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Elective 3 / Lesson 4

Transformational Tips to Deal with Temptation

CARRIE: Hello, lovely listeners. Welcome to the Sane Show. I have with me Mr. Jonathan Baylor and I’m Carrie Brown.

JONATHAN: Carrie, we are here with “The Sane Show”. It’s very exciting listeners. We are actually going to be recording and you are hopefully going to hear it — well you already heard it at the beginning of this show, but we haven’t recorded it yet. This is like time travel.

As you are listening to this, Carrie and I are planning what we are going to say on the new intro and “outro” bumper since we renamed the show the Sane Show, which we’re going to record immediately after recording this show. It is like we are spending space and time right now.

CARRIE: We’re telling you something that you actually already know.

JONATHAN: Exactly. We don’t know it. You actually know more than we know right now. This is confusing me, Carrie. You know what else is confusing?


JONATHAN: It is the actual topic of today’s show because you said, “Jonathan, let’s talk about something. I don’t really know what we should say about it but it seems like a good idea.” I thought it sounded like a good idea, too, but I don’t know where it is going to go.

CARRIE: The other awesome thing, before we get started, is it feels like the show studio is back to normal.

JONATHAN: It is not 120 degrees in the studio anymore?

CARRIE: Plus I am wearing your socks.

JONATHAN: You’re wearing my socks and it’s a little bit cooler which is great, but we’re certainly going to heat it up like we always do. So what is our topic for today, Carrie?

CARRIE: Temptation.


CARRIE: No, not like that. This is a family show!

JONATHAN: This is “The Sane Show After Dark.” [Laughter] It’s the new and improved, because usually when we publish these shows we can set the rating. We usually set it to G. Are we going to have to set it up to PG or PG13?


JONATHAN: Okay so what kind of temptation?

CARRIE: I’ve been single for seven and a half years.

JONATHAN: Well so then you know about temptation.

CARRIE: No! I live with six cats, Jonathan.

JONATHAN: So what kind of temptation are we talking about, Carrie?

CARRIE: Food. Well, not just food actually because this would apply to anything in a Sane Lifestyle that you find difficult to resist doing or not doing. This could also apply to the temptation not to go to the gym and do your eccentrics every weekend or whatever day you go, or avoiding the temptations of the cupcakes in the office or avoiding the temptation to stay in bed five minutes longer and not get up and make that sane smoothie.

JONATHAN: So it’s the temptation to be insane, for lack of better terms.

CARRIE: Yes, because I think for a lot of people this is what derails them.

JONATHAN: There is. There is a lot of good stuff here, Carrie. The two strategies that I can think of off the top of my head based off of research, and then we can get into some more commonsensical approaches, the first is using a concept of your future self.

You know it sounds a little bit weird but there is this concept in human psychology — and now we’re getting into the other definition of sane which is psychologically sane — which is the immediacy bias or future discounting where things right now are feeling good right now. We bias towards that even if we’re going to feel terrible in five minutes because feeling good right now is…is…

CARRIE: Feeling good right now!

JONATHAN: … is feeling good right now. All right. Actually AJ Jacobs, who is the Editor in Chief of Esquire Magazine, friend of the show, been on a couple of times — and hopefully folks have enjoyed our chats as much as I have — he wrote a book called Drop Dead Healthy and he’s writing another book now.

One of the things he talks about in Drop Dead Healthy is his quest. He goes on these quests. So for example he wrote a book called A Year of Living Biblically where he tried to do everything in the Bible literally.

For example in the Bible they talk about you wear certain clothes, you don’t eat certain foods, and you don’t do certain things. He took that literally and did it and wrote a book about it.

He did the same thing in terms of health and fitness where he looked for every crazy diet, exercise or fad he could find on the Internet and then he did it. Then at the end of the book he reflects on what works and what doesn’t work.

What he found was one very simple exercise he found to be most effective for him. AJ is a great example because AJ is not a fitness or health guy, he’s a pretty typical dude and he lives in downtown Manhattan.

He was just imagining his future self, and the way he did this… He has children; I know a lot of our listeners do. Not everyone does but if you do this can be a little bit easier because what you do is you try to think about yourself in the future. You think about you with your grand kids or you with your children as adults or just you maybe in retirement.

