I was talking to a good friend of mine about struggling with cravings and feeling bad when I give in to temptation. She said something to me that has really stuck with me. She said that giving up the bad food is hard and that we all stumble and give in sometimes. It was the answer most people give me when I tell them about how hard it is to stick to a healthy diet. But then she added something else. She said that I should instead try to focus on resisting temptation half as much. Then when that becomes easier, take it down another half. Each step will get you closer and closer to your goal: eating only healthy foods and having the power to say no to the bad foods.
It helped me to think about it in this way because I tend to have an all or nothing approach when it comes to food. I think, "Well, I've blown my diet by eating that cookie, so I may as well just forget about being good the rest of the day." But if I follow her advice, I can think, "Yeah, I had that cookie. But I'm not going to have any more. If I decide that I want to have a cookie the next time they are offered to me, then I will consider it." By doing this, I can keep myself from just giving in completely each time I stumble. And gradually, the amount of times that I turn down that cookie will grow to be more and more. And that's where habit comes in. They say it takes 3 weeks to turn an action in a habit. So if I'm turning down cookies and cakes when I go to birthday parties or work get-togethers or whatever the case may be, then I am that much stronger, because it doesn't even become an option. And then I can go home and eat a little treat that I have prepared for myself on my Paleo guidelines.
But even if I do give in and have that cookie, it's important not to think of it as the end of the world and totally cave in to devouring everything in site. It also helps to remember that turning down this cookie doesn't mean that you can't ever have another cookie again, which is what I tend to do with my all or nothing approach. And the fact that it isn't completely prohibited makes it just that much less desirable. People always want what they can't have. So by allowing yourself a cookie once in a while, perhaps stick to Paleo or healthier versions, but at least you aren't denying yourself and creating that subconscious pull to the bad food.