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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 06, 2014

How to Say “No” to Yourself

By Mark Sisson
133 Comments

Yes, No, Try Again?It’s opening day at the ballpark. You’ve been waiting for this for many long, cold months. Some of your favorite people are with you. It’s a beautiful day. You’re off work. Life is good. You ate before you came because, having decided to go Primal, you know to prep yourself. That said, a few innings into the game the beer is looking good and your tap water – not so much. “Surely, one can’t do that much damage,” you think. “It’s the season opener, for Pete’s sake.” Two more innings later, you’re hungry. You’re caught up in the fanfare. You’re mildly jealous of the friends around you and their “devil-may-care” eating habits. You watch the vendors making their way around the sections. You conjure up the concession stand menu in your mind as you remember it from last year (or a few years before). The inner negotiation begins. Which is the least of all evils? (And what’s coming around the soonest?) You settle on a hot dog because you don’t feel like getting up and missing any of the game. Five bucks later you’re settling in with your snack, even pushing the envelope on how much of the bun you’re going to eat. A few minutes later it’s all gone except for the tell-tale smear of mustard on your lip. Though your team eventually won the day, you’re not faring as well. Your stomach turns funky that evening. You feel that old familiar bloating. Even the next day you admit you’re in recovery mode. You realize then, you’re going to need a better “no” plan next time.

Ah, the Nancy Reagan line made famous – just say no. It sounded so simple in the 80s, and even today we find ourselves wanting to believe in the easy button mantra for all our big, bad temptations. It should somehow be enough, we think – through sheer willpower or at least rational intellect – to deny ourselves what’s clearly not in our best interest. Too bad the human brain has such a capacity for irrationality, particularly when set in a modern environment rife with all manner of unhealthy lures – versions of what, in a twisted way, resembles what might have been adaptable long ago in prehistory.

Think about when you find yourself wanting or choosing to say no to something non-Primal – the foods and behaviors that seem fun and no-big-deal at the time but always come back to bite you in the you know what. Maybe it’s not the season opener but partying or work events that get you going down that road. Maybe it’s loading up on typical carb-based food when you take clients to lunch or eat at your Aunt Selma’s for dinner. Maybe it’s staying up late on the weekends or “indulging” in crappy roadside food when you’re traveling. Maybe it’s bowing to social pressure during the weekly card game or just bowing to old self-sabotage when you’re having a crappy day and want to remember your old “rewards.” And how many times have we all made the same mistake with the same consequences? How many bouts of bloating, itchiness or upset stomach will it take? How many hangovers (bread- or beer-induced)? How much grogginess, crankiness, and lethargy? How much weight gain (or regain) will we put ourselves through? Speaking of bad choices, it reminds me of that old Tootsie pop commercial – how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? (You decide what’s at the metaphorical center here.) The point is, how long will it take before we stop catering to our present selves’ desires at the cost of our future selves’ health and well-being?

Whatever the case, at some point it comes down to the question of how. How do you identify and then catch yourself in the pattern? How do you gather the fortitude to make a different choice? Finally, how do you reinforce the behavior and make it solid habit?

Identifying the problem

You’ve undoubtedly seen photos of drunk or passed out (drunk) people whose “friends” captured the often unflattering moments for posterity. Sure, some are funny. Others could be cautionary tales in and of themselves. (Make sure there are no Sharpies in the house before passing out.) As ridiculous as these antics can be, there’s something undoubtedly clear about a lasting visual. One of the games we play with ourselves in these scenarios is telling ourselves in a weak moment that last time really wasn’t as bad as it was. We sugarcoat the past memory to serve our present hankering. Maybe some of us need an unbecoming image to remember genuine reality. Maybe it’s a selfie of yourself collapsed on the couch after some fast food. Maybe it’s a photo of the handwritten sign you put over your toilet, noting you really don’t enjoy spending the better part of an afternoon there and that cheese pizza wasn’t worth it. Maybe it’s what your stomach looks like after you eat wheat. Most of us know what does us in (and, if you don’t, some self-experimentation can easily get you there). The real problem is remembering it’s the problem. One strategically unsavory visual can be an exceedingly effective reminder.

Catching yourself in said problem pattern

Oh, more mental games… Here, I think, we tend to selectively simplify a problem and dismiss its varied permutations. If we’re a moth to dairy’s flame (those of us who just can’t go there without major physical malfunction), we need to get specific about what we need to say no to – ahead of time preferably. Sit down one afternoon (maybe this one), and write out all the ways and times dairy (or whatever yours is) has done you in. Yes, milk, cheese, yogurt, butter. But other stuff too. Not checking the label on protein shakes. Asking a host or server for the recipe when you’re in doubt. Forgetting to say no cream in your coffee. Eating anything your mother makes. If something particular registers as a problem in your intellect but tends to squeeze by the rationalization center of the brain, put it at the top of the list. Especially if you have strong sensitivities or really want to make a hard and fast commitment to Primal living for optimum success (highly recommended), make this script second nature. Mentally consult it before saying yes to anything.

Saying no in the moment

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. You can do all the mental and logistical prep in the world, but you’ll still have a million moments in which you can go either way. It doesn’t matter that you ate before. It doesn’t matter than you have two full baggies of your favorite jerky staying cool and fresh in your mini-fridge under your desk. It doesn’t matter that you got your work done by 5:00 for once to avoid staying up late again. You’ll still face the pattern head on – whether it looks like fancy leftovers from the Board meeting now sitting in the break room or the Breaking Bad final season that just arrived via Netflix that day and is wooing you to stay up into the wee hours.

