Suggestions for Sustaining Healthy Habits

In today’s modern world of convenience, we face temptation at every corner. There are the donuts in the office breakroom, and the pizza coupons peeking out of the mailbox. Initially, we thought that if you just ate less and moved more you would lose weight and be healthy. Unfortunately, between points A and B, we neglected to take our own willpower into account.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., is a behavioral economist, food psychologist and author of the soon-to-be-released book, Slim by Design. It was written based on groundbreaking solutions for redesigning our daily spaces —schools, restaurants, grocery stores and our kitchens, for example — with the aim of making positive changes in how we manage our diets. Wansink's research, conducted at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, is used to suggest plans and structural changes that will improve long-term success when making healthy lifestyle choices. The following is a list of the book's suggestions to improve two areas — work and home — where we struggle with temptation almost daily.

Zone One:  Work

Does your office or workplace freely allow for physical activity or do you find yourself in a windowless gray cubicle? Your workplace can affect your weight. Some ways a company can improve the health of its employees include:

  • Offering healthy cafeteria food
  • Providing low-calorie meals or snacks in the vending machines
  • Having a break room
  • Designing the stairwells to be well lit to encourage walking 

Doesn’t sound like your office or place of business? Here are a few more suggestions to keep yourself on track:

  • Make sure you get up from your desk frequently.
  • Take your breaks.
  • Avoid eating at your desk or in your office at all costs. Eating in front of a screen takes away from the pleasure of eating, which means you end up eating more to feel satisfied.
  • Pack a healthy lunch and snacks if necessary.

Tackling these steps is a start, but there will still be potlucks and meetings to derail the most virtuous of eaters. Suggest fruit instead of pastries at meetings, and unsweetened tea/coffee or water are healthy alternatives to juice or carbonated beverages. Also, ask the caterer or restaurant to modify the portions. If all else fails, keep yourself at least six feet from the tempting food — you’ll be less likely to grab for something out of reach.

Zone Two: Home

You've dodged leftover cake in the break room, but now you arrive home. Have you set yourself up for mindless snacking later? Using smaller plates can help you avoid consuming an additional several hundred calories. Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Serve salad and vegetables first with meals.
  • Pre-plate meals and serve from the stove or counter as opposed to leaving food on the table.
  • Sit at the table, turn the TV off and be present during the meal.
  • If drinking sweetened beverages (pop, juice or sports drinks), choose a container that holds fewer than 24 ounces.
  • Ensure bulk foods (think chips) are in individual serving bags.
  • Put pre-cut fruits and vegetables within easy reach on the middle refrigerator shelf.
  • Place a bowl of fruit on the dining room table.

Follow all these rules, and chances are you'll weigh 8 pounds less per year than your neighbors. A bit of planning, organization and preparation can help you stick to your weight management goals and fight temptation. 

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Gina Lesako
Gina Lesako, RD, LD, is a nutritionist and the blog coordinator for the dietetic practice group, SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition). She also writes her own blog, Dietitians Eat Chocolate Too. Follow her antics on Twitter.