Many of us complain of a lack of willpower when it comes to food. When you are placed in a situation with a cookie, brownie or French fry (insert your favorite weakness) you simply cannot turn it down. You often feel defeated and that time and time again your willpower fails you and the brownie wins. So how do you outsmart the brownie?
Take your willpower out of the equation. Studies have shown that avoiding the temptation altogether is more effective than relying on willpower. Pre-commitment is a classic self-control strategy that works by planning ahead to remove temptations before willpower is evoked. While you cannot realistically hide all the food that tempts you, you can plan ahead and commit to healthier choices. We do not all have similar home lives, social lives or work environments so it takes time to map out a personalized approach to your specific environment. Once you make a strategy…stick to it. In order for pre-commitment to work and to side step your willpower (or lack thereof) you need to be realistic about your food environment. Identifying where you find your willpower most tested is key to your success. Do you find yourself reaching for snacks, candies & treats at home, in the car or at parties? Do you find that you overindulge at restaurants, on the weekends or after a few cocktails? Is your workplace a constant rotation of tempting treats? Does it feel like a constant battle on all fronts that is surrounding you?
Whatever the case may be there are solutions and strategies to approach each environment. Like any new habit, you may find that it takes a little while to start adopting these strategies but like any muscle that you need to flex to make strong in time the strategies will become your routine.
Some of us know exactly what our weaknesses are, while others of us struggle to figure it out. The best ways to identify when and where your willpower is tempted is to keep a three-day food diary. Don’t worry if you can’t keep track of every single bite but try your best jot down what you eat in a day, at about what time, where you ate it, who you where with and how you felt before and after. Look for patterns in your day to identify which strategies may be the most effective.
Our homes are the environments in which we have the most control. However many of us do not live alone and share our kitchen with spouses, roommates or children with different health and food preferences.
Pre-commit to keeping healthy snacks stored in easily accessible places and ready to serve, for example, apples and bananas in a bowl on the counter, sliced fruit and vegetables in the of front of the refrigerator. Keep more tempting treats tucked away in hard to access places, the top shelf that you need a stool to reach and stored in a container with a lid. The more accessible snacks will often be the easier choice.
Pre-commit to eating all meals and snacks at a table, served on a plate and with the TV off. Take the time to enjoy each and every bite. Do not stand in the kitchen and mindlessly nosh away.
Pre-commit to not bringing home goodies from parties, work or other social gatherings. Bring only healthy and nourishing foods into your home.
At The Supermarket…
Pre-commit to a grocery list. Make a shopping list for the week or before each trip and only buy what is on the list. Items that are not on your list do not go in your cart. If possible shop in mornings or early afternoon when stores are less crowed. Wednesdays are the best time to shop for both value and produce selection if that can fit into your schedule.
Pre-commit to not shopping when you are hungry. If you arrive to the store hungry, grab a healthy snack (an apple, a Greek yogurt or almonds) and sit down and eat before you shop.
At a Restaurant…
Pre-commit to knowing what you will order before you go. Most restaurants now have menus (& often nutrition online). Take a few minutes to browse a restaurant’s menu before you go & when you are not yet hungry to select a healthy choice. If possible look up the nutrition information as well. Stick to your decision and do not change your order based on your dining companions.
Pre-commit to always asking for dressings and sauce on the side. Use your fork to dip on the dressing & then take a bite. (Save the calories without sacrificing the flavor. If you run out, you can always ask for more.)
Pre-commit before you arrive to whether to not you will have a drink with dinner and the number of glasses of alcohol you are going to consume and stick to it.
Pre-commit to asking the server to not bring bread or chips & salsa to the table. (It can’t tempt you from the kitchen!)
Pre-commit to asking not the see the dessert menu. (It can’t tempt you if you don’t know what is on it!)
Pre-commit to not eating desserts or pastries brought in by co-workers for parties or holidays. Bring a healthy snack or lunch with you if you know that watching others eat will be tempting. Remember that the donuts in the office are not your favorite dessert from your favorite restaurant….save your sweet tooth and your calories for your time off with friends and family and get that dessert you truly love.
Pre-commit to bringing in healthy treats for the office if its your turn.
Pre-commit to taking a walk outside if you feel tempted to eat a sugary treat. The fresh air and movement will make you feel a lot better than a sugar rush followed by a sugar crash.
On the Go…
Pre-commit to not eating in your car. It is not a safe or enjoyable dining experience.
Pre-commit to always having an emergency healthy snack with you. Keep a plastic bag or small container of nuts in your bag or purse that you know are always available if you find yourself hungry and without healthy options. The healthy protein and fat will keep you full and satisfied until your next meal.
Pre-commit to think about busy days or travel days ahead of time and plan ahead. If you know you have several back-to-back meetings, a long commute or a long layover, pack a healthy lunch & multiple snacks to bring with you. Don’t use stress or travel as an excuse to turn to fast food. Think about the structure of your day the night before..before the stress of the day tempts you!