4 scientifically-proven ways to resist cravings that aren’t willpower

4 scientifically-proven ways to resist cravings that aren’t willpower

A new study has found these four strategies are proven to help avoid temptation, and help you reach your goals.

It’s always the way. We go into a new diet or fitness regime with the best of intentions. We chop the carrots. Book the Spin class. Pack the gym gear. Only to fall at the first hurdle.

Who knew there would be birthday cake in the office that day?

It happens to the best of us.

Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.

However, according to new research, there could be a way to nip those inevitable temptations in the proverbial bud, skipping the free cake and making sure you reach your goals.

The study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, found four strategies which, when planned ahead, were the most effective ways to avoid temptation, and more effective than relying on sheer willpower when the temptation was right in front of you.

Situation selection

The first tip is to, whenever possible, avoid situations that you know will lead to temptation. Going into a fast-food restaurant, for instance, or strolling down the baked-goods aisle at the supermarket (or whichever aisle tempts you the most).

Situation modification

Of course, there are some situations involving temptation that realistically you can’t avoid, such as a birthday party, the office, or a bar. According to the study, in these situations there are other ways to reduce the pull. Try staying away from the temptation (be it booze or food) and mixing with other like-minded people, such as the non-drinkers.


If these strategies fail, try to distract yourself by diverting your attention elsewhere. Trying not to overeat or drink too much at a party? Stay engaged in conversation and sip on water instead. Trying to avoid the office cake? Get stuck into that work project in front of you.


This last technique is about adjusting your mindset so the temptation becomes less appealing. For example, if you’re craving a burger, start to think about the animal you’re eating, or focus on exactly how much sugar (a lot) is in that chocolate and what that will do to your body (not good).

While there is nothing wrong with relying on self-control, by planning ahead with these strategies, researchers say you will have a better chance of resisting temptation, which can help you bypass unhelpful habits for good and reach your goals.