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By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES

When it comes to changing behavior, it really helps to set up your surroundings to make sure it is easy to do the right thing.  If you’re trying to walk more, you want to keep your sneakers right at the front door.  If your plan is to do follow along with an exercise video in the morning, have it cued up the night before and roll out your yoga mat before you go to bed so it’s the first thing you see in the morning.

Think about the different places you eat and how your environment might affect what you eat.  If your commute to work brings you past a donut shop where you always stop for coffee (and something else!) – you might consider bringing coffee from home or buying a small machine for the office.  It will pay for itself in no time (and you’ll save the calories on the donuts you didn’t want anyway!)  The key is to change your environment to make better choices easier… and unhealthful choices harder.   Experiment with a couple of changes.  See if they improve any of your eating behaviors.  You might just discover that a few small changes can make a big difference.

What to Do:

  • Decide if there are certain foods that shouldn’t be easily accessible. What are the foods that are the most tempting for you? Is it possible not to keep those foods in the house? If ice cream is a trigger food for you, could you make ice cream an occasional treat when you’re outside the house rather than keeping it on hand in your freezer?  This may require some negotiation with family members but the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” really helps many people avoid constantly having to say “no.”

  • Determine if your commute triggers excess eating. If your drive home from work involves driving past some of your favorite restaurants where there aren’t a lot of healthy choices, is there an alternate route you could take home?

  • Scan your surroundings and notice where there may be some cues that trigger you to eat. Make a list of how you can change your environment to remove temptation. Here are some suggestions…

  • Reorganize the food in the fridge and the pantry to put the healthy choices at eye level. Pull the bag of baby carrots up from the bottom veggie bin and place the cheese in an out-of-the-way spot.

  • Replace the cookie jar on your counter with a bowl of fruit.

  • Take the toaster off the counter if you find yourself often having a toasty snack when you’re not really hungry

  • Use smaller plates (think 25 cm in diameter) and bowls for meals and snacks. Studies show that people who eat on smaller plates are more satisfied with smaller portions and eat significantly less than those who eat off of larger plates.

  • At mealtimes, fill your plate and keep the rest of the meal on the stove, don’t bring it to the table with you. This may keep you from mindlessly taking second or third helpings that you’re not physically hungry for.

  • Make time do to a weekly snack-prep. In sealable plastic snack pouches, portion out snacks that are quick and easy to grab (and the right number of calories) when you want a snack.

  • If walking in the kitchen door after work brings you straight to the refrigerator, re-route your path into the house and come in the front door and have a plan for what you do as soon as you get home (like looking at the mail) to distract you from heading to the refrigerator.

  • Notice if you eat more when you’re around certain family members, friends or co-workers. Talk with them about what you’ve observed and for your desire to make healthier choices.  (They might want to follow along!)

To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management, click here.

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