Compromises are the seeds of addiction


One doesn’t just wake up one day suddenly caught in the entanglement of an unhealthy addiction. Unhealthy addictions are formed by repetitions of small, seemingly insignificant compromises of what we know to be good for us.  The danger of little compromises is they easily turn into bigger ones.

Typically, rationalizations spark the fire of compromise:


  • “It’s late. I’m tired ~ just a piece of toast with almond butter before bed won’t hurt me.”
  • “It’s the Super Bowl. Everyone is eating. Even though I’m not hungry, I’ll snack just this one time with everyone else. I’m not addicted to salt anymore so I can start over tomorrow; no problem.”
  • “Woah, I made way too much smoothie, and I only like to drink them when fresh. Oh well, just this one time won’t hurt to drink all of it. I hate to waste anything.”
  • “I know that I should only eat when truly hungry, but those homemade cookies left on the countertop were calling my name. I couldn’t help myself.”


It takes commitment to intentional choices, a solid plan, to keep one off the radar screen of addiction. 


Commitment is an action of the mind; a promise that’s based on knowledge. Commitment is hard at times. It’s never the easy way in the heat of a tempting moment.


Compromise is an action of the emotions; based on feelings, excuses and rationalizations. Compromise is easy. Any little thing is an excuse to give into impulses of the moment.


Perhaps it’s time to honestly evaluate our commitment or lack thereof. Are we committed to eating for optimal health, or are we eating according to feelings?

One produces freedom from addiction. The other produces captivity to it. 

In the heat of the moment, follow the plan.

Freedom to all! 



image credit: flicr by Kimberlykj

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Comments (23) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Ginger - February 18, 2011 10:18 AM

This is a wonderful description of my internal conflict to eat only enough. Overeating even ETL food is still the breeding ground for addiction. Thanks for this eye opening point of view. Constantly, I urge my son to eat my wonderful nutritarian creations. He does eat them but in very small portions. His reply? But I only eat, when I'm hungry. I'll follow his lead from now on.

Robin - February 18, 2011 10:29 AM

That's a really helpful thing to read. I'm one of those people who is constantly wondering how much I can get away with eating a little off plan. I need to face up to the fact that a compromise is the seed of my downfall. Thanks!

susan - February 18, 2011 11:23 AM

Great post! I really needed that. I did that exact thing last night after a trying emotional day....what's one slice of bread with peanut butter??? Thanks for all the "food" for thought, it is always good to remember to be more mindful in our choices, food and otherwise.

Wendy (Healthy Girl's Kitchen) - February 18, 2011 11:25 AM

Thank you, Emily, for reminding me of this. This is absolutely something that I need to be thinking about.

AmyLu Riley - February 18, 2011 11:49 AM

Is there an ETL-approved recipe for those cookies you pictured with your article? I assume the point was to show something blatantly non-ETL, but if there is an ETL chocolate chip cookie recipe, bring it on. (I know there is an ETL healthy chocolate cake recipe, so I didn't want to rush to judgment.)

Wild4Stars - February 18, 2011 12:22 PM

It's not nice to be eavesdropping on my internal dialogue. I usually win the argument but sometimes not. I KNOW when I cave in to the "compromise" it will be SO HARD to get back on track. I do it less and less, but I'm not 100% yet. I can go weeks, even months and then one day - my evil twin wins! The longer I go, the stronger I get.

Aimee Hughes - February 18, 2011 2:04 PM

Great post. Very inspiring!

Melissa - February 18, 2011 4:40 PM
Lorrie - February 18, 2011 4:41 PM

This surely speaks to me! I always think, "Oh, one won't hurt", but one compromise turns into many. How true. Thanks.

Gretchen - February 18, 2011 5:35 PM

This post is a great reminder that we always need to be on top of our health. Little transgressions really do add up...they also make it that much harder to stay on target as they support the sugar/salt addictions.

MIke Rubino - February 18, 2011 5:49 PM

How true Emily how true, I dont need alot of chocolate to start craving the stuff , and give me one piece of freshly made itlaian bread with olive oil on the side and Im good for half a loaf. Its easier to just not touch the stuff.

evie - February 18, 2011 6:05 PM

Thanks for this - it helps to get the reminders. I know that one of the only things in life I only have control over are my actions but it is incredibly difficult when these kind of conversations go on. Further, after eating well for quite while(feeling great) then getting smashed off the band wagon big time at the begining of 2011 it feel as if every week I have to "try again" because of these "little" compromises.
Bein so strict sometimes feels that quite scary and particularly in terms of navigating the balance of being "normal" - read socially acceptable and eating in a way that actually makes my life SO much better in every sense.
Alas. I will strive once more

Bev - February 18, 2011 6:07 PM

AmyLu and Melissa, although the cookie dough hummus might not be as bad for you as regular cookie dough, don't fool yourself - it's got plenty of fat from chocolate chips, nut butter, and coconut milk.

On the other hand, you can make hot cocoa with low-fat non-dairy milk, cocoa powder, xylitol (sweetener), and a bit of cinnamon or almond flavor or vanilla. Yummy and filling and chocolatey, although not a cookie. ;)

Theresa Anderson - February 18, 2011 6:18 PM

Thank You Emily and boy, don't I know it!
Little choices add up to big results good or bad! When we empower ourselves to eat right by resisting compromise we always win! When we give away our power to foods that hurt us, we always lose. We cannot ever make up that bite. Keep sharing your heart and pet peeves! We need to support one another!

