Why Is It So Hard to Have Self Control With Food?
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Why Is It So Hard to Have Self Control With Food?

Why is it so hard to have self control with food? What's the root of the problem? How does one maintain self control with food? All or nothing? Or 80/20 – mostly controlled, with a little leeway?

I probably shouldn’t write this post. Beside me sits a small bowl of homemade treats from the freezer, which I certainly don’t need but definitely want. I fully intend to eat them. If you could taste what I’m tasting (creamy, chocolate-peanut buttery goodness), I bet you’d eat them, too.

Two weeks ago, our family completed the whirlwind 9-week Europe portion of our one-year journey around the world (this seems unrelated, but stick with me). From Paris we worked our way through Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and over to the Czech Republic, south to Greece, then west to Rome, further south to Sicily, and finished up by stopping in southern France on our way to Spain. Spending one week in most places, we had just long enough to get to know a place a little and moved just fast enough to exhaust ourselves.

Our accommodation style of choice was always a self-catered apartment or rental home of some sort. There were multiple reasons for this. Chief among them may be multiple rooms! With doors that close!! Any semblance of quiet and privacy when you’ve been traveling for 5 straight months with four young children is more highly desirable than you know.

healthy THM meal at home
Being a good girl and making delicious food at home

Secondly, they have kitchens–places where we can spend ¼ of what we’d fork out at a restaurant and eat twice as well in the process. We buy ingredients for our breakfasts, as well as for snacks, some picnic lunches, and the odd dinner when we’re not out exploring. It saves us oodles of money, the only way we can make Europe even mildly affordable, and helps us to eat better when we’re on the go.

For all of our careful planning and good intentions, however, we also had to eat out. A lot. The white bread, the pastries, the processed foods…it wasn’t pretty, people.

(Wait, OK… yes, some of it was pretty. The pastries. Mmmm. I like pastries, and they look so lovely and inviting all lined up nicely on those bakery shelves.)

I fondly remember my idealistic dream of eating my way through Europe, the slow food capital of the world. Everything would be locally grown, in season, from animals on pastures, or grown from heirloom seeds. Sourdough breads, fresh olives, raw cheeses and milk, simple sausages, succulent fruits, olive oil drenched salads, hearty traditional soups. This is, after all, how all European eat, ne c’est pas?

Mais non, I sadly learned. There are certainly still strong, valiant roots of traditional foods (France stands out the most in this regard), and yes, the home of the slow food movement (Italy). But in most cities and even small towns, a surprisingly high amount of processed and packaged convenience foods, with enough sugar to make you diabetic just from looking, play starring roles.

bounty from sicilian market
My bounty from the daily market near our apartment in Sicily

I visited the glorious open markets and street side produce stands and specialty delis and even gourmet restaurants, oh yes, but I’ve also been to 20+ regular grocery stores, and let me tell you, it’s not much different than home.

When we did eat out in restaurants, we did the best we could to choose fresh, whole foods and sample the local cuisine. Our kids bravely ate along with us, rather than getting the kids menu items the waiters tried to push on us, and during most of those meals, I felt that we did all right.

eating with mario last night in sicily
Dining with our new (and dear) Italian friend, Mario.

It was the times when we were in highly touristic and expensive areas, or when we were in transit between locations, that made it particularly hard to maintain our real food ideals.

Our long train days were the worst offenders, by far. Every seventh day or so, as we moved from one country to the next, we’d pack up our cluster of backpacks, hoarding our torn, stained and sweaty family Eurail pass like a precious gem in my money belt. Hopping on our first set of rails early in the morning, we’d spend the next five to twelve hours or so going from train to train until we reached our coveted destination.

We learned the necessity of packing your own food the hard way, after our second full day of trains through Switzerland. What with 5 train changes to make, it was chaotic to say the least, and on this particularly memorable day, being the train-riding novices we still were at that point, we naively thought that it wouldn’t be that difficult to find food aboard the train.

Lesson #1 It will always be more difficult than you think.

The times when you’ve packed a proper picnic lunch? Yes indeed, you’ll sit in the coach right beside a well-stocked food bar. The days when you’re unprepared, starving and hoping for the best? You’ll stumble aboard those lone trains with nothing, not even a sad little cart selling Coca-Cola, warm water bottles, candy bars, and day-old sandwiches without crusts. We had so many days like that. They were painful, and this day in Switzerland drove that lesson home for us the hard (and hungry) way.

