One Small Change: Eat Healthier All Year Long by Changing Your Food Environment

by in Healthy Tips, January 26, 2012
sandwich police
Keep tempting foods out of reach.

It’s nearly the end of January and maybe you’ve joined our Healthy Every Week January Challenge, maybe you’ve done your own resolution-thing this year. Regardless, the new year often brings a surge of renewal and positive change. We toss out all of the leftover holiday junk food around the house (or in the case of my cousin, offer leftovers to guests as they leave the New Years’ party). We are determined to choose the grilled chicken salad over the two slices of pizza at lunch and turn down dessert when we go out to dinner. We buy lots of fresh groceries on January 2nd and whip up great home-cooked meals, such as lentil soup and baked salmon.

For the first couple of weeks, life is good. We feel better and start to look better too! Then we go back to our old routines at work, with our families and in our day-to-day lives. As a result, our eating and exercise habits often go back to the old routines too. We (and our bodies) are the result of our habits and routines. The biggest challenge for most people is harnessing the momentum and enthusiasm from the first few weeks of January and taking steps to make sure some of those initial changes in January become permanent habits by February.

A great way to keep the healthy times rolling is to change your environment to avoid the scenarios that led to your old decisions and temptations.

1. Make sure tempting foods are not around you. If you know that the smell or sight of a chocolate chip cookie turns you into a human Cookie Monster, make your house, desk at work, or any other place you spend time a “no cookie zone.” This way you can truly enjoy the cookie you have every now-and-then (rather than every day) at a café or restaurant.

2. Write down an action plan to avoid or prevent situations in which you find yourself tempted. When do you feel like you want to run to a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (or your “feel good” snack)? Studies show we seek sugar when stressed because it triggers “feel good” chemicals in our brain; the effect is similar to cocaine. Consider which of these “stresses” impact you:

  • A stressful day at work? Problem-solve your work issues, go to a yoga class, meditate or just focus on breathing through your stomach for ten deep breaths.
  • Everyone else is doing it? Ask your co-workers or friends to not ask you when they are ordering from fast-food restaurants and make it a point to only go to restaurants with healthier options when you go out to eat.
  • Starving from going six hours between meals? Bring a satisfying snack with you from home such as carrots and hummus or a yogurt and a few almonds so you can turn down the free junk food being offered at 10 AM or 3 PM.

TELL US: What is your “temptation” food and what steps will you take to make sure it no longer tempts you?

Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, author of Savor Fitness & Nutrition wellness blog and avid proponent of MyBodyTutor, a health coaching website dedicated to helping people stay consistent with their healthy eating and exercise goals.

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Comments (101)

  1. Holly says:

    Problem: snacks that are good replacements for chips. Salt, crunch…..Popchips are pretty good. Nuts are good, but hard to limit to one handful. Gluten free sesame rice crackers from health food zones are great.
    Use EVOO instead of butter on serving steamed veggies (a little garlic infusion is fun).
    Load up on fruits and veggies and avoid skipping meals and snacks which cause obsessive eating.

  2. Hi I really liked this topic as i solved one of my problems. I really have this stress and anxiety problem since I am doing my job. And on a stressed day I had to go to bakery to get me some pastry or some brownie and it used to help me relaxing and I always explained people that sweets make me relaxed untill I read this article which tells me that it is just brain game. Lol

    But I dont now how I will tackle this problem? So any advice?

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Adnan: WALK to the bakery if you feel you have to go there. At least that way you're getting some exercise in. Then start off with one day a week eating a peach pear and a bunch of frozen grapes INSTEAD of the bakery sweet. The next week make it twice a week that you replace the bakery run. Continue until you are only going to the bakery once a month, then once a quarter, then twice a year. You can't deprive yourself of sweets forever.

  4. Gustavo says:

    Just be persistent and drink plenty of water… room temperature water will make you feel more satisfied and will keep your stomach healthy! Try it and will not regret it. : )

  5. @RynSerenity says:

    Fancy coffee drinks are my weakness– I love flavoured lattes and mochas! I still get my morning wake-up from a local coffee shop, but now I just get plain drip coffee and dump about a tablespoon of ground cinnamon into it. If I want to splurge a little, a little cocoa powder goes in, too. I get a fancy flavoured drink without any of the sugary calories, plus the health benefits of all that cinnamon!

  6. Alessia says:

    I have a very good post on HOW TO STOP EATING JUNK FOOD……..Check it out on my blog

  7. You probably might also read few of my books, folks. It's about how to choose the right food in order to maintain your health, stay young and preserve your longevity. Here they are : http://www.gramediashop.com/book/detail/978602001… [2] http://www.gramediashop.com/book/detail/978602001… [3] http://www.gramediashop.com/book/detail/978602001… . It's written in Bahasa Indonesia language. If you interested in publishing my books in your own language in your country, please contact my publishers regarding the copyright and the licence. You might contact my publishers by accessing this website: http://gramediainternational.com/rightguide#

  8. Thymelines™ Fitness & Nutrition says:

    Great questions and insights everyone! Yes, the texture and flavor of foods can be just as important as the foods themselves.
    Options for crunchy foods instead of chips can be celery, baby carrots or water chestnuts. Consider dipping them in some low-calorie dressing or salsa for the "salty flavor" you are looking for.

    For stress eating, the key is to find substitutes for eating such as yoga, meditation, stretching, drinking water, doing jumping jacks, anything. Also, a great way to really avoid this issue is to determine the source of your stressful days and take action to help prevent them. Is it a meeting? Or a work deadline? See if you can prepare ahead of time to avoid the stress or close your eyes and imagine the meeting going well before it happens.

  9. [...] Kick Bad Habits for Good: Change Your Food Environment [...]

  10. [...] Kick Bad Habits for Good: Change Your Food Environment [...]

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