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How to tackle temptation

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Our brain is smart, but smart in its own, very short-term, way. Your brain will always try to protect you from threats like hunger, famine, tiredness and directly dangerous situations. At the same time our brain is always trying to reward us for things crucial to our species survival. Our defense mechanisms are basically the same now as for over tens of thousands of years ago. A clear reward now will always attract us more than a diffuse consequence in a distant future. But if we always choose the fast reward it can lead us in the wrong direction.

One way to become aware of the choices you make, which of course is a prerequisite of ever being able to change the behavior, is to analyze the situations where you often fall for temptation. Within cognitive behavioral therapy you often use a model call SORC. A model such as this one can help you understand if you want to change your behavior or not. In this case we will use training as an example but you can of course fill in your own examples. Maybe it’s resisting the tasty buns at a coffee break or that extra glass of wine for dinner.


S: Stimuli.
I can see my training clothes packed in my bag and I should go and train now. 


O: Organism.
I feel tired and cold. The resistance to grabbing the bag and going is really great. The thought "I'll train tomorrow, it suits me better" starts to take form. 


R: Response. 
I put my gym bag in the closet again and sit down in the sofa and start surfing on my mobile instead. 


C: Short term consequence. 
I enjoy sitting in the sofa with my mobile. I managed to fight off that nagging feeling 


C: Long term consequence.
I avoided the hard workout but feel kind of bad after a while. It feels like a failure as i didn't go training even though i had decided to and also, I feel bad as I can't run up the stairs at the station without being out of breath. 

A specific temptation that is extra hard to resist:

  • specific temptation that is extra hard to resist;

  • Stop and think about it. Do I really want that cookie or is it about something else? Am I really hungry, tired, restless or do I want to reward myself? Make a list of things you can rewards yourself with instead that isn't connected to your temptation. 

  • Be a little rigid and healthy. Stick to your goals and remember that nothing is destroyed if you deviate from the plan now and then. Sometimes, eat the cake at the party if you want to, but make sure you are in charge of how many pieces you eat and dare to say no if you don't want any at all. 

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About the authors Jessica & Maria

Challengize health tips are written for us by Jessica Norrbom and Maria Ahlsén, both with PHDs in medicine. Since 2013 they run their own business Fortasana working mainly with diet, training and health from a scientific perspective. Maria and Jessica have written several books and regularly lecture focusing mainly on popular health myths and explain what is actually true from a scientific perspective when it comes to diets, trends and newspaper headlines.

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