You try to perceive that person as a different person and a person who you want to be nice to. That sounds a little bit odd, but what I see a lot of people struggle with is that, in temptation, we’re in a hot state and we’re thinking… often we’re not thinking.

We’re using the animal part of our brain. We’re in a very emotional state. But if we can take a step back and disconnect from that emotional state and look out into the future a little bit, and if we can have a concrete thing to look at, aka our future self, that can sometimes be the pattern interrupt.

If folks are familiar with Tony Robbins, he uses that term a lot. It can be the pattern interrupt that allows us to break away from that temptation for an instant; but sometimes that is all we need, that quick interrupt, and then we can free ourselves from that moment of temptation.

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: What do you think about that?

CARRIE: I think that’s a great thing to think about. It also just struck me while you were talking that — and again, I don’t have children but I’ve seen this in so many of my friends and parents in general — is that they don’t let children drink coffee until they are a certain age.

Or there are things that you wouldn’t let your children do that you do yourself, and generally unhealthy things that you wouldn’t do yourself. You encourage your children to exercise because you think it’s good for them or you encourage them to eat their vegetables because you think it’s good for them. But something happens when we become adults that we don’t give ourselves the same care and attention and education as we do to children.

JONATHAN: This is just coming on the fly right now, Carrie, but I’m thinking that last time I was visiting my in-laws, who are these wonderful, wonderful people, Carolyn and Terry, I asked Terry what — I don’t know how this came up but I asked him because this is my wife’s father — I asked him what is…

Oh, no, yeah, I think they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, which is an amazing achievement, and I said, “Terry, what is your number one piece of advice for being as happy as you and Carolyn are after 40 years of marriage?”

He paused and he said, “Jonathan, always have something to look forward to with your spouse.” I think that applies here, because we all like having something to look forward to and we know the common wisdom of “The journey is usually more satisfying than the actual end point.”

A lot of people who have achieved goals in their lives realize “Oh. That’s not nearly as satisfying to reach as I thought it was,” but the journey is very satisfying. So think about having something to look forward to in terms of a holiday or a present or a vacation but then think about looking forward to yourself in the future.

Let me unpack that a little bit. So often we might think of ourselves in the present and we might be a little bit down on ourselves or think of things we did in the past. We may have some regrets and hopefully we don’t have a lot of that but we might have that.

One thing that is cool about the future and the concept of future self is you can look forward to your future self based on what you are going to do today. So you can say, “You know, I’m not where I want to be today but that is okay, because I’m going to do these things today and I’m going to get into these habits and I can look forward to the future self that I am going to create.”

So it is almost like saying when we were children we looked forward to Christmas, or now as adults we may look forward to the weekend or we may look forward to our next vacation, but can we make our minds look forward to the future “us”?

CARRIE: Right, so that could be as simple as six months from now I’m looking forward to feeling healthier, sleeping better, enjoying going to the gym once a week, any of those things whatever your goals are. In six months I’m excited about feeling better than I do now.

JONATHAN: This actually is what we do in The Calorie Myth Book. I just recalled this. There is a section called “Smarter Psychology” and what we do is this exercise. It is similar to affirmations but, in my experience, it’s more scientifically founded — not to knock affirmations at all.

Nathaniel Brandon, who is quite an influential psychiatrist or psychologist, came up with this technique called Sentence Completion. Basically what we are talking about here, the exercises we take people through in the book, is you have a sentence stem which is “When I eat sanely I’m excited to ____” “When I eat sanely I’m excited to ____.”

The exercise is to sit down for five minutes and fill in that sentence as many times as you can. Really that’s an exercise in your future self. You are trying to create as many reasons in your mind to do that which is sane because what you are going to have it this temptation and this animalistic side of your brain that really doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

CARRIE: It just wants a tasty cupcake right now.

JONATHAN: Exactly, so unless you take steps, unless you do these things, like you imagine your future self or you do affirmations or you do some kind of pattern interrupt or sentence completion… I think the first thing is to identify that you are in a state of temptation.

And then the second step is have some sort of strategy or technique to let your — to be technical, to let your neocortex, the front part of your brain, the brain that makes you not the same as other animals on the planet — allow that to then calm down your amygdala or animal part of your brain.

