“I was so good last week, and then I went out for dinner and totally lost it!”
“I am so ‘good’ at home and then I go on a trip and my diet gets smashed!”
“I’ve tried everything!”
Study after study has shown that we have a limited supply of willpower. We are only capable of resisting temptation a certain percentage of the time and then our energy to stay disciplined and focused is depleted. That’s when we cave and eat anything.
Your self control depends on your willpower which is a limited supply of energy.
– Roy Baumeister being interviewed by Dan Ariely’s podcast on why willpower doesn’t work.
Instead of relying on willpower to modify our behavior what if we simply change our environment? I’ve found it works for me. You don’t have to resist the temptation of a chocolate chip cookie if you don’t have a whole jar of them on your counter top, right?
Here are 5 simple ways to instantly modify your environment and create a supportive healthy space around you:
1. Change your friends (just the ones you dine with)
This one sounds extreme, but for real: If you eat out with people who have an unhealthy mindset they will likely pull you towards them. Remember the last time you ate with that one friend who said, “Come on! Just have a french fry! One won’t kill you!” (And, one won’t kill you by the way, but that’s not the point). When my husband and I first got married he would order the most drool worthy pizza on a Saturday night (and, on Sunday he ran it all off). It took every ounce of willpower I had to resist it. This doesn’t mean you should never eat pizza, just don’t dine with someone who does if you’ve decided it’s not the right option for you at that time.
2. Change your cupboard
Do an inventory sweep and get rid of anything that tempts you whenever you get a craving. Just don’t have it around and it is no longer a temptation. If you have kids this is especially important. As they grow up they will start helping themselves to snacks (and for a control freak like me, it’s a shocker when this begins to happen). Only keep snacks at home that you’re OK with them eating. Otherwise, can you really blame them for reaching for the chips and sweets?
3. Change your sleep patterns
Sleeping needs greatly varies from person to person but in general, experiment with going to sleep before 10:00pm. If you’re a night person, don’t stop reading now! Late night munchies are a hard thing to resist. Plus, chances are by then you’ve exhausted your willpower stores over the course of the day. Basically, you’re tired of saying no, so you’re likely to cave and binge. Nighttime eating may actually be bad for your health! Dr. Mark Hyman has a great piece on sleep and shares advice on establishing healthier bedtime and sleep routines for optimized health. Just another reason to just go to bed earlier, and you won’t be up raiding the cabinets!
5. Change your stress levels
Stress, as we know, has an adverse affect on weight, mood, skin and overall wellbeing. I could site dozens of scientific studies on this subject, but I think it’s better to share my simple personal experience: I am one of those people who is stressed out too often. And, if you’re a type A person like me, chances are that you are too. To better manage our weight and our happiness we need to let go more often. We need to take things less seriously. When we do, the weight of the world (and perhaps the stress weight glued to our midsection) has a better chance to ‘melt’.
I love this talk with Dr. Sara Gottfried on managing cortisol and stress. I particularly love her suggestion for women to eat chocolate for stress reduction (clearly, chocolate is NOT on my list of no-no foods).
For me, it is just way easier to NOT have foods that I don’t eat, and therefore I don’t have to resist them because they were never an option. When I dine out my eye skims right past anything with gluten, anything fried, anything with processed ingredients and generally most grains. I’m left with protein and veggie options, and that’s much easier for me than resisting the other 50 things on the menu. I wrote this post with my top tips to stay healthy while dining out, and I dive much deeper into the temptations that arise while eating away from the safety net of your own kitchen.
Tomorrow is the enemy of today. Start now. GO!