Food environment is essentially our individual capability to access food, such as, how easily accessible are certain foods around us or food outlets.
It turns out food environment can have a bigger impact on our dieting success than we may give it credit for.
On average we subconsciously and consciously make 200 decisions per day about food. Minimising these decisions, or designing our environment to help us make better decisions, can have large impacts on our weight and weight loss efforts.
Brian Wansink in his book slim by design puts it well stating “It’s easier to change your environment than to change your mind”
Firstly – Willpower
Studies have shown that Willpower is not infinite (we have it in limited supply).
Creating a poor food environment that includes easy access to foods we can be tempted to over eat on will require us to use more willpower. From what we know about willpower is that the more choices made using it, the lower the willpower becomes throughout the day. This basically means if we are constantly surrounded by temptation we are more likely to give into these cravings as the day goes by.
Ensuring our food environment compliments our dieting efforts can be super important for preventing this happening.
The two main environments we can seek to have more control over and save relying on a limited supply of willpower our are homes and work place.
Forman et al 2017 found through his research that most people lapse on their diets at home, in the evening.
Another study also found that women who left their breakfast cereal visible in the kitchen weighed on average 2lbs heavier than their counterparts. The same things hold true for other common foods such as crackers, cookies, crisps and soft drinks.
– Out of sight out of mind.
Other tips for preventing poor food choices at home include,
Not allowing your kitchen to be empty, this can lead to ordering in poorer food choices. Keep lots of high protein snacks handy and ready to eat veg in sight.
Make tempting/trigger foods inconvenient, invisible or best of all non existent. Likewise make healthier lower calorie foods more visible and convenient.
Make a plan of your evening meals for the week. We are much more likely to stick to these and ensure we have only certain foods in the house meaning we are less likely to buy trigger foods in the first place.
(Note – trigger foods are foods that we struggle to not overeat/binge on. Common examples include biscuits, sweets, chocolate, ice cream etc.)
These may seem like stupidly simple pieces of advice but implementing these little tricks will make dieting a whole lot easier for yourself and significantly improve your chances of being successful.
According to Brian Wansink the average worker has 476 cals within their desk or at arms reach.
People who store sweets and chocolate at their desks are on average 15lbs heavier than those who don’t.
Prepare your lunch at home, this will avoid you buying food while hungry leading to poorer food choices.
Willpower alone is not enough, our food environment can be responsible for overconsumption of foods and therefore weight gain.
The more we see and think about foods the more we are likely to consume.
We can make more effort to design our food environment (home and workplace) to help us make better choices.