How to Win a Staring Contest with a Cupcake


That’s the number of cupcakes that were left over after my niece’s christening party. Chocolate with vanilla creme filling, and red velvet. Each the size of my face. Sitting there, staring. Unblinking. Waiting for me to cave. Damn you, Stew Leonard.

It’s easy to be enthusiastic when a goal or habit is new and exciting. It’s fresh, and you’re fired up about being a better person.

But once that newness wears off — like say, when you’re 23 days into health nut month — it’s hard to maintain the enthusiasm. You’re tired, maybe a little cranky, and you’ve become complacent. You’re used to your goal. It’s no longer at the forefront of your mind, but lodged somewhere in the back. Your energy drifts elsewhere, which makes you vulnerable to slipping up.

Our enthusiasm for positive change fluctuates over time. In the case of diet and exercise, some days, we’re fired up, rarin’ to go, ready to be the healthiest person ever. Other days, the mere scent of a cupcake can cause the whole thing to come crashing down.

It’s easy to make excuses in the face of a cupcake. That sexy pastry’s right there, taunting you. Moist, sweet, delicious. Loaded with sugar. You know it’s bad for you, but the excuses start to form in your mind…

I’ve been healthy all day/week…

I had an awful day, I deserve a cupcake…

It’s not a big deal. It’s just one bite…

When staring down a cupcake, these excuses creep in and take over. They take root in your mind, and suddenly you can’t remember any of your motivation for being healthy. The brain becomes overwhelmed with temptation, and so there’s no room for discipline.

A solution I’ve been experimenting with this month is something I’m calling “The Reasons Why List”.

The Reasons Why List is self-explanatory. It’s a list of reminders about why you’re working toward your goal. For example:

  1. I want to look like Tarzan.
  2. Sugar will kill me.
  3. Bruce Lee definitely wouldn’t eat that.
  4. Gotta look good naked!
  5. I want to live for as long as possible.

And so on. You’d be surprised how many you can come up with. When staring down a cupcake, consult your Reasons Why List.

Eating a cupcake is a pleasurable experience, there’s no doubt about it. But that pleasure is fleeting. The five minutes spent eating a cupcake are wonderful, but they’re soon followed by physical and mental discomfort. An unhappy stomach, and a guilty voice inside your head. Was it worth it? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Documenting all of your reasons why can help you determine whether or not a cupcake is worth the consequences. The Reasons Why List reminds you who you are and who you want to be.

When staring down a cupcake, remember your reasons. Beat back the temptation, and move a little closer toward your goal.

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