When we’re feeling lured into decisions we know will have negative consequences, we tend to purposefully isolate ourselves in our own swirling head case. The tempted part doesn’t want outside input. That’s exactly the time, however, to rely on someone else’s good judgment. Maybe you have a good Primal friend – or someone who is close enough that you can text him/her, and it won’t seem bizarre. Maybe you employ a trainer or personal coach who takes these kinds of messages. Even if the person is unavailable to call/text back, getting your thinking out of your head and into the light of day alone can give perspective. Alternatively, you could log on and send a message on the forum. Too many think in those moments if they only read some information that it will do the trick in convincing them. My experience is those moments are too late for that brand of intellectualizing. Reach out instead.

Do you have those aforementioned unappealing photos on your phone? (This is a good idea btw – making them mobile.) Again, this is a tactic that doesn’t require mental gymnastics and will evoke a basic emotional response. (Remember, the more dramatic the picture, the better.)

While this might require a bit of patience, think of your choice in that moment as a game show. Maybe it’s the Price is Right. Put your current option in the context of that narrative. Do you really want to spin the wheel (insert offending food/beverage/behavior) again and go over rather than quit while you’re ahead of the game? You’re in the eternal conflict of the psyche weighing present versus future gains. Inject some humor into it and feel the cascade of perspective. Do we really get that hooked by something unhealthy for us? Yes. Visually imagine yourself taking your body or brain off that hook.

Finally, remember that you’re not really saying no. You’ve chosen to live this way in order to say yes to many incredible things – yes to good, genuine food. Yes to feeling vibrant, balanced and energetic. We’re masters at creating our own (or buying into others’) sense of scarcity and deprivation and imagining dramatic emotional and social fallout as a result. See all that for the b.s. it is. Saying no to the ballpark fare means saying yes to having the intestinal well-being to go out afterward for a real dinner – and feeling great the next day.

Reinforcing desired choices

This isn’t about rewarding good behavior (unless you want to see it that way). I always caution people to not get too caught up in the idea of good and bad. We’re not practicing for obedience school. We’re cultivating consciousness of our own behavioral and emotional patterns in order to better exercise free will. Remember those unflattering photos of what you don’t want to remember? Try the same thing of what you do want to repeat. This is you happy and fully sober after a sporting event. This is you looking relieved and proud having managed to avoid the party buffet (or giving it a subtly obscene gesture to indicate your victory). You get the idea. Make a collage of these moments. Log them on your computer or FB if you enjoy (and your friends enjoy) that kind of thing. Now hold in your mind what genuine Primal luxury you’re going to grant yourself. Sometimes reward has its place after all.

Thanks for reading, everyone. How do you catch yourself on unproductive paths and say no to what led you down them? Share your thoughts and stories.

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133 Comments on "How to Say “No” to Yourself"

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Jane
Jane
2 years 6 months ago

Wish that I had read this before the ice cream last night. It’s difficult when for me the only real “symptom” of non primal life is obesity. If I felt worse when I ate off plan, I might do it less. (This is not to say I don’t feel crappy – especially after a prolonged period of primal living – but I’m not stuck on the toilet or doubled over in pain). However one of my 450+ pound pictures would probably do the trick. It’s all about what works out in the balance!

Anthony Waggoner
2 years 6 months ago
Hello, After weaning from unwanted food choices, I have found that partaking in consumption of said foods made me feel worse during the latter portion of weaning than that of the former. I didn’t appear to have much trouble when I relapsed earlier during the weaning phase. Nowadays, I do. One thing to remember is that this an issue among yourself. It is not worth being completely stressed about. My body had gotten used to eating junk from an early age. Sure, I ate foods loaded with vitamins and minerals, but the problem was, I ate all foods. After spending… Read more »
Tom
Tom
2 years 6 months ago
I take comfort in the fact that I’m entirely responsible for my wellbeing – nobody else is actually forcing less-than-desirable food into my mouth. It’s up to me to do something about it and make sure it doesn’t get any further than a synaptic snapshot of senses in my imagination. I also once read a very well written passage about how willpower is what separates us humans from animal mentality. Animals (generally) act on impulse and instinct, whereas we as people evolved the capability to use willpower and have an actual choice. I try to remember this everytime I’m having… Read more »
Michael B
Michael B
2 years 6 months ago
Hey Jane, good luck with your weight loss. I was just reading a book about Neuroplasticity, and if you can replace positive traits, characteristics, and habits with the old bad habits, the old habits neural circuits will weaken and you will build the strength of new circuits whenever you attend to a new positive habit. Think I’m really craving Hagaan-Daazs right now (strong neural circuit created through repetition), but I would get far more satisfaction learning how to garden (weak neural circuit). Every time you attend to the good habit (gardening), the circuit will become stronger, and the choice to… Read more »
Ara
Ara
2 years 6 months ago

It’s true. When I first started this primal journey I thought I would never stop wanting/craving beer. Now I never think about it. I now instinctively order the red wine. It takes practice.

Lisa
Lisa
2 years 6 months ago

I think you may have just changed my life with this comment. Thank you so much.

Dale
2 years 6 months ago

There are so many good little points in this article, I love the food buddy idea.

I’ve found that one key thing is to learn to make a final decision. If you let the temptation linger and say something like “I probably shouldn’t have this today, but I’ll decide in a few minutes”, it gets harder to say no.

When you firmly say that “no, under no circumstances will I have this today”, all of a sudden you’ve made your decision and can think about other things without the temptation in the back of your mind.

Noelle
Noelle
2 years 6 months ago

I agree with you. It’s being wishy washy about it that makes it easier for me to give in. If I just make a decision to say no, then I have an easier time of it. There’s so much tension when I’m deciding. All that tension or anxiety about wanting it, mentally going back and forth about whether I’ll eat it or not goes away when I just decide not to and move on.