This is what separates us from other animals, that we can say, “I have to go to the bathroom right now. I’m tempted to go to the bathroom in my pants because I really have to go to the bathroom… but I’m not going to.” That is kind of a silly example, but when you think about it… Think about small people, babies. Right? “I’ve got to go to the bathroom…” Well…

CARRIE: There we go!

JONATHAN: Bathroom time! “I want to eat something insane. Whoa, eat insane time!” But the criteria by which we say you are a mature adult, in some ways, is your ability to say that which your animal brain tells you to do right now, you can consciously choose to give into or not. If you can project yourself into the future and have these clear goals, more often than not you’ll choose the sane approach.

CARRIE: I think one of the things you said a few minutes ago that is really important is that you acknowledge that it is a temptation. And while you were talking, the other thing it reminded me of is a Stephen Covey quote.

JONATHAN: I love Stephen Covey!

CARRIE: I’m paraphrasing because I can’t remember it exactly, but it was something along the lines of it’s easy to say no when there is a bigger yes burning within.

JONATHAN: Yes. That is one of my favorite quotes ever.

CARRIE: I massacred the quote but… you know.

JONATHAN: Yeah. Well, a great example of that, Carrie, is Veganism. People want to talk about temptation. People want to talk sometimes about oh sane eating can be a challenge in certain instances. I cannot imagine being a vegan. I’m a pretty self-disciplined person and the thought of never eating an animal product of any form ever again is… Holy moley!

But most vegans not only do it but if you talk to someone who has been a vegan for over a year, it is not as if they wake up in the morning and they are like “Oh my God, I wish I could eat some bacon; it is so hard to not eat bacon.” They don’t want to eat bacon even though I bet if eating bacon — if you could do a brain scan… Well I don’t know.

I’m curious if it would activate the same dopamine centers it would for someone who is not a vegan. But vegans personify this Covey quote. They have a deeper yes. They have a moralistic belief which — it’s almost like — have you heard of this drug Chantix®?


JONATHAN: There is this — I don’t know if it is new… My brother is a smoker. He’s trying to quit smoking and he is now on this medication called Chantix® and the way Chantix® works is it makes cigarettes disgusting.

CARRIE: To taste? The taste. Okay.

JONATHAN: If you take Chantix® and you smoke, it’s a bit almost like a Pavlovian conditioning where you take a dog and the dog does something and you Tase it and if you do that — I mean don’t Tase your dog…

I mean that’s what you should do. Any time you feel a temptation, get a cattle prod and just Tase yourself [laughing] and after a while you’d think, “This is terrible.”

But the point here is that deeper yes burning inside. That can apply to food and it can apply to food in a very deep way as evidenced by vegans or even by people who do religious dietary restrictions like kosher or halal, individuals who have this deeper yes burning inside which allows them to take that step back.

CARRIE: So you have just reminded me what I was thinking as I was driving down the freeway and I thought temptation would be a good show topic.

JONATHAN: All right. So here we are, 15 minutes into the show, and what have we got here, Carrie?

CARRIE: It was exactly what you just said, but people who don’t smoke don’t make that decision every time someone offers them a cigarette.

JONATHAN: Hmm…great distinction.

CARRIE: They already made that decision. They just don’t smoke. They don’t have to think about it. When someone offers them a cigarette — or drinking is the same. When somebody offers me a drink, I don’t have to think about whether I want to drink or not. I don’t drink. I don’t drink alcohol.

So I’m not — it’s not continually a temptation because at some point in my life — I made it 23 years ago — I made a decision that I don’t drink. I only had to make that decision once and I don’t struggle. When people offer me a glass of wine now I’m like, “No thanks.” I don’t drink.

JONATHAN: That is an identity tie in, Carrie. You really hit the nail on the head there because once something becomes part of our identity, how we see ourselves… Vegans, that’s an identity; kosher, halal, people who don’t drink or straight edge…

Or a lot of us, we’re not tempted to try heroin. We’re not like “Man…!” From all accounts I’ve heard from people who take heroin, the act of taking heroin is quite enjoyable when you do it but I doubt there are very many people listening to this show that actively feel tempted to try heroin. Why? Because they see themselves — their identity is “I would not take heroin.” That’s just part of my identity. I am not an illegal drug user.

