It’s a fact of life that unless we live in a monastery on a mountain, we’re all faced with food temptations, all around us. And in the face of those temptations, it can feel like we have no self-control, and that can be discouraging.

So what’s going on and how can we deal with this? Let’s talk about these issues, and how we can find new joys in the middle of this process.

What’s Going On?

Delicious pastries, donuts, ice cream, chocolates, french fries, chips, cookies, fried stuff … they’re all filled with “food reward,” which is a property in food that basically tells our brains to go into eating mode. Fats, sugars, fried stuff, salty things, refined carbohydrates combined with frying and salty or sweet tastes … these are all high reward. But things that are visually appealing, smell good, have a lot of variety … these also are high in food reward.

So these are the temptations … our brains kick into eat mode, send out hormones to make us hungry and our mouths salivate, and the self-control parts of our brains shut off.

At the same time, our lack of self-control can come from years of habitual conditioning … reaching for these temptations when we’re feeling stress or tired or bored or lonely. It’s hard to break years of conditioning like this, so there will be lots of failures if you’re trying to change.

How Do We Deal with This?

So what’s the best approach? How do we develop self-control?

The truth is, there’s no easy answer.

So, I’m going to give you some ideas to explore. Yes, this is a cop-out, because I’m not just giving you one answer, but the truth is that every person is different when it comes to this, and the only way to figure out what works for you will be to experiment.

Here are some ideas to test for yourself:

Can We Find Joy in This New Mode?

If you read those tips in the section above, it can seem like a lot of hard work and deprivation. Yikes! Who wants to do all of that?

Well, first, you don’t have to do all of those all the time. This isn’t a course in extreme self-restriction. Those tips are about learning techniques that might help you over the long term. So try them out when you feel up to them, but don’t kill yourself over this.

But more importantly, there are other modes of being than only 1) complete indulgence and 2) deprivation. What are they?

Here are two to play with:

  1. The joy of exploration and discovery. This isn’t only about controlling yourself to not eat too many unhealthy foods … it’s about discovering a healthier way of living. It’s about exploring new, interesting, healthy foods. It’s about learning to let go of your urges and be mindful of what your body really needs. It’s about learning how to be a different version of you, shedding your old skin and putting on a new identity. See the joy in this discovery, this exploration of self and health. There’s new territory to be covered here, and that can be amazing.
  2. The joy of equanimity. See that you can sit mindfully with love for everything around you. You can walk through a party with equanimity, dwelling in this joyful state as others eat pastries. You can open your heart with love to everything in your home, everything in your office, yourself included, your urges and weaknesses included, your guilt and tiredness included, and say yes to it all. With love.


For the next few days, explore the tips above, journaling about them and discussing them in Slack. What works for you? Can you find joys in equanimity, discovery and exploration?