It was these trial-by-fire experiences that taught me, like any good Girl Scout, to always be prepared. As often as was possible, I would buy food from supermarkets the day before, or while we waited to catch our first train of the day. We did the best we could to find wholesome eats for our journey (or, at the very least, something that wasn’t pure sugar and refined grains, with an assortment of chemicals and FDC # dyes on the side).

our family at acropolis

Somewhere between Munich and Venice, it just got plain old hard to stick to my “real food” rules and ways of eating. Aside from a natural desire to explore the local foods, like schnitzel in Austria, crepes and bread in France, gelato and pasta in Italy, and baklava (oh, the baklava!) in Greece, finding whole foods to fill ourselves with on a regular basis proved too much of a challenge at times for even my own bull-headed personality.

I’m sorry to say that at some point, we caved. Mixed in with our real food was unfortunately a whole bunch of white bread sandwiches, nightly desserts, the occasional pop (I won’t point fingers, but I have to say it wasn’t me) or sweetened beverages, lots of coffees (yup, that was me) and even chips or crackers from vending machines in desperate moments.

I hated it (as did my waistline), and, still so many days, felt helpless to stop it.

steph leaning over volcano crater at mount etna
Leaning a little too far over the edge at Mount Etna…

My self control… I think I’ve lost it

Long story short (see, I told you to stick with me)… my self control went out the window.

Since we had already crossed over that great divide between real food and no-so-real food, it no longer felt like a compromise to eat that extra dessert, or have another sweet coffee, or finish off the leftover pasta carbonara I just didn’t need.

Stubborn as I am, I do best in situations that are black or white, all or nothing. When I go on a special diet for a period of time (like The Maker’s Diet, GAPS diet, or a cleanse of some sort), I succeed and here’s the reason why: I give myself no other option.

I don’t allow myself access to no-no foods. I buy only what will make meals I can eat within the confines of the dietary rules I’ve set for myself. I stay out of the grocery stores unless I have a specific, written list in hand, and, even then, I run.

chunky cream pops for freezer THM
The homemade creamy frozen yogurt bites I mentioned in the beginning of this post. Letting myself have access only to stevia sweetened desserts or plain fruit is a line I’ve drawn in the sand that’s helping me to get back on track.

How do I maintain self control when it comes to food?

The primary way is by not letting myself have access to the foods I don’t want to or shouldn’t eat. Simple as that.

I suppose it comes down to knowing yourself. And I know that I know that I know, if there’s an open bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips in my house, it will disappear bit by delicious bit. I wish I could say it was my children, yet here I am, the one with the chocolate-smeared hands.

Of course, there’s slight exaggeration in all of this. I’m a writer, for goodness sake. It makes for a better story, and you don’t want to hear about the boring days when I show a mediocre level of control and manage to eat just one homemade brownie (made of beans, of course), alongside my 6 servings of vegetables and fruits, grass-fed meatloaf, sourdough bread and glass of kefir. Where’s the excitement in that?

In all seriousness, though, I do sometimes maintain the type of food habits I want to have, even when faced with temptations. Most of the time, this self control comes from the research I’ve done, the truths that I know about which foods I should and shouldn’t eat, and also from years of learning to choose the right things. Convictions and habits make for better choices.

But as a general rule, my food success stems from what’s present or absent from my kitchen, and good choices flow easier when the wrong ones aren’t staring me in the face.

abbie balancing on rock at crater on mount etna
A little balance, anyone?

This isn’t a post on how to develop self-control with food.

As you can see by reading it, I’ve already disqualified myself as an expert on the topic.

Rather, it’s a conversation starter, and a humble one at that.

I know which foods I should eat. I know which foods I want to eat. I know approximately how much I actually need and at which point I am stuffing my face purely because I want to (you know, that little word called gluttony?).

Bottom line. I know how to eat well. I’m convinced about it. I teach about it, for goodness sake. Most of the time I do it, too. Not with a superhero iron will, but by forcing myself to only stock our kitchen with the good stuff.

All or nothing. That’s how it works best for me.

So my question for you is this… how does it work for you?

What helps you to show self control and restraint with food? How do you make good choices for both yourself, and for your family?

This summer we’re stepping back from some of our regular instructional and teaching posts and simply opening up some really excellent conversations on topics that matter. We don’t want to talk AT you, but WITH you. I hope you’ll join us as for plenty of Conversations at KOTH.