JohnFinn
2 years 6 months ago

I agree, and sometimes not even with food related stuff. I tend to postpone things I should do and procrastination works the same, you must be assertive and just stand by your “no”.

Knifey
Knifey
2 years 6 months ago

I just tell myself “Yeah, you can have that. You are an adult making your own decisions. And now, before you eat it, think about tomorrow and how sick you will be, and now travel back in time and stop yourself.” and then I don’t eat it. And that works (almost) every time!

mightywindmill
mightywindmill
2 years 6 months ago

I’m definitely gonna try this. Thanks for the tip!

NotApplicable
NotApplicable
2 years 6 months ago
Thinking about tomorrow is indeed the key. To me it is ALL a matter of time preference. Which do I desire more, instant satisfaction from SAD foods, or a long healthy life? As for fighting urges, relying upon willpower, well, I see that as a method to guarantee failure, as it is a NEGATIVE focus. If I feel like I can’t help but to eat some junk, then I’ll gorge myself on it until it makes me sick. Next time around, the junk has suddenly lost it’s desire. I remember back when I first went Primal, seeing “goodies” in the… Read more »
Michael
Michael
2 years 6 months ago

This is a great idea, but it’s something of a double-edged sword. Often the reason people eat those foods is emotional, and when you’re feeling extremely low, the choice becomes instant satisfaction or a long UNhappy life. Not hard to make the (wrong) choice in that situation.

Camille
2 years 6 months ago

You’re a very strong person to talk yourself out of it, but I’ll give your technique a try, too. 🙂

Pip
Pip
2 years 6 months ago
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, the key is to remind yourself that you always have the choice and you can eat it if you want to. That takes away the urge to rebel. Then decide not to eat it! I find reminding myself that there are a million yummy but unhealthy foods out there, they will always be available if I change my mind. It takes the immediate desperation out of the decision. Oh, and there is no stronger way of saying no than putting it in the bin and squirting washing up liquid on top!… Read more »
Julie
Julie
1 year 26 days ago

Ok when my ex and I were first dating we had some leftover cake from an office party at our house. I basically have no willpower to stop at one piece ( or at least then I didn’t). I had no qualms about fishing the thrown out cake out of the trash either. I jokingly said “if you love me, you’ll pee on that cake.” And he did. Proof of love?

Jacob
Jacob
2 years 6 months ago

Where I struggle the worst is when I go out. We go to our usual restaraunt and 1 beer turns into 2….a meal turns into an appetizer of chips and wings, then the entree and before you know it BAM! 3000 calorie dinner!

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
2 years 6 months ago
This is why I pack snacks and take-along food: the smell reminds me of the taste I used to be familiar with, and it’s back to the old feeding-the-tongue (before Paleo) instead of feeding-the-brain (now). I can either avoid the smell by not going, or take along something that smells and tastes just as good, and would put that park hot dog to SHAME! Avoiding malls has helped me get over the smells of a food court. Watching movies on my computer helps me get over the smell of theater popcorn. Thankfully, I never developed a taste for beer. Two… Read more »
Jacq Flying Primal
Jacq Flying Primal
2 years 6 months ago
Great article Mark, thank you. I can add this much, having suffered from burning mouth syndrome, which has spread to my lips and now face over a 10 year period, that even I, having every reason not to eat wheat starch and sugar as it burns worse in the mouth, I still look longingly at yummy looking desserts. Clearly, if you have an emotional and or psychological tie to certain foods, it can linger beyond all reason…then you reach out…pick it up knowing it will burn and for heaven sakes, pop it into your mouth. Yechk…something like having a coffee… Read more »
Getmo
Getmo
2 years 6 months ago
Hahaha I love stories like this that illustrate the obvious difference between our present selves and our future selves, our rational logic and our emotional logic (“but I was good today!”) One of my favorite studies found that for people who ordered groceries online, there was a significant difference between what they ordered based on if they knew when it was going to be delivered. If they knew it was going to be delivered in 2 days or less, people generally ordered more ice cream and less veggies. If they knew it was going to be delivered a week or… Read more »
Getmo
Getmo
2 years 6 months ago

It doesn’t make any sense why we humans would self-sabotage what we know is good for us, but obviously SOMETHING is happening.

That’s why I love articles like this. I sense the secret is really in little “tricks” we use on ourselves (or “hacks,” as I like to call them) that trick the emotional, irrational part of our brains into doing what we logically knew was right all along. Install these little “tricks” into your lifestyle, and as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Groktimus Primal
2 years 6 months ago

I eat one meal a day and I try to keep it low carb and Primal. If I want to flex the rules badly enough I do to various degrees that I have found I can handle from years of experience but if it’s outside my one meal per day I will not eat period.

The Beckster
The Beckster
2 years 6 months ago

I started doing a 4 hour eating window about 3 weeks ago, and I’m slowing getting to one meal a day. It’s amazing the time I save planning and cooking only one meal a day instead of 2 or 3. With Lent beginning this week, I had a 3-ounce tuna pack for a snack in the afternoon, and then a normal dinner. There is quite a bit of freedom when you’re not tethered to the feed trough all day!

