24 Ways to Stay On the Wagon

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Health Articles

There comes a critical point in a diet or lifestyle change when you need to motivate yourself over the inevitable “cravings” hump. Whether you are just starting a health program, or an 80% raw vegan trying to get to 100%, here are the top strategies you can use to stay on track.

Before you start:

1. Make the transition as slowly as possible


  • A large reason why people fail at health plans is because they do too much, too quickly.
  • One reason why Weight Watchers has the highest success rate is because they only allow dieters to lose 1 to 2 lbs per week. Any more, and they would be destroying their chances of long-term success.
  • You have your entire life to get healthy. If you are 43, you have 43 years of conditioned behaviour to break. It doesn’t happen overnight, and if does, it won’t last.

2. Understand your body and psychological type

  • What did you grow up eating between the ages of 1 and 5? That imprint is the strongest predictor for what you are wired to crave. Did your mother serve ice cream every night after dinner? Nostalgia has a powerful effect on food choices.
  • Have you done this before? What happened? Be honest with yourself.
  • If you are the type to binge, treat unhealthy food as if it’s an illegal drug. If not, you can indulge in moderation.

3. Set attainable goals

  • There are 100 things you can change, but it takes people a while to change habits. Change just one at a time. “I am going to cut out sugar for 2 days.” That’s all you need to start with.

Once you’re in the thick of things:

4. Get support: hang out with others in the same boat

  • This is by far the most important tip. It is another secret to Weight Watchers’ success, which separates them from the competition: mandatory weekly meetings with other dieters. Without this, the success rate drops dramatically.
  • If you’re raw, these are your go-to resources: the Give It To Me Raw Community, lead by Dhrumil, and the Meetup.com Raw Foodist groups (There are 55,000 of us on there!)
  • If you don’t have many friends in the same situation, look through your rolodex to see if you know others who have done a health kick. If you are uneasy asking them out on a “friend date”, just email them for advice. It will probably turn into meeting at a cafe, and maybe eventually into a running partner.

5. Eat foods that block cravings

  • Green juices or smoothies – a small one at night can prevent illegal activity (1)
  • Plenty of water (2)
  • A handful of nuts
  • Nutrient-dense foods – our body signals us to stop eating not just when we’ve had enough calories, but when we’ve had enough nutrients. This is one reason why chronic junk-food eaters constantly feel hungry. (3)

6. Treat junk food as if it’s heroin…because it is.

  • Baked bread contains trace amounts of opiates, created through heating wheat, which is what gives us that slight feeling of pleasure when eating a loaf. (4)
  • Refined sugar is made with the same process to refine poppies into heroin, and European royalty used to use it as a recreational drug in the 17th century. Sugar truly is an addictive substance. (5)
  • Similarly to a recovering alcoholic who can’t touch a drop, depending on your answer to #2, view yourself as a recovering food addict. (6)

7. If you’re going to cheat, don’t feel guilty

  • The feeling of guilt is worse for you than the actual food (7), and the more you resist something, the stronger the urge to consume it will become. (8)

8. Distract yourself with another guilty pleasure. After 10 minutes, the food craving will likely be gone.

  • Read Hollywood magazines
  • Watch 4 episodes of your favourite show online
  • Creep your crush on Facebook
  • Watch the top viral videos on Digg
  • Play an addictive video game
  • Call a good friend and talk for an hour

9. Out of sight, out of mind

  • You’re much more likely to eat something if it’s in front of you than if it’s hidden away.
  • Along the same lines, physically place healthy options on your desk, in a fruit bowl on your table, or anywhere you might be tempted.

10. Educate yourself on the scientific details

  • When I learned that Advanced Glycation End-Products (A.G.E.s) are compounds that accelerate aging, and that one piece of pizza contains 6,825 of these A.G.E.s, I happily opted for an apple, which contains only 13. (9)

11. Train your subconscious to control impulses

  • Paul Dewland, the motivational speaker for House of Verona retreats, explains exactly how this can be done in this video.

12. Restore your willpower by doing what you love

  • Spend 4 hours on Sunday doing what you love the most – no chores allowed. This will replenish the willpower that was depleted through engaging in stressful activities.

13. Exercise: it’s shown to suppress cravings (10)

14. Look at photos of Victoria’s Secret Angels or Men’s Health models.

Staring at Gisele is a great way to inject some motivation

Staring at Gisele is a great way to inject some motivation

15. Watch an intense sport on TV

  • Watching athletes perform at their peak provides instant motivation to go to the gym, or eat healthy.

