Contributed by Damian Rodriguez, DHSc, MS
Your food environment is one of the most important components of a healthy weight management plan and one of the easiest to address. While avoiding the free breakroom snacks at the office and your niece’s birthday cake can be difficult, you have more control of your schedule and the food environment in your own home. Make it easy for yourself to develop healthier eating habits by planning and setting up your home to foster weight management success.
It seems so basic, but while you are cleansing yourself of those bad dietary habits, increase your chances of success by giving your pantry a healthy makeover too. The idea that the easiest way to not eat unhealthy food is to not have it available is not only logical, but backed up by plenty of scientific review.1 If you don’t want to eat unhealthy food, don’t buy it, and tossing a trash bag full of things you no longer want in your life can be quite cathartic. Even if you must keep some unhealthy snacks around because you have a party coming up, minimize their accessibility by hiding them out of plain view.
Thinking, and eating, outside the box
One of the foundations of a healthy diet is focusing on whole unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Today’s pre-packaged foods have been processed and modified to the point that their composition is nearly unrecognizable to anybody without advanced scientific degrees. So-called “ultra-processed” foods, formulations made by the food industry mostly from substances extracted from foods or obtained from the further processing of constituents of foods or through chemical synthesis which do not even contain any whole food ingredients, now represent over 30% of the average adults total energy intake and their consumption is directly tied to obesity.2 This greatly simplifies the complex question of healthy eating: if it has more than a handful of ingredients, and you can’t say what they are without looking on the box, limit its space in the grocery cart. Of course, the nutritional profile of packaged foods varies enormously, but you can’t go wrong snacking on something that has a real shelf-life and doesn’t require you to open a re-sealable box.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
Meal plans are not just for bodybuilders or those who can afford to pay a nutritionist to handle their dietary choices for them. Research has shown that planning meals, even if you do not completely stick to them, results in a multitude of benefits, not the least of which is a decreased risk for obesity.3 You don’t have to cook all your meals on the weekend and put them in Tupperware for strict regimented eating, just spend a few minutes each week planning. Writing down what you intend to eat for the week, and why, forces you think about what you are putting in your mouth. You are probably unlikely to stick to the plan verbatim, at least at first, but you are less likely to make quick (bad) food decisions when you make that conscious effort. If you have a little more time, take it a step further; keeping a food diary for the first few weeks of a weight loss program has been shown to nearly double the success rate.4
Options, options, options
It is human nature to be fickle. In spite of your well-laid intentions to follow that healthy meal plan you prepared, you are going to mess up. Accept it and don’t stress about it. The key is to “mess up” with an apple or handful of almonds rather than an entire bag of cheesy-poofs. Provide food options, healthy ones, and make them readily accessible. Research has shown that we are more apt to make healthy food decisions if we provide ourselves with options.5 Prominently display that fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, don’t hide that bag of carrots in the deep depths of the fridge, and keep the healthy snacks at eye-level in the pantry.
Whether it is due to hormonal adaptations, changes in environment, or simply fluctuations in motivation, the reality is that most dieters will ultimately regain at least the weight they lost.6 The key to sustainable weight management is to not diet, to make healthy eating behaviors a part of your lifestyle. What the research has shown is that you need routine and it doesn’t really matter what that routine is.7 Cutting last minute decision-making out of the process by getting into a regular eating pattern makes it far more likely that lunch will consist of the whole food salad you prepared and not a trip to the pizza parlor down the street.
doTERRA Science blog articles are based on a variety of scientific sources. Many of the referenced studies are preliminary and further research is needed to gain greater understanding of the findings. Some articles offer multiple views on general health topics and are not the official position of doTERRA. Consult your healthcare provider before making changes to diet or exercise.