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  1. I have to agree, if it’s not in the house it makes it so much easier to not eat it! I’m a busy mom about to have baby #8, I homeschool, have three children with food allergies, and one child with serious medical needs that take a lot of time. I have to have a plan for food and it needs to be doable in a short amount of time. I use my crock pot, I grind wheat and bake from scratch, and we stick with lots of fresh fruits and veggies. I involve my children in the kitchen, let the 12 year old plan and prepare meals regularly, and educate, educate, educate our children about WHY we choose what food rules we have.

    Does it always work out? NO, of course not. But without a plan it would be so much worse.

  2. What helps me have self control? Well….I think about how I will feel if I DO eat it. Most of the time that’s enough to keep me from doing it. And if it’s not, then consequences usually keep me from it for a while. But we all mess up. 🙂
    Meal planning is KEY for me. I look at my list. What did I plan to eat today? I eat that – that’s also what I buy to make the foods. Easier if junk food just isn’t in the house.
    Trim Healthy Mama has only increased my self-control. Because I know I have good, tasty, treats and delicious food waiting for me at home.
    I think you’re doing a FABULOUS job! Way better than I would have done in your shoes. I’m giving you two thumbs up.

  3. Our best bet is not to have it in the house either. If it’s a temptation, and it’s there, I (we) will eat it.

  4. I am very similar, it seems. My weakness is sugar… particularly ice cream. I think I have pretty much no self-control when it comes to ice cream (especially on rough days… say when the baby won’t nap?). For the most part I can’t have it in the house. When we do have it, my goal (I know this sounds silly, but) is to eat ice cream only with my husband. His sweet tooth is much smaller than mine, so it helps me not to eat so much of it. (A buddy system helps with exercise, so why not with food?)

    I have also figured out that I need to stay away from gluten. That’s an easy one for me, though: it messes up my menstrual cycle and we’re trying to have a baby. 🙂

    Thank you for being so candid in this post!

  5. I’m totally with you–if I’m going to eat well, the “bad stuff” has to not even be available. But, it also helps to remember how good I feel when I do eat well. I’ve been amazed at how much ice cream I’ve been able to pass up recently, because the first thing that comes to mind is how it affects my body.
    On the other hand, turning it down most of the time actually helps me enjoy it more when I DO choose it–if that makes sense. 🙂

  6. Oh Steph, I love this post. The part where you described having gone astray a little from your ideals and then just throwing your hands up and kinda giving in to all of it? Yup, that’s so me. Only for me it’s just surrendering to the stress of life and allowing food ideals go (somewhat) out the window in an effort to be less stressed. I do struggle with guilt when not eating a perfect diet (but recently wrote this about deciding once and for all to stop the guilt and just own it: http://redandhoney.com/2013/06/dear-world-food-is-not-a-moral-issue/ )

    I think I need the 80-20 rule in order to not feel guilty about those few things I do once in a while that are off track. That’s just real-life. I can’t imagine anyone who eats perfectly 100% of the time…?

    BUT I think I am similar to you in needing to be quite strict with myself. More of a black and white thing. If I have chips, ice cream, or other processed stuff in the house – I will eat it. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience as I watch myself eat it, while wondering why I am doing so. BUT if I don’t have that stuff in the house, then I manage to figure out lots of yummy things to eat that are also good for me. I have a homemade peanut butter cups recipe on my blog that I can make and keep in the freezer… I really need to do that again 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this. I love it, and I’m pretty sure this is going to be HUGELY popular because it is so relatable! Love you, friend!

  7. Yup, this is exactly how I am – I have NO self control. When it’s in my house, I eat it. So I try hard to just not buy those things I don’t need. I use lists at the store and honestly my kids being with me is a great source of control (how can I say no to them and then go buy my own junk food?!). I do allow us to eat almost whatever when we’re out to eat. Instead of limiting what we eat when out, we just try and limit how often we eat out. It works for us, but it wouldn’t work for everyone or in every situation…

  8. I’ve read in magazine article after magazine article that when it comes to treats, you should have “just one bite, and savor it as you chew.” Huh? Who can do that? Dr. Oz, maybe (he wrote one of those articles), but certainly not me! I want 2 servings, and probably 3. So, for me the plan is similar to yours – don’t have it around. It’s hard!

