What Makes You Vulnerable to Temptation When Dieting?

temptations dieting

Every person is different and every dieter has his or her own unique struggles; however, there are certain situations that make almost everyone vulnerable to temptation when dieting.

A study recently published in the Annals of Behavioral medicine studied 80 people who were already trying to lose weight. They asked them to use an app on their phone to record times when they were tempted to cheat on their diet and record how they handled the temptations. Although it is a small study, the results were about what I would have guessed.

Here are the four times/situations that tempted the dieters the most:

1. When it was late at night.

2. When they were tired.

3. When there was alcohol present.

4. When friends were present.

It’s an interesting list isn’t it? Although it would be wonderful if we could just diet without life’s stresses, without tempting social situations, without feeling tired, and never being tempted by alcohol, the truth is that we have to diet during our regular life. Most of us can’t go to a spa and lose weight and come back all fit and healthy.

Each of these four common situations made it difficult for the study participants to stick to their diets and about 50 percent of the time when faced with temptations, they gave in and ate foods not on their diet plans.


I don’t drink alcohol so I can’t speak to the presence of alcohol being a factor in going off my diet, but I can certainly relate to the other three. I’ve written about the influence of other people in dieting before, and I promise you, if I was already on the fence about eating right for a particular meal, the presence of overweight friends influenced my behavior.

Lack of Sleep

I also fell into poor dieting behaviors when I was tired and not getting enough sleep. The lack of sleep affects more than just how sleepy you are. It also affects hormones that control hunger and appetite. If I started the day off tired, I had much less willpower than I did when I began the day (or week) feeling reasonably rested. I still find that to be true.

Late Night Binges

Late night eating is almost always dangerous for people trying to lose weight. Of course there are exceptions and planned snacks are fine, but hanging out with friends who are eating pizza is never good when you are trying to lose weight. Another challenge late at night is if you are alone and bored. That’s when I would break out the ice cream or whip up some biscuits for myself.

The Influence of Friends

Having friends around for me could go either way. With my very good friends I ate like there was no tomorrow, but when I was in a large group or with people I didn’t know well, I ate like a bird. Just be mindful of what you tend to do when you are around friends. On a related note, Here’s an article I wrote for HealthyWay.com on habits that are slowing down your weight loss.

The good news is that none of these situations have to mean the end of your diet. You can learn to control nighttime eating, practice staying on track when eating with friends, not allowing alcohol to influence your eating patterns, and work on getting enough sleep.

In the end it is all about lifestyle changes. You can temporarily resist all temptations, but real life dieting means successfully losing weight through tempting times, through easy times, and through those times when you are feeling stressed. After all, life is not stress free and you’ve got to learn how to live healthy even when life is hard.

What do you find tempting and how do you stick to your diet in those times? Diane

Images courtesy of FreeDigital Photos.net by StockImages

12 thoughts on “What Makes You Vulnerable to Temptation When Dieting?

  1. Carla says:

    for me it was definitely the sleep.
    little sleep = defenses down and inability to tap into mindful eating!

  2. Kyra says:

    For me, I have problems with exhaustion being a temptation. Definitely.

    But also ambivalence or anxiety over self-worth… which sounds more serious than I mean it. I’m talking more about there is something important that I need to do, that I’m worried I won’t do right, I have to get right, and if I’m all by myself I want to eat something to fortify myself before I face it. I think that’s the biggest hurdle for me out of anything. AND the most annoying! 🙂

  3. Scott says:

    Grief has been a trigger lately for me… If I am not attentive to my feelings I’ll try to block them or avoid them with food, always a lose/lose situation.

    Remembering the deaths of my sisters is not calmed by the distraction of eating.

    Staying aware of my feelings, talking to my wife, friends, and family is a healthier outlet.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    This is an easy one, I always give into cravings late at night when I am exhausted. I think if I eat this I might get another shot of energy to do something else that needs to be done. However, it usually just makes me feel bad about myself and just go one to bed at that point. Exhaustion equals poor choices.

  5. L says:

    For me, temptation comes when I smell the aroma of old favorite foods baking in the oven at someone else’s house (I don’t do that to myself), or in that time between lunch and supper, when I am preparing the final day’s meal. I’m ravenous then, so I have to be doubly aware of what I’m doing with all that food that is passing through my hands on the way to the skillet, oven, or table. This time of day is for sure a temptation for me.

  6. Martha G says:

    The one that resonates with me is alcohol. Typically I don’t drink during the week and moderate on the weekend. But when I over do it on the alcohol I invariably eat more. Now that I’m maintaining I can work that into the week’s worth of calories.

    One thing that I found and find the hardest to manage is when I get so busy I can’t plan my meals and shop for the food that I need.

  7. Janis says:

    Interesting that the first three things are all things that interfere with the frontal lobes, where the brain’s judgment and impulse control tends to reside. Lack of sleep and booze all interfere with it.

  8. Sheetal@mefatfree says:

    The biggest temptations for me are chips… late night chip eating! Ugg! I hate it, I try and limit it, have tried to cut it out, but then I binge twice as much later, so a handful is helping for now!

  9. Bea says:

    When I am reading or watching t.v. and food is mentioned I immediately want that food. Makes for some very funny eating in a long night of television watching. I also want food as a reward and feel hard done by if my food plan (or my brain) says I shouldn’t have it. I am a creature of “routes” and if I am forced into chaos I eat in protest. I have stared chewing gum when I am tempted to vere off course. Seems to be working except I think I am getting lockjaw….

  10. Katie says:

    Sometimes I can control myself when faced with lets say a package of cookies. Other times it is impossible. I can easily eat nearly half a package at one sitting. Tastes good going down. BUT, it really hurts what I am trying to do to get fit. A lot of it is stress eating. I am stressed so I eat more to somehow ease the stress. Frustrating 🙁

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