16. Get a change of scenery

17. “Don’t be a p*ssy.”

  • Rory and Kim, authors of Skinny Bitch, put it best. “What if someone told you that you could totally change your life and have the body you want for the rest of your life? …All you have to do is follow a simple formula, and be willing to delay gratification for a few months. A few months. That’s it… Don’t be a p*ssy.” (Thanks Erin!)
  • Use the same motivational words that the mean trainers use on The Biggest Loser. “Are you a strong, powerful, successful person? Or are you willing to give in when it gets a little hard?”

18. Go to the grocery store on a full stomach

  • Otherwise, you risk the trap of buying impulse items to satisfy your hunger.

19. Spend 1 hour on Sunday preparing healthy snacks to keep in your car, purse, or desk.

  • Always be prepared for the mid-afternoon slump.

20. Accept yourself the way you are presently.

  • Statistically, 95% of people who begin a new diet will gain all of the weight they lost, plus more, within 5 years. (11) If you’re smart, and I know you are, you will resolve that the odds are against you, and you would rather be the way you are now, than a worse version of yourself in 2 years.
  • The irony is that the resulting effect on your mind increases your chance of success dramatically. When I resolved to think this way, I unexpectedly lost 10 lbs in the next year, without even trying.

If you going to a social situation where you will be tempted:

21. ‘Pre-eat’ before the event

  • Eat a small dinner before you go, so that you don’t feel deprived once you’re there.

22. Call ahead to the restaurant or host

  • If you’re going to a restaurant that has an unfriendly menu, tell them beforehand that you will be the odd one out; give them plenty of time to prepare a simple, healthy plate. This way, you draw less attention to yourself when ordering.
  • If you’re going to someone’s house, explain to them that you have a special condition where you won’t be able to eat the amazing food they’ve created for you. People can be offended if you don’t eat what they serve, so try to diplomatically clear this up beforehand.

23. Make excuses when friends ask you (or pressure you) to indulge with them

  • “I ate a little at 4pm, so I’m fine for now.”
  • “I’m meeting my trainer tomorrow and he forbids me from eating wheat 24 hours before.”
  • “I’m on antibiotics so I can’t mix a lot of alcohol with the medicine.”
  • “My doctor said…” – works every time.
  • “I’m allergic to dairy, so I can’t have those nachos…”

24. Call our free support line at 1.800.252.2826, and we’ll talk you through it.

We’ve roughed it out before, and know what it’s like.

Feel free to add your own strategies to this list in the comments section. Good luck, everyone!


  1. Boutenko, Victoria, Green For Life.
  2. http://ezinearticles.com/?Water-Helps-Curb-Cravings&id=1176145
  3. Sizer, F. Whitney, E. Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies. 10th edition. Thomson Wadsworth Publishing. Belmont, California. ISBN 0534645062.
  4. Boutenko, Victoria, 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to end your dependency on cooked food.
  5. Wolfe, David, Eating For Beauty.
  6. Marcia Levin Pelchat, Food Addiction in Humans, The Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 139, No. 3, 620-622, March 2009 http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/139/3/620
  7. Mark Handy, B.Sc., R.N.C.P., P.T., Y.T.
  8. Paul Dewland, Owner, Potenreal
  9. Boutenko, Victoria, 12 Steps to Raw Foods: How to end your dependency on cooked food.
  10. Marie Claire, Exercise curbs chocolate cravings. November 12, 2008.
  11. Women’s Health Magazine Study, July 2006
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5 Comments on "24 Ways to Stay On the Wagon"

  1. Hilal on Thu, 4th Jun 2009 3:19 pm 

    Excellent article and very practical tips.

    Thank you for putting it together.

  2. Yafa on Fri, 5th Jun 2009 9:03 am 

    thanks Hilal! thanks for giving me the inspiration for tips #21 and #22! :)

  3. Nina on Sat, 6th Jun 2009 8:08 pm 

    Great article! Full of realistic and actionable ideas!!

  4. Susan on Mon, 29th Jun 2009 11:00 am 

    Be sure to take 20 minutes to eat anything you put in front of you. Chewing is an important part of satiety.

  5. KonstantinMiller on Mon, 6th Jul 2009 10:53 am 

    I think I will try to recommend this post to my friends and family, cuz it’s really helpful.

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