CARRIE: Right. It’s just not something I do.

JONATHAN: I think the key thing then is we have to start to say– And that’s again why dieting is so ridiculous because dieting is consciously saying, “This isn’t who I am; this isn’t what I do.”

CARRIE: It’s a temporary thing.

JONATHAN: “I’m going to do this temporary thing,” and we wonder why we’re tempted. Whereas if someone says, “Look.” Usually, actually when people become vegans or vegetarians, something happens and they are like “I’m never eating animal products again. Done!” And they don’t do it for 21 days. They don’t do it for 2 weeks.

CARRIE: And they don’t have to make that decision every day when they are faced with meat because they just don’t eat meat.

JONATHAN: We’ve hit on really two key things so far, Carrie.

The first is 1) ideally, hopefully you don’t have to make the decision each time it comes up because this is something that is tied to your identity and hopefully digging into the science, the not counting calories and celebrating the abundance of nutritious food and healing your body and taking on that mindset can make sanity part of your identity. We need to make an identity shift.

Also, assuming we can’t do that overnight, we need to have ways to, in the moments of temptation, take a step back from that. So there is develop an identity that blocks temptation in some ways, then there is [2] have techniques to calm temptation when it happens.

Then there is also a third [3] strategy which I learned from my mother because she used to always say, “Jonathan, avoid the occasion of sin.” I was raised in a very strict Roman Catholic household so we used the term sin a lot. She would just say, “Jonathan, it’s…” For example if you’re in a committed romantic relationship, it is a lot easier to not be tempted to cheat on your spouse if you don’t go to nightclubs because…

CARRIE: Right. Right.

JONATHAN: So if you are only ever around people who don’t smoke, it is much easier to not be tempted to start smoking because it would be weird to start smoking. There is tie your identity to noble motives such that you aren’t tempted. Then there is essentially distract yourself from temptation. Then there is can you structure your life such that you avoid temptation in the first place?

CARRIE: But the flip of this is that you can also — this will help you and we’re talking about things being part of our identity, you can also look at it as “I go to the gym on Saturday.”

That is just what I do. It’s not like I have to make a decision every Saturday “Am I going to go or not?” I go to the gym on a Saturday for 15 minutes. That’s what I do. I go to Yoga on a Tuesday night. Every Tuesday I’m lying on the floor stretching and napping. That’s what I do. You can also look at it as “I don’t do these things” or “I do these things” and you don’t have to make a decision every time you’re confronted with choices.

JONATHAN: The point we are making here, Carrie, is not only supported by science, but if you just look at humanity. For example, if someone says, “I’m an American” or “I’m Roman Catholic” or “I’m a marathoner” — not “I’m going to run a marathon” — “I’m a marathoner,” not “I’m going to go to church this week; I’m Roman Catholic…”

When people make that distinction from “I’m going to try not to eat starches and sweets and maybe eat some whole nutrient-dense foods when I can” versus “I am a sane person.”

CARRIE: Right.

JONATHAN: And I believe at the core of my being that starvation, just eating fewer calories of toxic edible products, is absurd and dehumanizing and that it is a repressive model that is frankly deadly when misapplied, and that nature has given us such an abundant bounty of real, healing foods that we almost have a moral obligation, especially considering the fact that we have now ushered in a generation of children that have a lower life expectancy than their parents and we have a worldwide obesity rate which is causing more suffering than pretty much any other condition on this planet right now, that we can go sane.

We can be sane, and when we see ourselves this isn’t something we just dabble in. This isn’t a fad; this isn’t just diet, this isn’t just this temporary thing. It is a respectable and noble and necessary way of life just like being environmentally responsible. We now know that what we did in the past is not sustainable and we all have to take steps to be more environmentally responsible.

CARRIE: So again like recycling. Right? We all just do it now.

JONATHAN: Exactly.

CARRIE: It has become what we do. We recycled. We don’t throw everything in the trash. We have a yard waste and we have a recycling and we have a trash. Now wherever you go in public places there are several garbage cans for those different things and it has just become part of who we are.

JONATHAN: And this is why — and this is going to get me in some trouble with some people, but oh well — this is why the mainstream myth of moderation is so ridiculous, which is this “Oh well you know it’s just 100 calorie snack pack or just have one soda per week.”