Carol1one - February 18, 2011 6:26 PM

Emily, you write so well! Any number of your sentences could be motivational quotes. They certainly are for me.

It reminds me of a sentence I never forgot watching Masterpiece Theater...a person was about to make a small compromise and another person cautioned it as "the thin edge of the wedge".

Emily Boller - February 18, 2011 6:47 PM

I write motivational quotes because I've learned the lessons the hard way ~ from the school of hard knocks ~ I have the battle scars to prove it!

Believe me, I know all too well how seemingly insignificant compromises grow into the "big ones." It's the miniscule compromises that will unravel the best of intentions. They are the dangerous ones.

Boundaries keep us safe. Always.

I enjoy boundaries because I enjoy the freedom they bring to my life. :)

Theresa Anderson - February 18, 2011 8:08 PM

Thank You Emily and boy, don't I know it!
Little choices add up to big results good or bad! When we empower ourselves to eat right by resisting compromise we always win! When we give away our power to foods that hurt us, we always lose. We cannot ever make up that bite. Keep sharing your heart and pet peeves! We need to support one another!

Tamara - February 20, 2011 12:05 PM

how true for sure! But how do we stop, and when is just a little ok? tough to know, but I think happiness and health must go hand in hand. you need to treat yourself at times so that you don't overindulge, but that is a line that is tough to follow sometimes...

Sara - February 20, 2011 10:59 PM

I'm probably going to get slammed for this, but...

Oftentimes when I got on to ETL spaces, I feel like many in the community hate food, or find it suspect. And maybe that's the necessary attitude, as described in this article. We need food to survive, but we don't have to like it.

I love this diet. I feel so strong, and happy on ETL. I really crave all the nutritious things on it. I have been a member of for years. But I LOVE food. And I love eating delicious meals with fruits and veggies and beans and seeds. And if I eat one slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter to get me through the night, it's not going to give me cancer or heart disease. Hell, on the 6-week plan, we can have a certain amount of both of those things. (I do agree that processed, intentionally addicting foods are different though, and should be avoided.)

I do not agree to having a toxic relationship with my food. Relying on food to be a daily security blanket is not good, but neither is the ambivalence discussed in this blog. Food itself is not the enemy.

(Also, that cookie dough hummus sounds gross - fan of the chickpea that I am, it's just... wrong. )

Emily Boller - February 21, 2011 7:38 AM


I, too, absolutely love eating delicious meals with fruits, veggies, beans, and seeds. In fact, being a nutritarain has genuinely increased my pleasure of eating nutrient rich foods!

However, I did not infer that eating one slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter before bed would give anyone cancer or heart disease as you mentioned in your comment.

Most understood what I'm referring to in this post is the mindset of compromise being the danger.

Dr. Fuhrman says that repetition creates muscle memory which becomes second-nature.

When one continues to repeat an unhealthy action, such as eating when not truly hungry (aka overeating), it can easily turn into an unhealthy habit; and that's the precarious danger of compromise.

The flip side is habitual repetition of wise choices is the beauty of abstinence. When one continues to repeat an action that is health promoting, over time, it turns into a wonderfully healthy habit; and healthy habits produce much freedom in one's life! :)

shels - February 21, 2011 2:32 PM


I totally agree with you 100%!!!

It is ridiculous to give yourself even a little bit of grief about having drank too much of a smoothie, better than having gulped down a chocolate shake. When we start getting this critical over food choices, it can be very damanging to a person. I almost had to laugh at the examples given. It would be very discouraging for anyone.

Esther J - March 23, 2012 3:25 AM

Emily, I understand that you've struggled with food issues for much of your life and I give you all the respect owed for tackling and becoming victorious over them. I applaud and admire your achievements. However, I must admit I'm in agreement with those who've expressed the concern over the "food [even ETL food] as the enemy" subtext of this post. It just reminds me of the dieting mentality that focuses so much on constraints and limitations. It's unsettling, especially for someone who, like me, enjoys food and chose this dietary lifestyle to be liberated from all those confinements.

My focus has always been on cultivating trust in my body's signals, which then leads to liberation. For me that means knowing the food boundaries, (that is, knowing the truly toxic, addictive food and, yes, avoiding them) and joyously living - and playing - within those boundaries. If that means eating four pieces of fruit after having a good dinner and an hour before bed (I did that a couple nights ago. 'seems very gluttonous and was a very extraordinary event, I tell you.) or, using my finger to scoop out of the blender the last drop of that seemingly exceptionally yummy smoothie I just made and which I had a generous portion, so be it. I trust my body knows what it is doing and will let me know when something goes out of kilter. It always does! [With the fruit example, I later realized that on the prior very busy day, I very exceptionally had only one piece of fruit and my body was merely trying to compensate].

Emily Boller - March 23, 2012 5:53 AM


Dr. Fuhrman presents the science, knowledge and research for the best health that's possible, including freedom from food addictions and cravings. One can do whatever one wants with it.. If you enjoy fruit before bed, no one is stopping you.

What a privileged opportunity we all get as a result of choosing foods and habits that give the most pleasure and quality out of life; knowing that we are supporting, not destroying, our health as we enjoy eating!

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