Sean
Sean
2 years 6 months ago

I am going to take a picture tonight I think, I am a master of rationalization, and I can make anything “no big deal” or a “One time thing” but I have way more willpower when I picture how I look now, and how I want to look

Derek
Derek
2 years 6 months ago
Impeccable timing , Mark. It’s close to lunch time here at the office. My employer has catered lunches 2-3 times per week (no joke). Today is one of those. I packed my lunch of a BAS with loads of veggies, oil/vinegar dressing and leftover pork. But I was starting to wonder if I should just save the BAS for tomorrow and eat whatever lunch the company is providing today (likely pizza or subs with chips and cookies and pop). I read this article, then thought about what has happened in the past when I make a poor lunch choice –… Read more »
Peter Whiting
2 years 6 months ago
This issue really is a difficult one. The subconscious is just so unbelievably powerful, not very well controlled generally and it can be very sneaky. I like your trick of thinking of a game show! That could be useful. Some of what you touch on is “mindfulness” which I find really works, but it’s also very hard to do properly and keep going. I like to think that I’m looking after my body with self-care and self-love and ask if someone was really caring for me, what would they do in such situations? Or as Kamal Ravikant said, “If I… Read more »
Kelsey
Kelsey
2 years 6 months ago

Good article today. I’m usually pretty good around everything, especially sweets when before I was a sugar-holic. My vice now is tortilla chips. I can say no at home, we have other options, but if we’re out somewhere it’s so much harder. And you can never have JUST one. Good inspiration to get to the root of the cravings/desires and learn to say no more forcefully.

Pastor dave Deppisch
2 years 6 months ago

I have a way when shopping with my wife to keep to a budget–I ask her three questions.
1. Do you want it?
2. Do you need it?
3. Can you afford it?

Usually the answer to the first is YES! Same with me when I am tempted to go off the rails concerning food choices.
But by question #2 I admit to myself I don’t NEED it.
Finally if I make it to #3 I honestly must admit I can not afford it!

Now it doesn’t always work– but about 90% of the time– if I take the time– it will kill the desire to cheat!

Mantonat
Mantonat
2 years 6 months ago
I like the idea of comparing food choices to a budget. I got my financial life in order by following Dave Ramsey’s plan, and now most of it is just second nature. Part of the plan is using cash for almost everything so you know what you have and how much you have left to spend in a month. It makes you more aware of every expenditure and slows down the outflow of cash. I think of non-Primal foods as being the same as discretionary spending in a budget. You can only do so much of it before it becomes… Read more »
Anthony
Anthony
2 years 6 months ago
Well, this all depends on so many things for each individual. Things such as their natural will power, current “shape”, and their “history”. For me, and I don’t intend to sound like I’m bragging, I have excellent will power. I’m not a “follower” either. For these reasons alone, I never drink or smoke. Never did, never will. I could be in a bar/club and buy a water without feeling out of place. Never got drunk and never tried pot. And no, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I got excitement out of other things, from hanging out with friends… Read more »
Karen
Karen
2 years 6 months ago
I find that I usually crave junk when I am bored or tired. So if it’s during the day, I will take it as my cue to go for a walk or to the gym. If in the evening, I will take it as my cue to turn in for the evening. Often I get hungry if I stay up past my normal bedtime, and I think it’s just my body confused that we’re still up, so we must need food. This is another case too of Advantage = Autoimmune Disease. The consequences for me of a cheat, even a… Read more »
Rob
Rob
2 years 6 months ago
Sometimes, I think it’s very difficult to know when you should or should not have something off plan. 80/20 doesn’t work for me because I slip into 50/50. Amy Kubal, just wrote an article over at robbwolf.com basically saying that we shouldn’t deny what we want food-wise all the time lest it lead to a neurosis. Meanwhile, this article is pretty much saying the exact opposite, namely don’t let yourself go with one beer or one slice of pizza because it could lead to other bad food habits. It’s just all very hard to apply this in practice and keep… Read more »
Ruth
Ruth
2 years 6 months ago

This is a fab post! I’m more or less the same as Jane, the main side-effect of off-roading is weight gain, or maybe a little heartburn. I keep a list on my phone of all the reasons I’ve gone Primal and most of the time that is all I need to make a different choice. I think the idea of photographic motivation is a great one though. Thanks Mark!

Judy
Judy
2 years 6 months ago

Ok…I ask myself ‘is it worth it?’ The answer is never ‘yes’ but sometimes a ‘maybe’ squeaks out and I’m so happy about the 80/20 rule….until I’m not. Then its a reminder and sometimes thats just what I need.

Laurie
Laurie
2 years 6 months ago
Usually when temptation strikes I tell myself I can have some dark chocolate later and I’m fine with that. But this week I had a different problem. Have been eating low carb primal for nearly a year and love it but ate maybe too much homemade sauerkraut plus other veggies that were hard on my stomach. Ended up with what I call a tender tummy and meat or veggies make it worse right now. I had some scrambled eggs and made butternut squash soup, but had a baked potato, no skin, for dinner with butter and cheese and then ice… Read more »
Beck W
Beck W
2 years 6 months ago
Do you eat homemade kraut and cultured veggies often and have you been doing this for a while? If it’s a new thing for you, then you probably need to tough-out the tummy issues and not give in to the carb/sugar cravings. Google “die off symptoms”… sometimes the bad bacteria give you Hell on the way out (diarrhea, constipation, pain, rashes), but after a few days you could start feeling so much better. However- the bad bacteria CRAVE the carbs and sugar, so if you consume them, you are feeding the bad guys. If you’re a kraut veteran, then this… Read more »
Laurie
Laurie
2 years 6 months ago

Not turned off kraut at all. Just too much of a good thing plus some other high fiber veggies and it got the best of me. Thanks for sharing!