It is very easy to see when logic is just flawed because that logic is just saying “It’s okay if you just do a little bit of it.” If you are married, ask your spouse if it’s okay if you just cheat on them a little bit sometimes.

CARRIE: Or if it’s okay if you kiss other people but as long as you don’t go any further.

JONATHAN: That’s right. What that actually indicates is that in your mind there is either some kind of dissatisfaction or… It’s like there is a crack in the armor where– Where a vegan does eat animal products on occasion because that is inconsistent with their identity.

CARRIE: It is just not what they do.

JONATHAN: But see the identity that is being communicated by these mainstream moderation marketers is the identity of materialism and the identity of “I should be able to do everything and have everything that I want” — which is fine, this is America; you can do whatever you want.

But like Covey said, you can choose your actions but you can’t choose the consequences of your actions. Right? So what we’re trying to do here on the Sane Show in everything that we do is to outline the actions that are not only enjoyable but that are also going to have positive consequences for you with no ulterior motive.

When you are seeing other things in the media, you have to be on the lookout for, for example, the myth of moderation. If I owned Pepsico, I would want everyone to believe in the myth of moderation because that means every single edible product I produce you can eat as long as you eat it in moderation, which is of course ridiculous. Anyway… you can tell I’m a little…

CARRIE: Have you finished? Is there something more?

JONATHAN: Tirade, a rampage, so — let’s just quickly summarize here, Carrie. I think this is, while we started out not really sure what we were talking about, I think we covered some helpful ground here. Let me know if I miss anything.

We’ve covered three big ways to look at temptation. Big Hammer Number One is if you can avoid the situation in which you will be tempted, that makes it a heck of a lot easier. So if you cannot go into Baskin Robbins, that will make it a lot easier not to be tempted to eat Baskin Robbins ice cream — easy but not always…

CARRIE: Just don’t even walk in the door.

JONATHAN: Don’t even walk in the door. Don’t walk through the snack food aisle. Option Number Two, over time — and there is no quick way to do this — is listen to these shows, get involved in the Paleo Community, read books, immerse yourself in the science, develop an identity that just says…

CARRIE: “I live a sane life style.”

JONATHAN: These other things are repugnant. They are as repulsive to me as taking cocaine or heroin.

CARRIE: They are just not something I do.

JONATHAN: They are just disgusting. And then the third thing would be if you can’t avoid the occasion of temptation, and if you haven’t yet developed that identity, come up with strategies and techniques such as imagining your future self or having these strong, compelling goals such that, in the short term, you can interrupt that animal brain which is trying to get you to poop in your pants (for lack of better terms because if we just let our animal brain run wild we’d go to the bathroom anytime and anywhere we wanted). So don’t do that. [Laughter] That’s not a good idea and I think we can all agree on that!

CARRIE: That would create an awful lot of laundry.

JONATHAN: Yes and Carrie, we also promised our listeners that, moving forward, we would give them action step per week. I think an action step for this week, which would be a useful one for folks, is to think of each week — maybe I’ll come up with one and you come up with one — so each week think about an occasion which consistently tempts you to be insane.

Try to use one of the approaches we talked about here. Is it possible for you to avoid that situation? That would be my action item for you for this week is try to identify a consistent source of temptation. Can you figure out a way to live your life fully and happily while avoiding it? What about you, Carrie?

CARRIE: My action would be think about a burning yes that will help you to say no.

JONATHAN: I love it. I love it. I think for a lot of our listeners it is going to have to do with other people in your life. Because sometimes we can’t– We treat ourselves worse than we treat other people. But if you think about people that you love or that love you and how you want to be able to serve them and be with them in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years, I think you can find that yes pretty easily.

CARRIE: But also just feeling better.

JONATHAN: Absolutely.

CARRIE: If you are a diabetic, not being one. That’s kind of what I mean. Find a burning yes that will make it easy for you to say no to whatever is causing you not to live in that yes right now.

JONATHAN: I love it, Carrie! This is fabulous! Well, listeners, I hope this helps you to avoid temptation, get that burning yes inside and to stay sane. So remember this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better and remember, stay sane.

CARRIE: See ya.