The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!
All of us inhabit multiple environments, and these influence what and how we eat.
Our environments include:
A. The wider social, economic and political environment. Here, we need to consider these facts:
- The economics of food – unhealthy foods are often cheaper. I recently heard a report that $10 will buy 24,000 calories worth of white pasta, but only 320 calories worth of raspberries. And a recent study found that a dollar could buy 1,000 calories of cookies or potato chips, but only 250 calories of carrots, almost 900 calories of soda, but only 170 calories of orange juice. So if someone is hungry but doesn’t have a lot of money, what do you think they’re going to go for?
2. Portion sizes have greatly increased over time.
3. Unhealthy foods are the most heavily marketed (advertised) – and they’re marketed in a way that associates them with fun, happiness, and social connectedness.
4. Unhealthy foods are often enhanced with unpronounceable ingredients that make them tastier, even addictive.
Some of this we can’t control, but some of it we can. For example, we can get into the habit of sharing restaurant meals. We can avoid choosing processed foods, and instead stick to foods that contain only one ingredient. We can choose to shop at farmer’s markets or co-ops instead of grocery chains.
B. Our immediate external physical environment
We can choose to create the kind of environment that will make it easier to make choices that support healthy weight management. Dr Brian Wansink, who wrote the book Mindless Eating, recommends, for example that we move healthy foods to visible spots in the pantry and refrigerator, and keep less healthy options tucked away (or, preferably, out of the house). Based on his many years of research on what influences our food choices, he also recommends that we avoid having a cluttered kitchen, and have nothing more than a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter.
Learn more about Dr Wansink’s recommendations by reading my earlier blog post, The Power of a Kitchen Makeover.
People often overeat in an effort to cope with stress in the workplace, unless they’re able to develop healthier ways of coping. But there’s another issue in the workplace that is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic. If you work outside your home, you’ve no doubt noticed that your workplace is a magnet for unhealthy foods. Rarely do people bring in fruit trays to celebrate a birthday, or to celebrate the end of the week. When you attend a staff meeting or lunch you’re more likely to see plates of cookies on the conference table, not plates of raw vegetables with a healthy dip.
What can you do? Talk with the decision-makers at your workplace about creating a healthier work environment. They can only benefit in terms of reduced healthcare costs and fewer sick days. Suggest this team-building exercise: have a contest to see who can bring in the most delicious healthy dish for the next pot luck. Ask them to serve fruit instead of donuts on Fridays, salad instead of pizza at the next lunch meeting. Challenge yourself to speak up for your health!
C. Our thoughts, emotions and beliefs (our psychological environment)
It’s important that we be attuned to, and address, self-sabotaging thinking patterns. For example, some of us get down on ourselves if we eat too much, but we’re unlikely to do the same thing if we feel too tired to brush and floss at the end of a long day. We can learn how to control these kinds of self-critical thoughts.
Learn more about the impact of unhelpful thinking patterns by reading my earlier blog post, Distorted Thinking and your Weight.
Share your thoughts about this topics with me and other readers by commenting on this post.
If you choose to talk to your workplace decision-makers, share your experience too. We’d love to hear about their reactions!
Have you seen my free report on using Mindful Maintenance to maintain your weight loss? Download it here.
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With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management
The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh® is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.