Mo
Mo
2 years 6 months ago
Laurie, I’m not writing against Beck – I’m one of those people who simply can’t tolerate any type of sauerkraut so I can’t have an opinion on it – but I think you’re probably going the right way for *you*. I’ve had the stomach flu the last few days (which I thought at first was a food issue) and right now can only tolerate liquids. No meat, no veggies, I’m on chicken stock and water and GF crackers until this passes. Other than feeling like cr*p I’m not concerned about the diet change because I know it will be for… Read more »
Laurie
Laurie
2 years 6 months ago

Mo, you’re right; sometimes due to illness your tummy just can’t tolerate meat and veggies. I don’t crave potatoes or ice cream. It was just the only thing soothing on an ailing tummy. I am feeling better and hope you are soon, too!

Jim Haas
Jim Haas
2 years 6 months ago

The ballpark setting for this post is apt — we usually attend at least 10 baseball games a season. One big drawback to eating ballpark fare is the outrageous prices — makes it much easier to say no. But that cold beer? I take a healthy snack of primal trail mix but, using my 20% for the week, I’ll have the cold beer. Go Twins!

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 6 months ago

I’m thinking Dodger Dog without the bun.

perennialpam
perennialpam
2 years 6 months ago

How to find out what someone is serving when invited for a meal. I have, once again, been invited over for dinner. The problem is these folks poo-poo my eating habits. I don’t know if they are going for sabotage or misunderstanding (like so many folks). I politely thank them for the invitation and decline. That is the only way to stay away from say: pasta-based meals, breads and desserts.

KariVery
KariVery
2 years 6 months ago
“How to find out what someone is serving when invited for a meal. I have, once again, been invited over for dinner. The problem is these folks poo-poo my eating habits. I don’t know if they are going for sabotage or misunderstanding (like so many folks). I politely thank them for the invitation and decline. That is the only way to stay away from say: pasta-based meals, breads and desserts.” it’s too bad you have to forego your relationship with these people – is there a way you could really explain why you are doing this, and perhaps ask for… Read more »
Karen
Karen
2 years 6 months ago
Ha! My own sister at Christmas said that she would not “deprive” her kids of the only things they eat (bread, sugar, bread, sugar, bread) and that we would have to suck it up and let our kids eat that crap too so that nobody would be subjected to “special treatment”. Her PhD hubby then chimed in to tell us that we are unnecessarily depriving our kids of important nutrients by not feeding them bread products and pointed to Canada’s Food Guide (our version of the US Food Pyramid). On the other hand, my friends have been much more tolerant… Read more »
hydrochloriawk
hydrochloriawk
2 years 6 months ago
I am always amazed by people’s reactions to my eating habits and how they absolutely lose all ability to reason, seemingly! People who I know tend to eat meat, potatoes, and veggies (all things I eat) panic as they try to figure out what I will be able to eat! Gluten free breads, snacks, and pastas appear despite my assurances that I don’t need, even prefer not to eat, these things. But my assurances are just seen as being “difficult”, apparently. it is so bizzare! But if i were to ask them what they had for dinner the night before… Read more »
Rob
Rob
2 years 6 months ago
Haven’t there been other posts that would suggest this can be worked in as part of the 80/20 rule? You know the season opener is coming. You plan for this, look forward to it, knowing it’s not your “habit” but an exception (the cheat meal). I’m gluten free, high fat, high protein, primal 90% of the time. My family (Italian) lives in another city that I visit maybe 3-4 times a year. When I go, I just relax and respect the family/cultural tradition. I sit down and enjoy whatever family cooking is on the table – cannelloni, manicotti, crespella, all… Read more »
SeattleSlim
SeattleSlim
2 years 6 months ago

Then there’s the flip side, which is that for people with a history of eating disorders, saying “no” all the time triggers destructive behavior. I’ve found that saying “yes” on a regular basis (in small amounts) keeps me free from ED behaviors and in fact helps keep me on a healthier trajectory overall, rather than the constant up-and-down, all-or-nothing, yo-yo dieting cycle.

Jester
Jester
2 years 6 months ago

Yes I totally agree with this. If I go extreme and deny myself everything I end up binging….and man can I binge. Having a little now and again signals to my brain that I can if I want and that I am not deprived of anything. The trick is to learn the difference between REALLY REALLY want and just quite fancy but can take or leave it…and leave it if the craving is not that strong.

Hallations
Hallations
2 years 6 months ago
I agree, too. Sometimes being too neurotic about adhering to the “rules” 100% can be detrimental. I don’t have the willpower issue so much, but i fall into the trap of “if 150 grams of carbs is better than 300, then zero must be spectacular, right?” With that kind of logic, pretty soon I end up with too few I can eat in my own “legal” opinion, and develop all sorts of digestive and health issues. So more strict is not always better. I honestly think that sometimes it’s the “moments of weakness” that actually save people from neurosis and… Read more »
Erin
Erin
2 years 6 months ago

Or just say Yes, enjoy the moment, and live with the consequences.

Kim
Kim
2 years 6 months ago
Willpower is finite. You either have to change your perception from deprivation to abundance (diet v lifestyle) or you have to allow yourself a primal “cheat” once a week, which is planned ahead of time. I stay strict all week because I’m trying to lose those last 5 lbs or so. On Sunday, I don’t wildly go off plan, but I do allow myself a square or two of dark chocolate. I might eat a little starch (from vegetables) and/or put more add-ons in my salad (a small bit of blue cheese and fruit goes a long way in magnifying… Read more »
Nocona
Nocona
2 years 6 months ago

Actually, there is a shortage of chocolate. Better grab some while you can.

