treats passes. If there are treats, I struggle. I suppose I could train myself to resist the treats, but there’s really no reason why I need to keep them in the house, so I just don’t.

  12. Meg says:

    I think it’s whatever works for the individual. For me, it’s better to just NOT have that stuff in the house at all. My challenge is going to the grocery store and making healthy choices all around while there. My reward is not only knowing I made good choices, but knowing I didn’t spend money on things that will hurt my success.

    That said, I allow myself dark chocolate every few days. Not a lot, just a little bit, with a hot cup of tea, to savor and enjoy. I don’t have a ton of calories’ worth, but it satisfies my love of chocolate and it doesn’t sabotage my efforts. Even my trainer is fine with this!

  13. Crabby McSlacker says:

    Interesting technique and everyone is different! But given the research on willpower being a limited resource, I’d rather not use some up every time i open the fridge. And I try to keep “treats” out of eyesight whenever possible. Too weak-willed to stare down temptation constantly!

  14. Marie@feedingfive says:

    I do know that I always have chocolate in the house and I always have to eat a little bit every day, I just love it. But it’s a reasonable portion like a tablespoon, not a huge handful. What works best for me is never letting myself get too hungry. Around 2 pm I fill a bowl with fruit and greek yogurt and homemade granola. If I am hungry, all bets are off.

  15. Janis says:

    I’m too much of a curmudgeon. I resent challenges. I tend to do best when I stop thinking about something and keep it at a very low but constant level of consciousness. Sort of a mind-of-no-mind thing. That’s almost all that works for me. STFU and JFDI — making it a big production makes me feel rebellious.

    Also, I have a sneaking fear that any attempt to have a bottle of red wine, say, in my home would just be my snotty little id trying to fake me into having the stuff around. Why have crap around that you don’t need?

  16. Lisa says:

    Interesting concept, totally would not have worked for me. I had to get rid of my trigger foods completely–pizza and ice cream–for two years.

  17. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I think this is an individual thing but at the beginning stages, may not be a good idea for many. As we get past that & are comfortable with our eating plan, some may be able to do it. I have cookie treats in the freezer but they stay there….. BUT I keep some other trigger foods out of the house, still after all these years… Ti each their own as I say! πŸ™‚

  18. Maren says:

    It’s for everyone to decide I think. For me, it wouldn’t have worked. I would rather fit some treats into my plan than think that I will never ever eat them again. That, for me, just builds pressure and leads to me cracking.

  19. E. Jane says:

    I think I could have resisted the sweet snacks for a while, but in a weak moment of emotional stress, boredom, anger, etc., it is very possible that I would eat one or all of them. It has been my experience that a moment of weakness can turn into years of overeating and weight gain. I guess everyone is different. Kudos to her for being able to resist and stay on track.

  20. Maureen says:

    I believe I would need to get to a certain MENTAL point in my weight loss before I could even try something like that. Right off the bat, no way. When I am going through a rough patch? Nope. But at a time where I am happy with my food & fitness decisions? Yup!

  21. Roz@weightingfor50 says:

    This is an interesting challenge. Not sure if it would have worked for me, but hats off to her for finding her motivation. Obviously she is a success story if she’s a W W leader, so yays all around!!! Hope you are having a great weekend Diane.

  22. Taryl says:

    It might not be the wisest idea in the very beginning of one’s weightloss journey, but I agree with others that you have to learn to be around tempting food and still have control over your eating. Especially those of us who bake for children and husbands, or when there’s a household birthday party every month, learning self control around tempting leftovers is hugely important.

    I wouldn’t advise someone do it right away, but for those who have seen five or ten pounds of success on their plan and re getting more confident and used to their way of eating? I think it is a compelling idea.

  23. cookie says:

    I do have problems with treats in the house. If it is there, I will eat it. I have failed multiple times with trying to have some and not eating it all at once. That week where I decided – and announced – not to eat chocolate for a week, I actually managed not to eat that chocolate dessert that was sitting in my fridge. I was proud, but I don’t think it will work in the long run, so I’ll probably keep trying not to buy too much of it.

  24. Myra says:

    I think that it can be very empowering to resist what tempts you. Maybe not at first, but somewhere along the weight loss/ maintaining journey. After all, challenging foods will always be around. It will always be challenging. How we respond to all of our challenges is how life is.

  25. Richie says:

    I really don’t believe on the idea that they can serve as a challenge. It will just torment and tempt the person losing weight.

    I also read somewhere that people trying to lose weight have lesser impulse control (because it was already focused on the weight loss) so using those challenge food might become counterproductive.

  26. Caron says:

    It probably would not work for me but we’re all so different. I will say that when my husband quit smoking, he kept a carton of cigarettes on top of the refrigerator for many months. He said it helped to know they were there and he could have one if he wanted one. That was 32 years ago. We did not keep them after he was convinced he could really quit “this time.”

  27. Holly Rose says:

    I think it depends on the person. For me, that would be like an alcoholic keeping a case of beer in the refrigerator as a temptation challenge. More than likely they’d end up off the wagon. I find I have a much better chance if I do not have those things around me. I used to feel bad about not being able to keep any of this junk food in the house because it meant that my kids couldn’t have it either. Then I realized…they don’t need it! It’s not like it’s good for them! lol…

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