  9. I love your honest and relatable account of grappling with this issue that affects so many of us. Like you, I try to keep home a haven for healthful foods to avoid unnecessary temptations; but I definitely enjoy restaurant meals, family gatherings and exploring cultural foods when we travel (I lost count of how many cones of gelato we ate when we visited Italy!). My own experience has been that the power of God and the leading of his Holy Spirit are the only effective ways that I can navigate the temptations to either overregulate food-related wants to the point of legalism, or give in to the cultural norm of going hog-wild in the name of “freedom.” Great post!

  10. I haven’t found the magic mix to self control just yet. I do better when I don’t have it at home, that is certain, because if its in the house, I will eat it – a lot of it – until its gone. I get into even more trouble when I’m not prepared for 15 minute meals between work and an evening activity. Or a work lunch where I’m faced with potato casseroles, fake-food sandwiches, pie and/or ice cream. Or a long stressful day leading me to want a “treat” to relax. If I could simply not leave the house, and only eat what is on my rather perfect looking meal plan, I’d do great. But that isn’t life, and I haven’t yet found the solution to eating away from home. so. frustrating.

  11. I’m with you, I do way better when things are black and white. Right now I’m doing Trim Healthy Mama in an effort to lose the baby weight from baby # 5, and I find it’s much easier to follow this type of plan than just trying to control my portions, and letting myself judge what’s best to eat. I think it’s awesome that you’re even worrying about it while on your vacation! I’m not so sure I’d be quite so self controlled in Europe! 🙂

  12. My story is basically the same. When we are home, surrounded by the foods I’ve chosen to have in the house, then I do great. I might have a small piece of dark chocolate at night, but if the junky stuff isn’t here, I don’t eat it. The problem is that grandparents give my kids total junk as “treats” and even if I hide them way up high in the pantry, I end up eating things that don’t even taste good and feeling sinful. I just can’t have it in the house. If we do have treats, we go out for frozen yogurt, have a small serving and call it good.

    As for being away from home, I try so hard the first day or two. As soon as I have a bite of a chocolatey dessert or a few too many ice cold beers, it’s like all willpower has gone out the window. I start indiscriminately shoving things in my mouth with the promise that I will restart when we get home. I don’t know how I’d do if I were away from home for longer than a few days! We do exercise on a very regular basis and I know exactly how those junky foods affect how I feel and how I work out, so I try my hardest to remember that. It’s a daily, daily battle.

    Great post, I love the conversation starter. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Thank you for this! I’m trying to lead a healthier lifestyle for myself and my family, but I’m a working mom and wife and it’s just plain hard sometimes. I have this ideal whole living lifestyle in my head that I haven’t been able to totally grasp yet. I have incorporated bits and pieces of it but I’ve just plain drop the ball in other areas. I’m a first time mommy and wife and still trying to figure that thing out! My husband is a personal trainer and you’d think he’d be more on board but I a lot of times he complains about not having enough protein (MEAT!). I personally don’t need it all the time and enjoy eating a variety of foods but usually he just likes food he’s used to. He’ll step out the box sometimes but he’ll only eat like that for awhile and then he’s complaining or eating Wendy’s/Taco Bell/Protein shakes before he comes home for dinner.

    All and all, I’m still on a mission to whole eating and living,. I just know that it will take sometime…and yes, I still like donuts and cave when someone brings a cake to the office =0) trying to work on that.

  14. LOVE this honest, transparent post that is so clearly a struggle we all face on some level, especially when travelling – or sometimes even harder – when visiting relatives! We’ve been making a cross-country road trip for three weeks and at first I was so diligent about trying to bring along and purchase only healthy whole foods, but as we moved into week two and our supplies ran out and the options we encountered along our travels became increasingly sparse in finding real foods, we laxed and found ourselves eating out of our comfort zone.

    Then the sugar monster attacked us and we were having dessert each night on top of not so healthy restaurants foods. I have to tell you that I started to feel like a complete hypocrite even looking at my blog and then I remembered GRACE … This trip was a blessing from God for us to spend quality time with my Mom and family as we journeyed from CA to TN and here I was becoming so anxious over a temporary issue (lack of nourishing foods), instead of investing my heart in nourishing relationships. What a gift He had given to us to experience places and people that we would never have encountered had we not stepped out of our perfect little bubble.

