Setting up your environment for successful weight loss

A health change or change in habits is not an easy goal to focus on. It is the one that will make a big impact on how you feel but it doesn`t come without challenges. I have seen many people start off well and eventually lose focus because they forgot to account for all the setbacks they might encounter on a daily basis. When it comes to weight loss we often say that psychology is 80% of the success, which is absolutely true. I would rethink that and actually divide it between psychology, nutrition, and the environment. People, places, things that we are surrounded with on a daily basis can be the most helpful factors on our weight loss journey. But they can also be the most harmful. This is why before I start to work with a new client I spend a lot of time talking about the perfect time to commit to their goal. Without having to give up their families, jobs, and friends, I teach my clients to follow a few simple suggestions in creating a positive space that will support their goals. If you are reading this and you have already started your journey, I ask you to step back and apply the following tips from this post to your home or office.

Key to successful weight loss and better relationship with food is “stimulus control”. Per Psychology Today, the sights, smells, tastes, and organisation of your surroundings helps you make good choices or make it likely that you will fail. The most exciting thing about this is that you can control many elements of your environment and no longer feel (or act) out of control with food.

Think about where you spend most of your days. This would often be home, office, and commute. Are any of these places creating a challenge when trying to stick to your goals? One of the worst scenarios is dozens of unhealthy snacks, chocolates, and candies strategically placed around offices. Don`t be fooled, they are there for a reason. They keep you going. Quick boosts of energy and happy hormones caused by blood sugar spikes are one of the most dangerous things office workers encounter on a daily basis. Instead of allowing your office to impact your success, try to think of the ways to avoid the traps and create an environment that will support what you are trying to achieve.

1. Creating a positive office space

Regardless if you work from home or have an outside office, you most likely spend half of your day, if not more, there. You walk in armed with the desire to avoid candy and to strictly focus on your work and the food you brought from home. What you forget is that your mind has different plans. BUT you don`t know what the day holds. It may be stressful where emotions will rise, therefore, your cortisol rising will affect your blood sugar and no matter what you brought from home your mind will keep telling you that the doughnut on your colleague’s desk is what you need right now. But what if that doughnut wasn`t there? What if you shared with your colleague that you are trying to avoid processed foods, therefore, if he could please keep the doughnuts under his desk. Yes, he may look at you and think you`re nuts. However. It. Doesn’t. Hurt. To. Ask. If he is simply not understanding, then you need to think around it and set yourself up for success. How? You need to think of every scenario. Are you someone who no matter what will run to the nearest Wawa and pick up a candy bar? If so, bring your own doughnut. Nah, not really! Bring a treat that will be your emergency fund. Something that brings comfort and that you enjoy. Don`t bring the entire bag of gummy bears as you will most likely finish it. Bring a serving size of whatever you think will work. Serving size is anything within 100-150 calories. Pack this while you are packing your lunch which is going to create normality of having a treat but not going crazy. Remember, balance is the key.

Few other things you want to keep in your office:

Candle: Fresh or citrus scent will keep you energised.

Light: Make sure there is enough light in your workspace. If you don`t have a window, invest in a natural tone light bulbs.

Plants: No need to keep a tree in your office but even a small plant, like Succulent will create a natural vibe.

Framed picture: Of someone who brings you joy. This can also be a picture of something that has inspired your health journey.

Safe “snacks”: These are no-calorie foods that you may rely on if cravings attack. Fruit flavoured water (make your own or bring bottled ones), seltzer water, tea, bone broth (this is of course not zero calories, however, it is a very healthy and helpful idea against the cravings).

2. Dealing with the traps of a long commute

Unlike your office, of course, you will not keep a framed picture or candle in your car. But you do want to create a “calming space” especially if your commute is over 20 min or if you simply get stuck in traffic. One thing to mention before you start working on any of these areas is to remind you that you need to know yourself first. You need to know your triggers, behaviours and common responses. Only then you`ll be able to create an environment that will support the change you are trying to make.

So, here is how you make your car your health cave:

Fresh air: Either keep your windows slightly open or always have a fresh scent diffuser.

Safe “snacks”: Same as your office, you always want to have water available. You should always try to eat before you get in the car so that you are not tempted to pull over for a “quick snack”. For emergencies, keep a few small packs of nuts or a protein bar handy to have as a bridge snack until you get to your destination and can have a proper meal.

Company: See if you can share a ride with a colleague. Not only will you guys save on gas and help the environment, but you`ll be able to chat which is a great distraction from mindlessly munching on food.

Learn or/and sing: I`ve taken some form of public transportation to work for as long as I remember. While others complained I cherished thirty minutes of “my time” because it allowed me to listen to so many great books, podcasts, and songs. Create a “drive to work” playlist of your favourite tunes. Find podcasts that inspire you and make you think. Download audiobooks and get lost in another world.

3. The kitchen can make or break your goals

This is by far, your most important space to work on. I recommend cleaning and reorganising your kitchen before you even cook your first healthy meal. Here is what you need to do:

Staples: Make a list of staples ingredients you always need to have. These are pantry items such as flour, cooking oil, etc. You want to have one cabinet space just for this. You will be using these ingredients often and they need to be easily accessible. If you are using plastic containers don`t forget to label them and add an expiration date.

Spices & herbs: When you reduce consumption of sugar-loaded condiments, spices and dried herbs will become your next BFF. Invest in a variety and keep them visible. Sometimes you need a reminder of what you have as it may inspire you to try some new flavours.

Liquids: Just like in your office, keep an inventory of seltzer water, tea, coffee (including decaf) in a place that you visit often. This may be storing large quantities of seltzer water in your garage but always having few cans in the fridge or on the counter (if you prefer room temp like me) to serve as an option to sip on in between meals.

Your family`s cabinet: You cannot stop your family from eating their favourite treats. You could offer them healthier alternatives but you will still have not so healthy options in the house. That`s ok! Have a separate cabinet for them and make a conscious effort not to look there. If possible, you may ask your husband or partner to take responsibility of that cabinet. This way you won`t even know what it in there because he or she will be stocking it up.

Your cabinet: Fun and at the same time potentially self-sabotaging space. Because of that, keep it small and simple. This will be the cabinet you go to when you feel the need to have a treat or a fun snack. You should have few options for each but not pack it with food. Purposely keep this cabinet looking empty rather than full. You will be more likely to stick to one serving when there aren`t too many options. While you are not welcomed in your family`s cabinet, they are welcome in yours. If they finish something they need to replace it.

Clean & Tidy: If your kitchen is messy it’ll feel more overwhelming or difficult to take the time to make a healthy meal or snack. You'll be tempted to grab something processed or quick instead. Which you’ll regret later.

4. Assign a no-food zone

This is the space where under no circumstances food is allowed. There is simply no need to eat in the bedroom or at the desk in your home office. This will enforce the spaces you have worked on to be there for a reason. Alternatively, think of the many other ways you can use these no-food zones to your advantage, like reading, meditating, sleeping, etc.