We’ve all been there. It’s late, you’re tired from a long day, and you’re hungry with no plan for dinner. Do you stop at your local grocer to select whole foods and veggies so you can go home and prepare a nutritious, healthy meal? No. You probably call the local pizza place or whip into a fast food drive-thru. Lack of preparation for a late-night craving, as well as drinking and time spent with friends are culprits found in a recent study on why diets fail.
By having 80 people — mostly female — log their temptations into phone apps for one week, researchers in England found what derails diets. It boils down to temptation and lack of will power:
“The findings help piece together the complex jigsaw surrounding the daily predictions of dietary temptations and help us to better understand how dietary temptations and lapses operate,” the researchers wrote in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
In the week, the participants in the study recorded 898 instances of temptation, which is more than 11 per person. Whoa! Just think about it: You’re going to need all the willpower you can get when that molten chocolate lava cake ends up on your restaurant table with four spoons.
The next time you’re thinking about ordering a margarita or you hear the call of ice cream from your freezer at night, use these tips on how to recognize the trigger and how to avoid it:
The trigger: Alcoholic drinks
How to avoid it: Think about three things before you drink: The proof of the alcohol, the size of the drink and mixers. The higher the proof, the more calories. Order clear, diet mixers (like tonic) whenever possible and get it in a short glass. If it’s a party you’re hosting, then minimize the calories in the drinks you’re offering.
The trigger: Late night cravings
How to avoid it: Go to bed. If you can’t, realize it’s a craving and not hunger, then try to substitute with a healthy option. Craving chocolate? Try a dark variety with 60 percent cacao or more and only have a square or two. Salty? Sunflower seeds or whole grain chips should curb it. Sweet? A piece of fruit like an apple, any berry (straw, blue, or black) or pears are plenty sweet and have fiber that may keep you fuller for longer.
The trigger: Time with friends
How to avoid it: Have a plan. There are going to be fun dinners out and family parties that are packed with temptation. Whenever possible, show up having already eaten at least a little something so you’re not ravenous. Second, choose the restaurant so you know there are some healthy options. And third? Plan for dessert. If you’re going to indulge, cut back on the calories in your meal.