Expert Tip: Tempt yourself


Why does temptation always have to be bad? Here’s how to make temptation work FOR, rather than against, your fitness goals.

We’re usually tempted by things that are enjoyable in some way.

I’m bombarded with comments and emails from people who are tempted by:

  • Junk food
  • Fast food
  • TV
  • Excessive lounging
  • Alcohol/drugs
  • And so on…

None of these people are tempting themselves to do the healthy stuff.

Is it possible to tempt ourselves into doing positive things?

If I keep a bag of dirty vegetables in the back of my fridge, I’m tempted not to eat them.

But if I have containers in my fridge filled with vegetables that are washed, cut and ready to eat, that’s a positive temptation. I’m tempted to eat more nutritious food.

Good stuff prepped and ready to go
Good stuff prepped and ready to go

If my nephew keeps plain mint flavored toothpaste in the bathroom, he is tempted not to brush for more than about 10 seconds. If he keeps strawberry flavored toothpaste on hand, that’s a positive temptation. He is tempted to brush longer.


If my workouts are tedious or boring, I’m tempted not to do them. If I have access to workouts that are varied, challenging, and compatible with my biomechanics, that’s a positive temptation. I’m tempted to do the workouts.

(For more ideas, see Monkey Bar Gymnasium and Exuberant Animal)

If I keep a big roll of thick, old school floss on hand, I’m tempted not to floss. If I have my Reach Access flosser ready each day, that’s a positive temptation. I’m tempted to floss each night.


If one of my clients eats the same bland foods over and over, she gets bored and ends up being tempted by junk food. If she utilizes simple recipes with new flavors, that’s a positive temptation. She is tempted to eat a greater variety of nutritious foods.


If one of my clients trains alone, he gets bored and is tempted to skip his workouts. When he has a workout partner to make jokes with and compete with during a training session, that’s a positive temptation. He is tempted to stick with his workouts. (Check out how PN workout buddies roll.)

If I do my daily outdoor walk in complete silence, I’m tempted to skip it. When I bring along my radio and listen to sports talk, that’s positive temptation. I’m tempted to take my daily walk.

If one of my clients does a treadmill workout in a quiet room while staring at drywall, she finds it tedious and is tempted to give up. If she does the treadmill workout while watching her favorite TV shows on DVD from Netflix, that’s a positive temptation. She is tempted to do the treadmill workout.


Temptation tips

What makes something tempting? Here are some ideas:

  • FUN! This is the biggie. Figure out how to make things fun.
  • Tempting things appeal to our senses: they’re fun to watch, listen to, taste, etc.
  • Tempting things are often social things: hanging out with friends, being part of a team.
  • Tempting things make us feel good. Reward yourself for achievements in the gym and with your nutrition. Don’t think of it as “boring food prep”; think of it as the Joy of Cooking.
  • Pretend to be a kid again. Forget about the workout sheet — run because it feels good to run. Throw a frisbee. Pretend a monster is chasing you. Climb the monkey bars.
  • Pretend other silly things. Do the exercise and nutrition equivalent of singing into your hairbrush. When nobody is around, flex in the mirror. When you’re lifting, imagine you’re Superman or Wonder Woman.
  • Tempting things are often things we think are more convenient or easier. Make the stuff you don’t want inconvenient or irritating. Make the stuff you do want convenient, easy, and efficient. Leave the cookies in the store, where you have to walk a mile to get to them. Keep the apples close at hand, looking all nice and shiny.

Are you tempting yourself to do the positive thing?

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