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

Have you kept your new year's resolution? Find out how small changes to your environment can have a big impact on your health.
sandwich police

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 mp; 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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