Whatever your health goals – whether it is to lose weight, improve your diet overall, skip the snacks or alcohol there is one area that is often overlooked – the environment you create around you.
Think about it – if you see a bowl of sweets or a plate of cookies on your desk at work or in the kitchen are you tempted to have one even if you weren’t even thinking about eating cookies or sweets at the time? What would happen if that bowl was swapped for a pile of fruit or simply wasn’t there?
While it is tempting to blame our environment for overeating or eating the wrong foods this is actually something that is very much in our control and more importantly we can tweak to make it work for us not against us!
Manipulating your environment can help us achieve our diet goals much easier. Simply put we can change our environment so we think less about food and make it easier for us to make healthier choices over the food we do eat. All the willpower in the world will not get you to your diet goals – we need effective strategies to push us in the right direction.
Keep temptation out of sight
This may seem obvious but how many people fail to ditch the bad stuff? Whether this is booze, sweets, chocolate, puddings… if it is not in your immediate environment you are much less likely to eat it. If it takes effort to go to a shop or takeaway to get these foods you are less likely to choose to eat them. So whatever food is the stumbling block for you make a decision to not buy it or buy it much less frequently. It may not always be possible to chuck it out of the house depending on who you are living with but where possible keep it out of the house or work place.
Make Temptation Less Visible
If you do have chocolates, sweets etc in the house then make the effort to keep it out of sight and ideally in a location that is going to take action to reach. So it could be on the top of a high cupboard, in the garage, locked away in your partners drawer or in containers / tins which are not see through. Stop yourself from seeing it regularly and you are less likely to think about wanting it.
Make nutrient rich snacks visible
On the flip side you want to make some nourishing foods more visible to encourage you or other family members to eat them. This may be cut up vegetables ready to snack on, mixed salads prepared in the fridge, cooked chicken slices, hard boiled eggs, fruit or fruit salad, bowls of berries, small pots of plain yogurt. If you have a hard time knowing your portion size even of healthy nourishing food then buy small containers or small pot sizes. For example you can purchase individual mini pots of hummus which are ideal for snacking or small bags of nuts if you are likely to eat the whole bag in one go. If you have more calorie dense food around put it out of sight line – so in the fridge you may wish to place those in bottom drawers where it is not in your sight line when you open the fridge.
Buy smaller bags / packets
You don’t need to ban certain foods entirely but if you are someone who will quite easily eat the whole packet of biscuits in one sitting or a tub of ice cream then you are going to need to buy them in smaller sizes or individual portions. That way when you do fancy a snack you limit the amount you eat more easily.
Eat at the Table
If you are distracted when you eat you are less likely to be aware of just how much you are eating. So switch off the television and remove your phones and ipads and sit at the table to eat.
Plate up before you eat
If you are always tempted to have seconds it is best to put your food onto your plate and avoid serving bowls of additional food on the table. This way when you have cleared your plate you are less likely to reach for extra.
Move out of the Kitchen
If you are the type of person who frequently snacks or finds it difficult to eat late at night your best bet is to remove yourself from the kitchen. Work in another room or have a bath to take your mind off food.
Plan your meals
The best way to save money and avoid extra food around the house is to plan what you are going to eat each week. This will avoid last minute purchase buys or buying too much which you end up either eating or throwing away. Think about the week ahead and what you want to eat. This will also avoid you rushing out to the takeaway when you are starving. With some pre-planning it is much healthier and cost effective to prepare and cook your meals from scratch.
All of these strategies are about building new, healthier eating strategies. As you start to put these into practice they will become automatic and as a result you will find it so much easier to achieve your health goals. Read our blogs on building healthy habits here