    God wants our desires first and foremost to be focused on bringing Him glory, and not be so completely obsessed with our healthy eating ideals that we miss out on nourishing the people in our lives with the most important sustenance – spiritual food that comes from His glorious grace. And just as grace isn’t a licence to sin, giving ourself a little grace when travelling, does mean a free-for-all to eat unhealthy foods 24/7 (LOL). But it does mean, trying to do the best we can with what we have for His glory.

    Which is why, I SO appreciate the encouragement this post provides – just because we strive to eat clean, doesn’t mean we’re hypocrites or complete failures when we stray, or simply have to choose to temporarily set aside our high ideals so we don’t make ourselves crazy (or our families either).

    We try to live by the 80-20 rule and I really think this helps to keep expectations realistic for me (as I tend to be much more dogmatic than my family members) and helps us keep balance – it gives us a little grace when circumstances aren’t perfect.

    Another revelation through this extended travel experience was realizing how much we truly MISS and CRAVE real food when we’ve not had enough of it for days on end. We realized how much we take for granted having access to pure, healthy foods. So when we finally made it to my Mom’s house in TN, literally, the first thing we did was go to the farmer’s market and load up on tons of fresh organic produce, pastured eggs, etc. and got in the kitchen and cooked our little hearts out. We all were SO ready for pure whole foods and have been cooking and eating from my mom’s garden (and the farmer’s market) since arriving. It made me smile, because I realized just how far we had come in these past 6 years since starting our real food journey.

    Lots of love and blessings to you as you continue your travels, that you’ll find that balance of nourishing soul first and body second in each new place He leads you. xoxo, Kelly

  15. I never realize how different I am now from how I used to be until I read things like this. I *used* to feel like this – until I stopped trying to force it. Instead of ‘not allowing myself access’ to things I ‘shouldn’t eat’ – I gave myself access to everything and stopped thinking of things I should or shouldn’t eat. Result? I eat ‘right’ without trying. The ‘should eats’ and the ‘want to eats’ are now the same thing. There is no more ‘temptation’ no more struggle for ‘self control’ at home or anywhere else and I don’t have to go through life fighting cravings or feeling like a failure. True, there is no ‘junk’ in my house, (although you may disagree, since I do have chocolate, but I think good quality chocolate is fine) – but that’s because no one wants it, not because I can’t be around or I’ll eat it.

    It has worked for my children as well. My youngest is often considered a ‘picky eater’ by those outside our family, because for some reason he never seems to want to eat their pizza rolls, pop tarts and doritos and they just can’t understand it. He, on the other hand, can’t understand how they can even like those things. We learned he had to take some of his own food on scout trips, and to have a giant, second breakfast waiting for him when he gets home from a sleepover.

  16. Oh boy, this is hard. I’m black and white like you. If we’re eating at home and I have complete control over what to buy and cook, we’re good. But if we’re on vacation, at friends’ or family’s homes, at a restaurant, or anywhere out of our normal, all bets are off! We are going on vacation next week. We are staying in a 3 bedroom cabin with a full size kitchen. I’m so glad because I can take our groceries with us and cook the majority of our meals, without having to worry about the expense or health value of restaurants. BUT, there is a REALLY amazing pizza place that we eat at every year, and I just won’t be able to keep us away!

  17. What an awesome post. Im thankful to know that I am not the only one who has a hard time staying on track at all times. I agree with the black and white. It is a lot easier when I prepare for the days ahead but if our schedule changes in the slightest it seems like we stray easily. I especially have a hard time keeping my husband away from that horrible drive-thru when I haven’t made enough snacks to keep him full in-between meals.

  18. Hi- I thought you were going to be in Spain for the rest of the summer? So looking forward to hearing about being over there, and how it was without your hubby…. something I have to do bc mine works a ton. Also, is there any way to read about your entire European journey in consecutive posts?

    thanks- jen

  19. Sometimes I’m reading the posts in the dash and want to go comment immediately…and this was one of them.

    I was nodding my head all over this one!

    I can SO relate to your all-or-nothing personality.

    Thanks for your transparency!

  20. Such a timely post. I just gave in and ate a small bag of Doritos at work. They were leftover from an event the other day. I haven’t had one in years and managed to overcome the temptation yesterday. Today I really craved it, so I let myself eat it (the whole little bag because it was there). It wasn’t as tasty as I remembered. I’m glad I did it because now I’m over it. No more Doritos for me. I did have some fruit afterwards to “balance” it out though.

