Is Relying on Willpower Alone Sabotaging Your Fat Loss?
It can be deeply frustrating when you are on a weight loss mission and you are surrounded by temptations whether it be in the house, whilst out shopping, at work or even walking to and from school.
As a coach it would be incredibly short-sighted of me to assume that my clients can instantly adopt a new healthy eating regime by relying on willpower alone. Our environment plays a huge part in how we make our day-to-day decisions when it comes to food. The availability of convenience shopping, abundant clever marketing strategies, technology, pace of life, work and social life are all huge influencers in the choices we make when it comes to the food and drink we consume.
I've had to adopt some measures to prevent me from inhaling huge amounts of chocolate too. After all, I'm only human and sometimes my willpower just isn't enough.
Dr Brian Wansink is a leading researcher into how our food environment can impact our behaviour and food choices and the concept of mindless eating.
“The typical person makes about 200 food-related decisions a day, but she believes she makes 25 to 30. And it’s those 175 that you’re not aware of that can push you to eat more,” Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.
With this in mind, I've summarised some of my top practical tips coupled with those by Wansink, to help you on your journey such that you don't have to solely rely on sheer willpower to change your eating habits and behaviours.
Food Environment in the Home
- Clear your home of any binge trigger foods. If you cannot just stick to one biscuit from the packet, then the resulting guilt and "f*&K it" attitude from eating the lot is just not worth it. Forget the excuse "my husband/ wife and kids need them". Please. Your household members may like them, but they certainly do not NEED them. Discuss your reasoning with them and engage them in your health endeavours. Let them go to the shops and buy it themselves if they need them. You will be doing everyone's health a favour buy ditching them from your cupboards.
- Organise your fridge and food cupboards so that the healthy foods are at the front, in eyesight, with the less optimal foods at the back. According to Wansink “We find that people are three times as likely to take the first thing they see when they open the cupboard than the fifth thing they see". Out of sight, out of mind, seems plausible.
- Have prepared, healthy meals and snacks readily available in the fridge. This is a really useful way of taking the pressure of having to prepare meals ad libitum. How often do you suddenly feel hungry and reach for nearest, simplist possible food item you can without thinking about it? Take control back by preparing in advance and removing those last minute decisions.
- Use smaller plates and containers to control portion size. Wansink's studies suggest that not only could large dinnerware cause us to serve and eat more; it can do so without us noticing and trick us into believing we have eaten less (1).
- Eat from plates and bowls. Sounds simple, right? But how many of you have found yourself eating straight from the tub of icecream and before you know it you've found the bottom of it?!
- Eat your meals at the table, away from television, tablets and mobile phone distractions. Studies suggest that eating attentively with little distraction influences food intake (2).
- Make a list before you go shoppping. How many times have you wandered around the supermarket mindlessly tossing the special buys or items from the beautifully crafted displays of yumminess straight into your trolley? Take control and go armed with a list for a week of meals.
- Go one step further and try online shopping. This removes some of the external stimulus that surrounds us when we walk into a supermarket. Clever marketing and offers are too tempting when in store. The "Isle of Surprise" in Aldi and the sheer deliciousness of food in Waitrose are just pure bait for me.
- Avoid bulk buying as much as possible. Wansink's studies suggest that buying more results in eating more. Although bulk buying may seem like a great money-saving opportunity, they are often bogus to draw the consumer in. Granted, there are some which are worth choosing such as tins of tomatoes, but snacks especially, avoid like the plague if you have a lack of self control.
- Choose your friends wisely. This may sound controversial, but so many people cannot resist peer pressure. Ditch those who berate you for "being boring". Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Speak to those who you live and work with. Explain what you are trying to acheive and why. If you don't have the conversation, then they may never know or understand. Ask them politely not to eat cake in front of you. Tell your workmates to put the tin of Quality Street in a cupboard. You may even find that others want to do the same and you find a network of people who want to lose weight too.
- Let's face it. No one wants to be the only one eating salad and drinking water when everyone else is demolishing burgers and booze when you go out. Instead of your social life always focusing on eating out and drinking, why not suggest doing something active instead? Try something new, have fun and you may just find another enjoyable way to burn calories instead of eating and drinking them!
If you find lack of self-control a determining factor in sabotaging your success and causing you much guilt and suffering, then why not try implementing some of the above.
Improve your home environment. Be smart with your shopping and choose your social networks wisely.
Let me know how you get on.
Thanks for reading!
(1) Wansink, B. and van Ittersum, K. (2017). The Visual Illusions of Food: Why Plates, Bowls, and Spoons Can Bias Consumption Volume.
(2) Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D. and Higgs, S. (2017). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating.