Making the right choices can be hard, especially if I have to make hard choices every day. To make it easier on myself I police what is in my environment as much as I am capable. The reason I do this is because, as I mentioned a few days ago, where hunger is concerned the lizard brain is driving and if I am hungry I will eat whatever comes to hand, regardless of what it is (especially if it is tasty – fat and sugar are designed to be tasty to hungry humans for an evolutionary reason). Not exactly a safe way to practice weight management!
I don’t keep unsupportive foods that I can’t stay away from in my home. No cake, no cookies, no donuts, no loaves of sourdough bread. If I find for some reason that I need to eat those things, well, they are terribly easy for me to acquire elsewhere. In fact, in the culture we live in they are practically impossible to avoid! So I don’t need to store them in my home for the future. If I’m hosting a party or a dinner I might have those things in my home for the occasion, but I don’t store leftovers. Yes, I said it, I throw away perfectly fresh baked goods if they are left in my home after a party. Think of it this way – either way they are going to waste. They are going in the garbage, or they are going into my body to make fat, which is wasted energy that I don’t need. I’d rather waste it in the way that doesn’t require me to spend hours at the gym over and above what I already need to do.
But I don’t just remove a bunch of foods and call it good, I also need to do the flip side of the equation – I need to make sure that my kitchen is stocked with lots of foods that are both supportive and tasty. It must be convenient for me to grab the supportive, low-caloric-density foods, and they should be things that I like. Fortunately for me I love almost all fruits and vegetables, so that’s relatively easy, and I keep an emergency stash of frozen, portion-controlled microwave entrees and protein-rich energy bars for days when my planning falls short. I also keep a small stash of backup foods in my office at work.
My husband doesn’t need to follow as strict a regimen as I do, though, so there are going to be foods in my environment that I shouldn’t eat. I have a trick for that too. I put them where I can’t see them. That’s it. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it works, even if I know something is there. Out of sight out of mind does, in fact, work on me. If I can’t see it when I’m doing a fast “OMG HUNGRY” scan through the cupboards, I probably won’t remember it’s there. In the past I have even had roommate situations where we simply designated one cupboard as “Laina’s cupboard” and kept all of “my” food there, so that when I was in an overwhelming hunger state of mind (e.g. just home from work with a longer than usual commute) I could walk straight to my cupboard and pick anything there to eat. This does require a little more behavioral effort on my part – I need to remember and agree with myself that I only go to one place when I’m hungry. But the upside is I can feel happy with my choices once I’ve filled my stomach. No guilt – everything I’ve eaten is A-OK for meeting my goals!
And finally, there have been situations at work wherein the holiday potluck of snacks gets placed near my desk. I have a couple of options to consider for when I perceive that I can’t control the food environment. The first one is to ask that it be moved, which works more often than I expect when I clearly explain where I am coming from. The second option is to make an agreement with myself that I will not eat anything on the table, because once I get started I won’t stop. This works best if I have brought my supportive food from home and can remind myself that I am not, actually, hungry, and that the urges to eat are based on opportunity only, which is not a good excuse to stray off my plan. Another supportive thing I can do is to chew sugar-free gum. If my mouth has something to do, then I am not likely to pick up something to eat. And finally, working from home is occasionally something that I can do – it’s the ultimate environmental control for me, just leaving the challenging environment.