Have you ever looked at a yummy piece of cake when you’re on a diet or put your hand out for a cigarette after you quit smoking and said, “just this once?” As I’ve tried to improve my habits and be as healthy as possible, I’ve learned that “just this once” is rarely once. We all have weaknesses for something, whether it’s cookies or drinking or getting lost on the Internet, or going back to a lover you know will hurt you, etc.

Will a desire for something control you or will you take control of the need?

WILL POWER. This is something we’d all love to have, without having to fight cravings. But it doesn’t work that way. Often we find ourselves battling against a strong desire for something that we know isn’t good to have. We want will power but holding onto it takes work and perseverance. It’s hard. Hard but worth it!

Instant gratification is much more appealing than depriving yourself.

When I was a DoorMat, my will power was weak. I was basically unhappy so I grabbed for anything that felt good for the moment. Saturday was cheesecake night. Unless I was somewhere that kept me from it, every Saturday night I either went out to a diner for some or brought a piece home. I indulged in anything that tasted or felt good. And I smoked. And chewed sugar-laden bubble gum. Since I didn’t value myself, there was no motivation to stop putting junk into my body.

Something yummy right now can seem much more appealing than the potential to lose a pound, which can take a while. And when you don’t love yourself, it’s hard to see past the cookie.

But I’ve learned why having will power is important. It really is a strong act of self-love. Knowing this doesn’t necessarily make it easy to say no to things that bring momentary pleasure, but it does make it more doable. With my slow metabolism (yes, I’ve been tested!), I have a hard time losing weight, even with a relatively healthy lifestyle. But this past fall, I gave it more serious thought and got a message, which I believe came from God, that I had to break my sugar habits.

I finally made one of the biggest decisions of my life. While I did eat healthy, I had habits for eating sweets that I had to break. That was the end of October.

I’ve gone on diets before. It’s been slow but I’ve lost some weight at times over the years. But this has been different. I didn’t give up sugar. I broke my habits, and I had lots of them. One that I always saw as harmless was having a starlight mint (or more than one) after every meal. One is only 20 calories so I justified that it was okay. I had dessert every night. Something small. I used to have a Heath bar, which I love. It’s less calories than most. Sometimes I could resist and have only a half of one. But this was another sweet habit.

Something in me clicked when I began. I didn’t want habits to control me. The first week was like being in withdrawal from a substance addiction as I stayed off of sweets.

It got easier as I continued. I still had sweets, but much less often and not during the normal times I had in the past. No more mints after meals! That was tough. I still reach for them sometimes, but can stop more easily now. I still have one occasionally, like after eating something very spicy. But maybe 2 a week instead of 3-6 a day. I have to ask myself for permission now before I have one. ?

It makes me feel so much in control of my intake instead of feeling controlled by my whims like I used to be.

I have a sweet on the weekend, but after lunch instead of dinner like my habit was. And I still pig out on special occasions. So I don’t feel completely deprived of sweets. But I rarely have sweets at times I used to. Having them is no longer a habit. I can even walk past the mints in restaurants without reaching for a handful!

Oh, and I’ve lost 8 pounds without changing any of my other eating habits.

I wish I could say that my cravings have stopped, but they haven’t. I still want sweets. But the cravings aren’t as strong. There are still times it’s hard to generate will power to resist them. But I do! And, that feels wonderful, so powerful. Cravings no longer control me! I control them! I’ve found that one of the biggest deal breakers for controlling an addiction, whether it’s for food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, seeing an abusive/unhealthy person you think you love, etc., is three little words:

“Just this once.” We always think we can have it once and then stop. But addictions don’t work that way.

I consider anything you crave and find hard to resist an addiction, be it a substance, food, person, activity, etc. Allowing one “just this once.” leads to another “just this once.” It’s never “just this once” when it comes to cravings. But you CAN generate the will power to begin to control the cravings, IF you want it enough and CHOOSE to. Here’s some tips I’ve learned:

* Show yourself lots of love! The more you love yourself, the more you want to take care of YOU. It’s a no-brainer! When you care about your well being, it’s easier to do what it takes to be healthier. Think of will power as an act of self-love and feel the love with each temptation you resist. Be the best friend to yourself that you should be and support your efforts to break habits.

* Postpone, don’t automatically deny. When I got disgusted with my Saturday night cheesecake habit, I told myself I’d wait an hour and then get it. After an hour, I chose to wait another hour. Then a half hour. Each time I postponed made it a little easier to wait. After all, I wasn’t withholding the treat. I was just waiting a little to have it. But I didn’t have it! Eventually it got late and I decided I could go without it. The rest of the night I reveled in being able to control my need for the cheesecake. I began to postpone other treats, and slowly broke the habit. Sometimes I did have it, and it was okay. But I didn’t need it all the time and my need became an occasional treat instead of a habit..

* Plan treats. I enjoy my sweets and allow myself to indulge, with some limits, on the weekend. If I have that to look forward to I can wait. I can also get addicted to playing computer games but I control this by allowing specific times to play them. If you have an addiction you can’t do in moderation, treat yourself to a massage or activity you enjoy.

* Find less addictive substitutes. There are some sweets I can have a little of and stop and some I can’t. I know I can’t keep a box of Oreos around as they talk to me. I’ll eat much too many! So, I don’t get them. Then there are cookies I like but don’t love. That’s what I buy if I get cookies. Find something else that gives you pleasure and avoid those that weaken your will power.

* Make a habit piggy bank or jar. Every time you resist buying something to eat or cigarettes or a drink or treating someone to get into their good favor, put the money you’d have spent in a piggy bank or jar. Save up for a trip, an electronic toy you’d like, new clothes or whate
ver would make you happy. This is a great way to reward yourself and see the fruits of your will power.

* Talk to yourself when you say “just this once.” Ohhh, I’d think, “I can splurge and have cake after dinner at home, even though it’s a Tuesday and that was my habit.” But I know it will lead to more exceptions. So I tell myself I can’t do it, out loud if I’m alone. I explain why, to myself. It usually convinces me that I can’t do it “just this once.” It’s really important to acknowledge the craving and praise yourself for not giving in—out loud if possible. I actually tell myself firmly that I can’t let myself start succumbing to “just this once” since it won’t be once.

*Take conscious pleasure in being able to control your desire. I congratulate myself for taking control instead of succumbing. Feeling empowered can give you a rush that makes up for not having a cookie or whatever it is you want.

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