If you live with anyone, work with anyone, or occasionally venture out into public, then you are living with temptation. I don’t like to think of a paleo diet in terms of restrictions, even as someone who has to follow the autoimmune protocol (which further eliminates eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshades). I like to focus more on all the amazingly delicious healthy foods that I do get to eat! But, when my kids are eating a slice of yeast-based paleo bread slathered in grass-fed butter fresh out of the bread machine, or my husband is enjoying scrambled eggs or a bowl of trail mix, or I walk past the bakery counter in Whole Foods, or go to a birthday party with my kids, or sit at a table at the zoo with a packed picnic lunch instead of a purchased one, or walk past the ice cream parlor on my way into the pet store, or go to a potluck and only eat what I brought and the green salad that someone else brought, or find myself in any situation where someone around me is eating something that I used to enjoy but now refuse to eat due to grain, legume and/or dairy content, I can feel deprived, restricted, and frustrated. It would just be easier if the world wasn’t so full of yummy foods that make me sick.
Living with temptation obviously applies to people trying to follow a paleo diet in a household where the other members aren’t convinced yet. It also applies to people who live in a household that is 100% paleo but who have allergies, food sensitivities, or carbohydrate restrictions that don’t apply to the whole family. This constant exposure to temptation requires anticipation, preparation, and a large amount of discipline to overcome. Being able to predict which foods will be tempting when you are in which moods and at what time of day (and for women, at what time of month) is very useful in avoiding those foods. I make sure to keep indulgences just for me in the house so that if the rest of the family is enjoying a paleo treat, I can have one too (just one that is low sugar and doesn’t include nuts or eggs, like some extra dark chocolate, coconut chips, macadamia nuts, or fresh berries). As the sole cook in my house, I also mitigate these temptations by making less of them and making more things that I can participate in. Instead of making cookies, I make fruit sorbet. Instead of making granola bars with mini chocolate chips (which I find hard to resist), I make them with raisins and dried cranberries (which my husband still likes, but I find much less tempting). If I make sweet potatoes for the family, I also make beets (which are probably my all-time favorite vegetable, tied with artichoke and kale; yeah, I’m weird). If I make sweetened coconut cream for the kids to enjoy on some fruit, I reserve some unsweetened for myself. And the other, big big big trick I have, is to make sure I get enough sleep! If I am tired, I am way more likely to give in.
But what about temptations out of the home?. Food is pervasive in our society. Perhaps it’s a meeting at work catered with coffee and Danishes. Perhaps it’s a holiday potluck or a Superbowl party. Perhaps it’s a wedding, a special dinner to celebrate an anniversary, a family member’s birthday party, or even a funeral. Perhaps it’s simply wandering past the hot deli at your local grocery store when you’re tired and hungry. Perhaps you are traveling and paleo options take much more effort to find. The best protection you have against these types of temptations is planning ahead and trying to anticipate them as much as possible. This is when keeping a bag of nuts or a bar of dark chocolate in your purse or your car is a good idea. This is also when reminding yourself about the benefits of Intermittent Fasting is useful (I will talk about this in a future post).
I’m not sure which is harder, the predictable but constant daily temptation in my home or the less frequent temptation that completely blindsides me. I wish I could claim to be impervious to the temptation of foods I know I shouldn’t eat. But I am not. I wish I could even claim to successful avoid them most of the time. I can’t. Gluten is easy for me to avoid because I know it will make me violently ill for weeks, so I am 100% there. But other nefarious substances are harder for me to avoid. I only have a 30% success rate in avoiding popcorn at the movie theater (fortunately for me, I only go to about 4 movies a year). I probably have a 75% success rate with paleo foods that I don’t tolerate, like eggs, nuts, and paleo baking, but given that these foods are a constant temptation in my home and there is an actual need for me to taste things before posting the recipes on the blog, this means that I am giving in at least once or twice per week (although I am successful in keeping the amount to a minimum when I do give in). But, I have to tell you something very important: I am improving. I am much better at abstaining from foods now than I used to be (not that long ago, I was eating much larger quantities of nuts and eggs much more frequently, all the while knowing I shouldn’t). It helps that as I feel better and better, I feel worse and worse when I do give in, which helps me remember for the next time.
So what can you do? Avoid circumstances where you will experience temptation if you can. And when you can’t avoid temptation, acknowledge it. Be honest with yourself. But also remind yourself of what you already know: your life is better and healthier without that food. You are strong enough not to eat it. You can do it. And if you do give in, forgive yourself. Move on. Don’t let it derail your overall efforts. Fight to make sure it’s an isolated occurrence. Figure out how to prevent yourself from giving in next time. We are all works in progress and living with temptation is no mean feat.