smilla
smilla
2 years 6 months ago

That sounds like a misquote of Kate Moss’s supposed mantra: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Mark
Mark
2 years 6 months ago
I have found through my years of “low carb, losing weight, feeling great, negotiation, cheat, can’t stop, regain weight, feel like crap” cycles that I can’t negotiate with myself successfully. One of the reasons I chose “no grains, no processed sugars” this time was because I could measure success like an alcoholic measures no drinking. (This was prior to me noting about Paleo or Primal eating) I literally counted days. It gave me a goal and a way to stay on track. After 90 days I started counting months instead. (I’m now at 8 months) I know this doesn’t work… Read more »
Trixie
Trixie
2 years 6 months ago

That is me – food addict! 2 1/2 years and counting…
one day at a time 🙂

Deb S
Deb S
2 years 6 months ago
This is me too! Last year I managed to stay Paleo for three months (Jan-Mar) then fell of the wagon and couldn’t stop. I picked up the pieces again in early November, made it through to mid December when family visited and I got into the old habits. Finally decided enough is enough 14 days ago and have been on the absolutely no grains no sugar plan. For me this also means no fruit as one piece leads to more and then to candy, cakes and pies. I’m fine, I don’t crave it as long as I don’t start eating… Read more »
Mark
Mark
2 years 6 months ago
Hi Deb, I completely understand your stance on fruit and your concern of where it will lead. That is why I stay away from any flavored cold drink. My addiction to soda was intense. I don’t know if it will help you, but for me, an occasional sweet potato has eliminated the junk food cravings. I came about this by chance. After about 4 months of going strong I was blind sided by intense cravings for cakes, cookies, etc. After two days of these I was getting concerned as I knew I could live long term like that. I had… Read more »
Deb S
Deb S
2 years 6 months ago
Thanks for the suggestion Mark. I was eating sweet potatoes back in my November-December Paleo stint. While I cannot for the life of me drop 5lbs, I can gain weight eating any starchy carbs. I also found that sweet potatoes were sweet enough to keep those sweet taste buds searching for more. I just decided this time that I have to accept that I have an addiction, even if mainstream medical opinion is that sugar is not addictive, and go cold turkey. I want to see of I can do 30 days without anything even remotely bordering on sweet to… Read more »
Eric
Eric
2 years 6 months ago
My biggest problem is with alcohol. I will convince myself 5-7 night a week that I will only have one or not drink at all. Then when I get home I start to rationalize a reason why it will be ok or that I can stick to just one. The next morning I always wake up with regret and disappointment in myself. Besides the obvious effects of the alcohol I am not overweight and have really good blood pressure, cholestrol, and am in the normal range for all other blood markers. I just wish that I could overcome this. Does… Read more »
2Rae
2Rae
2 years 6 months ago
Eric, sometimes we do the same things because it’s habit. If that’s the case it may be that you need to change what you do, what you see and move things around a bit in your life. (some people move the furniture around, quit watching the same shows on TV, sit in a different chair, etc) Once you have one drink your motivation and will power are compromised, that makes the next one easier to rationalize about and decide tomorrow is another day to begin. From my experience throwing away something that you don’t want to eat or drink can… Read more »
Brie
Brie
2 years 6 months ago
One person asked about taking the “long view” and is the cheat really that big a deal. No – unless it makes you sick. Then it’s a really big deal. Everybody’s tolerance is different. I have celiac – GF is not optional. But grain-free makes a huge difference in how I feel, too. Do I cheat? Only on non-gluten grains. Should I cheat at all? Nope. Still recovering, almost a week after some lovely tortilla chips. And really, I think I’ve learned this time. NO Corn for me. Very bad. Blech. But if you can cheat a little, is it… Read more »
CH
CH
2 years 6 months ago
My relationship with wheat can be accurately described with the toilet picture described in the article. With dairy the picture would be a doctor’s office sign since 2 or 3 or 4 or…..rebellious moments too close together lead to a steroid shot and antibiotics for a severe upper (if I’m lucky, upper and lower if I’m not) respiratory infection. I learned about the dairy thing in my 40’s and the wheat/gluten last year in my early 50’s. The big change in my life since listening to my body and not hurting it so much? I only need a doctor when… Read more »
Hassan
2 years 6 months ago

Just like most people, I’ve faced these types of situations many times and have struggled to say no.

Thankfully, I found a way that work for me.

I rely on self talk and ask myself, “What am I gaining from giving up on instant gratification?” Saying no to processed food helps me stay energized and productive. It’s worth it for me to say no because I need to stay energized and productive to get work done.

Dannii Bridge
Dannii Bridge
2 years 6 months ago

This is it
..well said and sums up my issue! Thank you…

Hassan
2 years 6 months ago

You’re welcome Dannii!

Brooke
Brooke
2 years 6 months ago
Such an appropriate post for me! I just made the decision to stop eating cheese, because it just messes up my digestion too much. I really need to make the same decision about ice cream, but I am scared. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets scared in the face of giving up one of their favorite foods!) I love ice cream sooo much, but it messes up my digestion for DAYS afterward. I am pregnant, and, honestly, at the end of the day, all I want is something fatty or fatty and sweet, and cheese or ice… Read more »
SeattleSlim
SeattleSlim
2 years 6 months ago

Have you tried the Coconut Bliss ice cream? No dairy, no soy. It unfortunately uses agave as the sweetener, which I don’t much care for, but the texture is really close to ice cream.

I like the mint chocolate chip flavor. It’s expensive, but I feel like it’s so rich that it takes me quite awhile to get through a pint.

Nocona
Nocona
2 years 6 months ago

Brooke, I’d get some Coconut Butter and eat two spoonfulls. That tasty fat really satisfy’s.

CH
CH
2 years 6 months ago

Two spoonfuls of coconut butter and a piece of extra dark chocolate will fix any craving you will have.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
2 years 6 months ago

I melted down Baker’s 100% dark chocolate (not sure of its purity from toxins but I can’t always afford organic cacao) with coconut oil and blackstrap molasses and drank/spooned it. It was pretty good and filling.