  21. What a wonderful encouragement! It’s nice to hear that you also struggle not only with eating well but also with giving yourself grace for those moderate “treats” and then sticking to the plan. I think that sometimes those periods of wild abandon with regard to food can almost work in our favor. They give us a break, which gives us rest from always cooking and planning and thinking. Plus, usually we don’t feel so hot at the end which can remind us why eating real food is so important. Keep up the good work, Mama! What a wonderful journey you’re on.

  22. I know a LOT of women struggle with this and I definitely did years ago…I developed disordered eating by becoming to rigorous about what I deemed good to eat vs. things that were good in theory but just didn’t make my cut. In the end it came time for me to join our church and one of the things you agree to is to in the church covenant is to abstain from any food/practices, etc. that brings unwarranted harm to the body. In the throes of an eating disorder, I couldn’t answer that in good conscience and the Lord began doing BIG work in my heart as far as food was concerned. I think for many women, not having self-control with food is a heart issue at the core. We can make all the plans, put up all the parameters, etc that we want but if we don’t do any heart work to figure out what is at the heart of it we’re not going to see progress. For me, 7 years later, adapting an “everything is ok in moderation” approach has kept me in a good relationship with food. For others, this will look different. But in the end, it’s a matter between you and the Lord, because believe it or not, He cares not so much about WHAT we eat, but more about the heart and WHY we eat.

    1. I really like this! Thank you for sharing. I agree with you, although I struggle with moderation when I am super hungry! I think it’s ok to allow yourself to experience a variety of foods. Food is part of culture! I talk with my kids about what is healthy and why it is healthy. We have planted a garden and eat from it regularly. However, when we are hungry, we eat–even if there is nothing amazing available. I think it is more important to be fed than to experience hunger–we have learned this the hard way! Blessings to you and your journey with the Lord!

  23. I find that (for myself at least) when I am tired, self control is not as high as it should be. Some days it seems to take so much more effort and energy than I have at that moment. But I have also learned to repent as when I put myself first(whether its through overindulgence, or getting involved in something and not getting a good night rest, or laying down with baby- ’cause I’d rather get the laundry over with or mop the floor), I certainly am not putting the Lord before me, either in thought or in action. Once that’s done, its in the past, I don’t sweat it anymore, instead on the next opportunity (Its usually waiting right around the corner 😉 ) I focus on the Lord and something recent that I have learned, or a refreshing of a favorite scripture, or song, or whatever comes to mind that day. I have found that as I submit myself to the Lord in this manner, the “Self Struggles” become less and less. That I have a more even balance and diligent lifestyle. This will work for anyone with time, patience, and trust in the Lord.

  24. Another great post as always from you Stephanie!!
    With all of the great ergo baby in action picture it made me think to tell you that they are having a traveling with an ergo writing contest on the ergo blog- I bet you are a shoe-in as a winner for a free travel ergo baby!

  25. I’m like you! If I can’t eat it or shouldn’t eat it, it has to stay out of my house. If it’s in my house then I will be the guilty one eating it all up. For the past two months, we haven’t had anything in our home that wasn’t healthy or within a range of healthy, and I’ve noticed a change in my body. I still haven’t lost enough for my clothes to notice the change. However, you can tell it when you look at me.

    I know we’re going to continue on this trend. I hate that I have no self-control when it comes to food. I didn’t use to have that problem but with each pregnancy it got worth.

  26. Such a wonderful post, Stephanie. Amazing how much I can relate to you, even though I’m sitting in North Carolina and you’re backpacking Europe! Thanks for sharing.

  27. This may sound a little ridiculous, but my biggest problem is that I crave fast food. I know how bad it is, I know what goes in it, but I still get those cravings. And I am not one who can substitute. When I crave something, that craving will last for months. Salt is my big downfall, so I think that’s part of it.

    I am working on my control, without much progress, but I am starting to learn my triggers. For example, (sorry if I offend anyone), if I am fighting a craving and I say f*** it, I am at the very edge. (Working on my swearing too). Until recently, that meant I had lost that battle. Now, I know what’s happening, and my husband does too. Unfortunately, he is the ultimate enabler. (He is working on that, we are working on lots around here). Having a team that knows your faults really helps me.

