One of the sentiments I hear frequently from patients is their struggle with dietary temptations. Certain foods or situations seem to trigger a return to old habits, and most often my patients report feeling like failures for succumbing to these temptations. I’ve even had patients tell me after a “stumble”, they felt like cancelling their next appointment with me because they are so ashamed.
The first thing I say to encourage these patients is that there are no failures, just new learning opportunities. I also remind patients that “will power” is a largely untrue concept. There are physiological and psychosocial aspects to eating that deeply affect the choices we make, and it is nearly impossible to “muscle through” all of them. What is important is recognizing our weak points and identifying strategies to help us overcome. No one should ever feel like a failure. Relearning dietary habits and creating a new lifestyle are not easy processes. We all need to learn and grow and we all need someone to come along side us to help us.
Whether it is family pressure, our own specific trigger foods, comfort/stress eating, or endless environmental temptations (such as a plate of sugary snacks in the break room at work), we all face challenges when it comes to maintaining and improving our diet and our health. There is no shame in having these struggles, as they are common to all people. So when temptations come, reach out for help and treat them as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than letting them overwhelm and defeat you. Remember: success does not equal perfection.