During my pre nutrient-dense life, the ethos of the day was, “listen to your body, eat what you crave when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.” Sounds reasonable, right? I mean, if you learn to really tune into your body’s signals, won’t it tell you what it needs to live long and prosper? Well, maybe not, because at any given moment—hungry or not—I inevitably craved milk chocolate, sour dough bread, cheddar cheese, chocolate muffins, pasta, chocolate peanut butter malted milk balls—oh and chocolate, did I mention chocolate?
Now for a Brief Explanation
You see, our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure in the form of calorie-dense food. We are not programmed to consider the distant ramifications of today’s decisions. So when your body presents you with an irrepressible urge for a Stuckey’s pecan log roll or a Domino’s all-you-can-meat pizza, it’s actually functioning at its best, doing just what millions of years of evolution encoded it to do. Scary, huh?
Returning to the Main Point
You might imagine that this I-crave-therefore-I-eat diet strategy resulted in an increasingly unpleasantly plump me, as well as mood swings, headaches, and lethargy. You’d be right. All of these issues were instantly “cured” by the next low-nutrient, highly-refined fix.
Ah, but I was determined! I wouldn’t let any measly addiction cycle thwart my healthy-eating- by-the-seat-of-my-pants efforts. The idea of scheduling my meals would’ve seemed antithetical to my playful, spontaneous lifestyle (which wasn’t very playful after all when I was mired in the fallout of yet another sugar binge). I was certain I could learn to handle my sweet tooth entirely from within, without the imposition of any external controls or guidelines (e.g., a food plan) or behavior changes (like stocking the pantry with only healthy food). I was convinced that, once I got my internal affairs in order, I would begin consistently choosing healthy foods with grace.
If you glean but one morsel from this post, let it be this: the environment (i.e., your surroundings) essentially controls your eating behavior, and only exceptionally strong minds (as well as those lucky few who really don’t care about food) will be able to reliably resist the inexorable pull of highly stimulating (i.e., tasty) food.
There’s only so much you can do to modify your vicinity, but imposing some structure to your eating routines in the midst of bad food options can help by eliminating guesswork and decision making at that crucial to-eat-or-not-to-eat crossroads.
You’re out shopping with your BFF when you see a steaming tray full of those ooey gooey caramel sticky buns in the window of the corner boulangerie.
“I’m kinda hungry,” you think, and then whip out your French phrases app so you can place your order in the proper vernacular.
Let’s replay that scenario with the addition of a bit of strategic planning. This time, before you even leave the house, you convene with your friend to decide that you will dine at Whole Foods’ salad bar at 6:00 (your usual dinner time). Now when you come face to face with that white flour, sugary, butter roll, you remind yourself, “Mmm, looks good, but we’re eating shortly. I’ll be really glad if I save myself for that yummy salad bar.”
Because you had predetermined the dinner time and location, there is no need to question whether you are hungry or not. The question instead becomes, “Is this the time and place I’d planned to eat?” If not, direct your energy into overcoming the sticky bun urge instead of trying to decide where and when to eat. Decision making is a big drain on willpower.
Your surroundings have way more influence on your behavior than you’d like to think.
Planning not only what you’re gonna eat but when you’ll eat it will make it much easier to stick to a nutrient-dense diet style for the long term. Also, the more consistent you are with meal times, the better.
Want to know more about Caroline’s strategies for sticking with a healthy diet? Schedule a call with her today and learn how to build willpower!