  28. Oh where have you been? what a lovely blog! Off to go and peruse some more articles and recipes. Travelling around with your kids sounds like a great adventure. In my younger days we traveled with two daughter around the world on our sailboat. Oh yes…… I try to have lots of vegetables around, and bake small muffins etc so that I can just take one out of the freezer at time, and know what is in them…

  29. Hi Stephanie! I’ve been reading your blog for a year or so but have yet to comment. I thoroughly enjoy reading your thoughts and insights on wholesome living. This post in particular resonated with me today as I struggle to know how far is too far to stray from our whole foods diet.

    Generally, when I become anxious about eating outside of our diet, I find I start to worry about what could happen to our future children (we’re not parents yet!). As a nurse I care for many children with birth defects and I am terrified that might happen to my own. I realize that it does my body no good to worry over things I have little (or no) control (albeit a good diet certainly contributes to healthy offspring), so I step aside and remember God is in control and that I am doing the best I can do.

    I have to let go of my perfectionism, as it creeps in whenever I let my guard down and threatens to take the joy even out of eating.

    The other thing I do is listen to my body: I know I feel crummy if I eat too much processed food, and after eating a primarily clean diet for 3 years I can really tell when I’ve eaten lots of preservatives and sodium. It’s to the point now where I can think about how I’ll feel afterwards and decide it’s not worth it.

    So I guess I give God my anxiety – He’s bigger than preservatives and all of the scary things that *could* happen – and listen to my body!

  30. Oh this is so hard for me as well. I think the saying ‘You are either feeding your health or feeding your disease” helps a lot when it comes to foods I keep in the house (mainly because I know that is what my children will be eating). Also, my 1 year old eats so little that it’s important to me that the foods he does eat are nutrient-dense. However, when we are out and about it seems like all self-control flies out the window.

  31. Honestly, I’ve struggled with this my whole life it seems! I even wrote a series on my blog about a Bible study and reading of the book Made to Crave to sort through my feelings about it all. On the one hand, I know it’s a physical issue. I’ve been doing some reading about a possible lack of various amino acids, and I’ve had success when I’m diligent about taking my pills and really eating clean, but if I cave even once (like I did on vacation), it feels like it spirals out of control quickly!

    Sometimes it’s a spiritual and emotional issue for me as well. I eat because I don’t want to deal with my feelings–I *stuff* them down with food. It’s terrible, I know. I’m thankful I’m aware of it though, and it has led me to cry out to God and run to Him with all of my baggage.

    Thank you for your honestly and humbleness in approaching this issue. It’s a tricky one…

  32. All I have to say is—I am exactly like you. I don’t have it around the house, or I will most likely eat it. At least I have the self-control enough not to buy (or make) the foods that are bad for us (most of the time)! The one thing that really keeps me on track is how I feel. When I eat too much sugar, wheat and over-processed foods, I get sinus headaches and bloated and feel plain yucky. So that motivates me to at least make decently healthy choices, even on vacation! I can imagine traveling across Europe with several children, it MUST be really difficult to maintain healthy choices. A big downfall for me is not planning enough time for health food choices. It seems faster sometimes to go an easier, and less healthy, route when taking care of small children.

  33. Like you and most have said it is best not to have it around as a temptation. I also think that most of take food if it offered a reflex without thinking about are we hungry or do we need it. I work from home now and as a result have lost weight because I’m no longer being offered snacks by colleagues.

  34. I find this interesting. I can see how your story makes sense and there are lots of times in the past when I when I would have identified with what you said, but at this point in my life I can’t. It’s been brought to my attention recently how common problems like this are, which doesn’t surprise me except that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have that problem.
    I had a self diagnosed eating disorder from childhood until I decided I was done living that life when I was 18 and between working to become what I and many others call a “normal” eater, and my journey in the last year and half with being grain and sugar free and doing GAPS, most of the time I can’t remember what it’s like to want to eat or even feel capable of eating when I’m not hungry. Or to choose something I know I shouldn’t – except in cases of things like coffee and fruit which I haven’t wholehearted decided to abstain from.
    I highly recommend the book “The Rules of Normal Eating” by Karen Koenig – other than GAPS and the support of my husband it made the biggest difference in going from being a much-more-than-average disordered eater to becoming a much-more-than-average normal eater. I really believe it’s worth it, even if a person doesn’t have a large or serious problem, to work on becoming the most “normal” or “intuitive” eater you can be. Life is so much more enjoyable without internal food struggles draining our mental and emotional reserves!

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