Have you ever played egg tossing?
You know, the game where a raw egg is thrown between partners who stand opposite each other and with each successful throw each person must take a step back until there’s a failed catch and the egg breaks.
You have? Good. Bear with me on this one then.
You haven’t? Jeez, go and google it or something then.
You see, throwing that egg between you and your partner is akin to that of the willpower and motivation you rely on whilst ‘dieting’.
You’re on complete tenterhooks while you’re throwing that egg; motivation is at an all-time high but you’re using every ounce of concentration you have to prevent that egg from breaking.
That egg shattering is inevitable though.
The longer the game goes, the further away you get from your partner and the more you have to focus, the chances of that predestined crack of the egg increases.
Similarly, the longer you rely on willpower and motivation, the further you get away from your normal eating patterns and the more you have to concentrate on enduring the ordeals of the new ‘diet’ you’ve undertaken, the greater chance you have of failing.
Willpower and motivation don’t like to last very long; they’re emotions that tend to last a few weeks, or even days, before quickly petering out into disheartenment.
Subsequently, as much as we like to think we can outthink ourselves when it comes to refraining from reaching for the cookie jar, we just can’t.
So, we’ve established relying on willpower to succeed when it comes to losing weight is a no-go.
Relying solely on our self-control to get through life wanting and having abs won’t conquer bad eating habits for the majority of us.
What’s the answer then?
The solution is to change your eating environment.
Yep my mind was blown too.
Our environment shapes our decisions more than we realise, meaning we don’t actually think about what we’re doing - even though we like to think we are.
All the eating decisions we make have more to do with predetermined habits, physical cues and what’s going on around us, not us making our own actual choices.
Our eating environment consists of things like the home, workplace, restaurants and supermarkets.
All places when we can make minor adjustments to ensure we’re not fighting our delicate willpower, but manufacturing easy actions that ultimately help us eat less.
Rearranging our surroundings is the key to success:
STOP HAVING YOUR KRYPTONITE IN THE HOUSE
We’ll start off with a nice easy one.
People always come to me complaining about how they just can’t say no to that glass of wine, or bowl of nuts, or ‘treat’ in the evening or weekend while at home.
That one ‘trigger food’ that sets them off into a binge of epic proportions that leaves them surrounded by wrappers, bottles and an overriding guilt only them and their dog knows about.
DON’T BUY IT.
If it’s not in the house you can’t easily head to the cupboard or fridge and sneak in another biscuit or glass. Who wants to trek to the shops, in the freezing cold, to go and buy something in the middle of the evening?
The more you keep these food items in the house the more likely you are to overeat on them. If they ain’t there, you ain’t eating them.
MAKE YOUR KRYPTONITE HARDER TO ACCESS
Do you have a bowl of chocolates on your desk at work? Or bowl of sweets on the coffee table at home?
You do? Woah you certainly like to live life on the edge.
The more visible something is to you, the more inclined you are to eat it.
Think about it; you have to make a judgement call every time you look up or walk past those inviting chocolates as to whether you want one or not. How long will that willpower actually last?
One study found that secretaries that had been provided chocolates in clear dishes were caught with their hand in the dish 71% more often as those given opaque white dishes. Every day that inviting see-through dish was on their desk they ate 77 more calories.
It’s as simple as putting all those temptations away in harder places to access. The more we have to search for something, or effort we have to put in to get something to eat, the less we consume.
Equally, the less effortful something is to eat, the easier it is to forget how much you actually consume.
A similar study was carried out on another group of secretaries who were provided with another clear dish filled with chocolates. This time, however, it was rotated among three locations in the office – the corner of the desk, the top left-hand desk drawer and on a filing cabinet.
If the secretary had to open up her desk drawer she did so only six times a day and if she had to get up she only consumed four.
The more inconvenient something is to get, the less inclined you are to eat it. Move those damn chocolates as far away from your desk or coffee table as possible.
THE CROCKERY CONUNDRUM
Do you remember that time when you thought using a smaller plate would mean you ended up eating less?
No? Didn’t think so.
Yet it’s been consistently shown that people eat more when you give them bigger containers, plates or bowls, regardless of whether they actually like the food they’re eating. So those big badass bowls your Grandma gave you for your wedding anniversary aren’t actually doing you any favours.
The bigger the plates and bowls around your house, the more likely you are to overeat without realising.
So the first step would be start using smaller crockery and cutlery. Even simple things like using smaller serving dishes can be a significant start.
Of course, replacing the whole of your kitchen in order to eat less may not be at the top of your priorities (or is it?) so another suitable option is to start weighing your food. A simple set of scales and you’re away.
Oh and no it isn’t neurotic, time consuming or difficult – it’s simply allowing you to be more aware of how damaging your environment can be to your waistline.
STOP WATCHING TV
OK don’t stop watching TV completely – we’ve got the latest series of Homeland to be watching thank you very much. What I meant was stop watching TV whilst you’re eating.
It’s a common known fact that people who watch a lot of TV are more likely to be overweight than people who don’t.
For three main reasons – people eat out of habit and not hunger, people don’t pay attention to how much they eat and people pace themselves by the show they’re watching.
Distractions when we eat are bad news. The TV, radio and even reading can all cause us to eat more.
Try dishing out a portion of your chosen snack before you sit down, rather than continuously eating from the tub or packet.
Similar to before, try making your snacks harder to access.
Leave them in the other room or in harder to open packets before you sit down to watch your favourite show; the more effort you have to make to get something to eat, the less likely you are to get it.
THE BIG RESTAURANT PROBLEM
Ah the restaurant. Everyone’s downfall.
The one place where the diet seems to go out the window, healthy choices seem to be non-existent and where plain, dry pieces of bread seem so damn inviting.
It seems like the restaurant is the one place where we can’t change our environment. Unfortunately you’re wrong.
There are plenty of changes we can make to the way we order food, eat food and view food so we’re not relying on our willpower to turn down the dessert menu when it so invitingly lands in front of us.
Step number one: order a ‘to-go box’. More importantly, decide before you’ve even entered the restaurant that you’re going to take half of your meal home.
As Brian Wansink explains in his book ‘Slim By Design’:
‘There’s a Nobel Prize-winning reason why we don’t ask for ‘to-go’ boxes. It’s called the endowment effect, which means that we value things more if we feel we ‘own’ them than if we don’t.’
Case in point – decide before you’ve ordered your meal (so you own it) that you’ll be taking something home.
Step number two: Eat closer to the window. As absurd as it sounds, it seems people who sit by a window or well-lit part of a restaurant order healthier foods; the darker it is, the more invisible you might feel, whereas seeing the outside world may make you more conscious of how you look.
Step number three: Send the bread back. Seriously.
THE HALF PLATE RULE
Do you know what doesn’t work? Deprivation diets.
‘No you’re not allowed carbs’. ‘No you can’t have any chocolate’.
As soon as people impose a restriction on themselves, they are constantly having to challenge their psyche and willpower.
Let’s flip it around. Instead of saying what you can’t have, the challenge is to fill half your plate with fruit, vegetables or salad, and fill the rest of the plate with whatever you so desire.
There’s no limitations, nothing you can’t eat, just the simple rule of eating an equal amount of vegetables and salad as everything else.
At some point, getting another piece of pizza isn’t worth the effort of having to go and consume another half plate of salad. Most importantly, you’re the one who made that decision.
THIS ARTICLE WAS TOO LONG AND I DIDN’T READ IT – CAN YOU SUMMARISE IT PLEASE
· Willpower and motivation sucks – we simply can’t rely on it when dieting to make sure we succeed
· The answer is to change your environment so you don’t even have to think about the decisions you’re making
· The more you keep food items you binge on in the house the more likely you are to overeat on them. If they ain’t there, you ain’t eating them.
· The more inconvenient something is to get, the less inclined you are to eat it. Move those damn chocolates as far away from your desk or coffee table as possible.
· The bigger the plates and bowls around your house, the more likely you are to overeat without realising.
· Order a ‘to-go’ box, sit closer to the window and send the bread back when out at a restaurant
· Instead of saying what you can’t have, the challenge is to fill half your plate with fruit, vegetables or salad, and fill the rest of the plate with whatever you so desire