Brooke
Brooke
2 years 6 months ago

Good idea! I don’t know how I forgot about coconut ice cream. It’s a good alternative for a once-a-week ice cream treat. 🙂

Duncan
Duncan
2 years 6 months ago

I am giving up cheese for Lent (except for Parmesan I can scrape off a rind on Sundays). It will be brutal. I love cheese. Every extra pound I have ever carried in my Life has been directly caused by cheese intake. I will eat all cheese in the refrigerator within a day. I ate a 1/4 wheel of double brie in 4 hours about 3 months ago.

Good luck.

Sharon
Sharon
2 years 6 months ago
I too loved ice cream and when I could no longer eat dairy I thought I would really miss it. I don’t so much but when I want something like that, thick, eat them with a spoon smoothies do the trick. Also, if you like bananas, you can make an “ice cream” with the texture of soft serve with sliced frozen bananas whipped up in the food processor. There are numerous recipes on the web. My only hint without going into particulars is to freeze the banana slices on parchment paper or some other non stick surface. We maybe make… Read more »
Brooke
Brooke
2 years 6 months ago

Sharon, thanks for the tips. I do like thick fruit smoothies. I usually add coconut cream or coconut milk, so that adds in some good fat, too. 🙂

Pip
Pip
2 years 6 months ago

If you really need something sweet (but without the dairy and sugar) there is an awesome recipe for fudge on the paleomom website. It’s made with ginger but you could leave that out if its not your thing. I’ve yet to find anyone who doesn’t like it (including kids and non paleo hubby) and you don’t need much because its rich and filling. Good luck with your pregnancy!

Brooke
Brooke
2 years 6 months ago

Pip, thanks for the tip! I love chocolate! 🙂

Steffanie
Steffanie
2 years 6 months ago
This article came at a moment when I really needed it and it’s even broIght me to tears. For years and years I tried to lose weight and get healthier… for a long time I didn’t know what was the right way or the wrong way… I tried all the yoyo diets and I couldnt stick with anything. I bought into the whole grains and low fat 6 small meals a day. Sometimes when I was really motivated I could last a week or two without cheating but then I would give in once and I would fall off the… Read more »
Chantal
Chantal
2 years 6 months ago

Hey Stéphanie, I totally relate to what you said….It’s my story.
Thank you, keep strong!

Kim
Kim
2 years 6 months ago
Eric – alcohol is the fastest way to relax quickly. 15 min. in and you’re zen, right? What if you made a habit of going straight to the gym? Or a trail to walk/bike etc? Get some endorphins going. Don’t even go home until you’re relaxed and feeling good. Do you drink while making dinner? If so, come up with a replacement drink (a new healthy habit), something that is relaxing/soothing, like tea with (or not) a bit of honey. Or maybe club soda and lime. Make this new drink a habit, even if you give in and have alcohol.… Read more »
Melissa
Melissa
2 years 6 months ago

Ugh, the final season of Breaking Bad on Netflix destroyed my sleep for the couple days it took me to watch it… I find looking at the Friday success stories helps me. It’s Friday, there are doughnuts all over the place in my office, the weekend it beginning and It’s time to go wild. Then I read a story and remember why I eat the way I do.

Brian
Brian
2 years 6 months ago

The other day I was in Costco, and I really felt like a soft yogurt swirl. I even got in live to order it, but I had made a vow to clean up my diet since it has not been great since Christmas. I told myself “No” and left the line and went home. That may not seem to anyone else, but it was a first for me. High five myself.

Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 6 months ago

Yay Brian!

Cody Smith
Cody Smith
2 years 6 months ago

This is very good information! I have the hardest time saying no to myself. It’s like my brain just takes over and im screwed.

Chantal
Chantal
2 years 6 months ago

+1

Brian
Brian
2 years 6 months ago

I meant “line”

Krista
Krista
2 years 6 months ago

High five! That’s tough!

Beck W
Beck W
2 years 6 months ago
There is this great pub close to my house and their specialty is this big bucket of delicious french fries with specialty dipping sauces to choose from… and I have an unusual attachment to fries… “fries” was even my first word after “mom” and “dad”… so there’s your background. Well, the other day I went there with my family to celebrate a happy event. They ordered fries. The fries came to the table and were placed within arms’ reach of me. I sat on my hands. Then my crunchy salad with locally grown organic buttercrunch lettuce and almonds arrived (after… Read more »
Mary
Mary
2 years 6 months ago

I love my mother but she is my kryptonite. I eat primal with ease and suddenly am eating a homemade muffins, cakes, biscuits etc. it’s like a tidalwave of sugar and carbs.

granny gibson
granny gibson
2 years 6 months ago

My mom, too, Mary. She actually stresses that I’ll feel deprived. I am so far past the goodies that she can’t shake me loose any more, but she still frets. I stick to meat and veggies.

She used to eat the sweets saying, “This doesn’t taste very good.” when she caught my eye. 😉 She has no idea how rich and delicious my diet is!

Actually, I struggled with treats until I was diagnosed with diabetes. That was a game-changer, and I put my foot down.

Erok
Erok
2 years 6 months ago

My lovely wife just coined the term for this a couple days ago: Self-Disciplinitis.

Kat
Kat
2 years 6 months ago

Saying no used to be really easy for me. Now I’m three months pregnant and feeling bloated no matter what I eat, primal or otherwise. I’ve never missed bread since going primal and now all I want is sandwiches and sweets! It’s crazy. I always thought is eat super healthy when I got pregnant but that’s proving to be difficult.

Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 6 months ago
I have the same problem as Jane in that cheating causes no really bad effects (except a bit of carb fog if I have a lot of sugar). I’ve never really been overweight either (I’d consider myself as having been a few pounds too chubby but to a lot of others I’m really slim!) What I have gained with eating primally is more energy and clarity and knowing it’s better for my body. So, I do indulge, some wine, dark chocolate, strawberries and cream with a bit of stevis and every now and then I’ll have a muffin or a… Read more »
Lisa Whitlock
Lisa Whitlock
2 years 6 months ago
Through so many trials and errors and numerous hours laying in bed awake instead of sleeping, thinking about different ways to resist in a moment when things are tempting beyond the power of rational thought – probably my best way to go about this is not think about it at all. We can *always* convince ourselves to get back to old patterns, and it’s incredibly easy to do so; so I just decide to avoid that entire void of thoughts by saying no and doing whatever I was going to without much thought. Sometimes I feel like I’ve betrayed myself,… Read more »
Kara
Kara
2 years 6 months ago

Great article Mark, thank you!
It is challenging for me to think of long term gratification (improved health, performance, appearance) when our culture daily presents me with multiple opportunities for short term gratification (junk food, late nights, etc.). My solution is to try to focus on what I regard as medium term gratification. That is, focusing on how good I feel about myself when I make the appropriate choices…..not as instantly gratifying as biting into chips/candy/whatever yet gratifying none the less.

canSttent
canSttent
2 years 6 months ago

This article kicked me right in the truthticles; my phone background is now the nastiest, fattest picture of me, ever. Thank you Mark, I needed this article.

Bryan
Bryan
2 years 6 months ago
I say ‘no’ to myself 49 days out of 50 on average. But if I do a 5k, 5 mile or 10k run at a local brewhaus or brew pub you can bet that I’m going to enjoy one of their offerings afterwards. I went to a home game for my beloved Green Bay Packers this year and as soon as I bought the tickets I told myself, I’m going to sit in Curly’s Pub before the game and enjoy some beer and some deep fried cheese curds…and I did! Me and my g/f (also Primal) threw caution to the… Read more »
Corey
Corey
2 years 6 months ago

Try gluten free beer! There are actually a few good ones out there!

Bryan
Bryan
2 years 6 months ago

Nah. I was a beer drinker before going primal so when or if I do have a beer it’s a good, rich lager….and, I’m in Wisconsin, the ‘Graceland’ of beer!

Last Saturday I had three glasses of beer at a 5 mile race. Prior to that it was early December at Lambeau Field. I don’t have any trouble saying ‘no’ in any situations.

Corey
Corey
2 years 6 months ago

I like the way Mark stated it in the article. I feel more like I am saying yes to health instead of saying no to a “treat”. Once my diet was clean for a while and I tried old foods, they made me feel so bad, I just decided it wasn’t worth it! That’s not to say I never eat anything I shouldn’t, but it is not a daily struggle. Primal/Paleo makes me feel so good I don’t want to screw it up!

Pree
Pree
2 years 6 months ago
For me, the temptation to “cheat” has become completely negligible. I feel like absolute awful, for a week or more, if I so much as accidentally ingest gluten– and knowledge, for me, is power. My issue is how to turn down food offered to me with grace and brevity. I was raised to accept what you’re offered, and it is incredibly rude to question the contents. This has been hardest part for me. I detest sounding pretentious or picky. And though I don’t mind answering questions, I don’t like to feel preachy. Does anyone have any tips for gracefully declining… Read more »
Sialia
Sialia
2 years 6 months ago
You have a legitimate gluten allergy/ intolerance. Try “That looks delicious but unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t agree with me”. If pressed, just say that you are allergic to gluten. With practice, it should become second nature. Most people will not pursue you beyond the second offer. If they do, you would have every right to drop the politeness. I once said “I Don’t Want That!” to my well-meaning but pushy aunt who was trying to physically deposit a piece of lasagna on my plate – after I had refused it multiple times already. She looked surprised and puzzled, but she… Read more »
Elizabeth
Elizabeth
2 years 6 months ago

Don’t know about you guys, but I’m using this comments section to boost my willpower in the future 🙂

Eric B
2 years 6 months ago
Although willpower can get depleted, it seems it can also be strengthened. Doing anything, no matter how trivial, that requires willpower seems to strengthen willpower in all areas. Get a hand gripper and see how long you can hold it, and then go a little longer longer. Trivial, but it tests and strengthens your willpower. Itching to check your e-mail? Wait a couple minutes before checking. Again, trivial but it works. The other day I absent-mindedly grabbed a handful of nuts in the car while driving. I made myself wait 10 miles bfore eating them. That simple exercise seemed to… Read more »
Pure Hapa
Pure Hapa
2 years 6 months ago
“isolate ourselves in our own swirling head case” – Damn, you’re good Mark! I’ve been pretty good but I did have rough patches where I thought I could cheat more. My gurgling digestive system and itchy skin told me otherwise! So I got back on the program of treating my body like my temple. I was a foodie and pretty good cook prior to becoming Primal over three years ago. I got into the mode of thinking and feeling that more elaborate meals meant better. That food artistry was a goal unto itself. I watched so many episodes of Iron… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 6 months ago
I still love cooking, sometimes complicated recipes and I spend FAR too much time thinking about food and what to cook etc, just that these days it doesn’t include grains (other than a little white rice with curry or chinese), bad oils or sugar! A lot of recipes can be primalised pretty easily and there are a few chefs out there who have done some great cookbooks. We have one here in the U.K., Nigel Slater, who does some brilliant ones. He also doesn’t do much pasta or rice etc. and uses a lot of root veg so most of… Read more »
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