You get out of bed with the very best intentions of eating better. Maybe you even planned the day before and have scheduled out your meals and chosen the healthiest options. You start your day with gusto and hope and are motivated like never before.
Then it happens.
You see that box of donuts on the counter or that cookie with your name on it. It even speaks to you to take just one bite. You successfully thwart its best efforts and resist the temptation. Then you make your way to the pantry and hear a bag of cheesy, salty chips whispering to you ever so softly and invitingly.
You haven’t even gotten to enact your grand plan of eating better and you’re already being bombarded by tempting food bombs.
You, my friend, live in a house with those who don’t care what they eat. Despite your best efforts, you can’t help but struggle through every day mustering up your willpower to avoid said sabotage.
What do you do? How can you eat better while being surrounded by so much junk food?
It’s nothing new that our daily environments support bad eating. From availability and convenience to social pressures and office parties it’s a miracle anyone can gain any traction with healthier eating.
Let’s look at why it’s so easy to eat badly and why your climb may feel like it’s too steep to attempt.
Food is everywhere
Whether it’s lying around the house or fresh from the drive-thru, crappy food finds its place in our lives. It seems as though there’s a fast food joint on every corner not to mention a dozen delivery services willing to bring it to your doorstep. Somehow, it ends up in our homes ready and willing for us to consume.
Bad food is easy to eat
You get home and you’re starving. What do you do? On one hand, you could do the right thing and take the time to prepare something healthy, or you could simply dip your hand into the closest bag or box for some easy empty calories to satisfy that hunger.
Eating badly is contagious
No matter your willpower, social peer pressures will get the best of us. Whether it’s eating in or out, the ones we hang around have a profound effect on our behaviors. If we’re not aware we easily fall into the trap of doing as the Romans do and eat like crap.
Bad foods give you instant pleasure. Normally, convenient snack foods are packed with ample amounts of salt and sugar – the exact things we crave when we’re famished. Since there’s no prep required and everything is nicely packaged for instant consumption, you're still fighting that uphill battle.
Finally, many crappy foods are relatively cheap. Whether you shop the inner aisles at the grocery store or pop into a convenience store for a quick sugar rush, you’ll never break the bank eating like garbage.
Fret not. There is hope in your seemingly impossible mission to eat better. All it will take is some awareness, planning, and a little creativity. But before you get into all of that you’ll need to adopt the right kind of mindset. A mindset of possibility. That you’re more than able to build a sound plan of action and follow through with it.
Let’s dive in.
There’s no such thing as a rainy day, just the time you forgot your umbrella. Preparation is key. If you prep your meals/snacks two things happen in your mind. One, you have something already convenient at the ready and two, you feel an obligation to consume what you prepare. Always prep your meals for the day.
Have your own section
If you live with others you know that junk food is intermingled with the good stuff. Have a section of the pantry, refrigerator, and/or cabinet that you can claim for yourself. Have easy to prepare foods bunched together for convenience. Tell others in your family or roommates about your special spot in the kitchen so that they’ll know not to trespass.
This goes hand in hand with the above. Don’t only tell others of your healthy stash of food, tell them your intentions. Communicate that you plan on eating a healthier diet and to respect that desire. Over time, others in your household will see your new habits and start supporting your efforts. They may even join in.
Be creative with prep
It’s easy to become a creature of habit and to attempt to eat the same foods every day. But with repetition we risk boredom and experience the stress of adherence. Be sure to include variety in your meal prep. Maybe have several go-to meals and snacks to draw upon for ease of not only prep but also to stay consistent with your efforts.
Avoid the scarcity mentality
One important, but frustrating function of human behavior is our innate desire for survival. Our evolutionary instinct is to hoard food due to the fact that we may not eat again for several days. Well, in this modern era food is available everywhere and all the time. Stay aware that you won’t starve, food isn’t scarce for many in the U.S., and you can take control.
Healthy Snack Foods to the Rescue
Here is a short list of some healthy snack options that are quick, convenient, and tasty when you’re in a bind and need something ASAP. They’ll also prevent you from stuffing mounds of the unhealthy stuff down your gullet.
- Nuts (all types)
- Beef jerky
- Fruit (all types)
- Greek yogurt
- Whey or veggie protein shake
- Natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread
Five More Things
Finally, here are five more tips to keep in mind when executing your plan to eat better.
Not only will slowing down your eating allow you to savor food more, it’ll also give your brain time to receive the signals that it is consuming food and receiving calories to the stomach. These messages will soon develop into a satiated feeling (the feeling of fullness).
Water, water, water
Here’s a trick likely to instantly help you with overindulging. Get into the habit of drinking a full eight ounce glass of water before each meal. This will give your stomach the feeling of fullness and will help you avoid overeating. Over time this will become an easy habit to adopt and you’ll be better hydrated in the meantime.
If your goal is to try to lose weight then you most likely think that you need to starve in order to get things moving in the right direction. Don’t allow yourself to get that far. If you are constantly in starvation mode then the chances of blowing your newfound eating habits will be greater. Have your go-to snacks and meals ready to go at all times.
Get back up
Failing is a part of the process so good luck on finding anyone who hasn’t fallen off the wagon a time or ten. There’s no need to overhaul your entire diet or wait until Monday to start over. If you screw up a time or two simply pick up right where you left off and get back at it. The important part is to keep going and stay consistent as you can without beating yourself up over some stumbles and falls every now and then.
Lastly, your most effective secret weapon will be your ability to practice awareness. Have awareness of your surroundings (at a party, at home, around friends), have awareness of the foods in front of you (did you prepare for the day?), and have awareness of how far you’ve come in your journey. Keeping these important thoughts at the forefront will prevent you from mindlessly grabbing the unhealthy stuff and inadvertently eating.
With a little awareness, planning, and creativity you can develop a sound, realistic plan of action when faced with a deluge of unhealthy foods. In no time you will have built up enough discipline to take on any challenge, no matter who you live with.