Here is the latest email from Dr. Jacobs.
Managing Your Environment
Our current environment makes it very difficult to eat healthy and be physically active; and, in fact, promotes the consumption of high-fat, high-calorie foods, and discourages physical activity. For instance, the use of automobiles, escalators, and movable walkways reduce the amount of physical activity or steps an individual takes each day. Although we cannot change everything around us, we can learn how to manage our surroundings to help encourage healthy eating and physical activity.
While we do have control over our behavior, we often act in response to certain cues in our environment. A cue is a signal, prompt, or reminder to do something. For example, when you go to the movies, you may smell and see popcorn, which will make you want to buy popcorn. In the past, you have ordered popcorn and thus, now when you go to the movies, you have learned to pair up the two items together. When you think of the movies, you immediately think of popcorn. Over the years, you have learned to pair up many cues with behaviors that promote high-fat foods and inactivity. These associations may have even turned into habits, which may result in you eating even when you are not hungry!
The first thing you need to do is to identify any cues that may be signaling you to eat high-fat or high-calorie foods or promoting sedentary behaviors or inactivity. For the next few days, keep a list of the different things that cause you to eat when you are not hungry or not being active. Be sure to think of visuals (candy dish), smells (freshly baked cookies), emotions (stress), events (weddings), holidays (4th of July), other people’s actions (food offerings from coworkers), or even habits, such as watching television after dinner, and snacking even though you are not even hungry.
Once you identify the cues that are the most troublesome for you to maintain your healthy eating and an active lifestyle, you can develop strategies to limit the influence of these negative cues on your behavior. In general, you want to remove or avoid any negative cues and add positive cues. Here are a few strategies to help you with your eating and activity levels:
- Change your environment
• Get rid of all junk food in the house or at your desk at work
• Hide cookie jars and candy dishes and replace with a fruit basket
• Put easily accessible snack foods, such as potato chips, in difficult-to-reach locations where you cannot see them
• Leave out your tennis shoes, gym bags, and exercise equipment to remind you to be active
• Leave an extra pair of tennis shoes at work
- Eat your meals at the table without a TV on, which will help limit distraction
- Add reminders to be physically active
• Hang exercise calendars on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror
• Set reminders on your phone or email
- If you’re going to a party/event:
• Bring a healthy appetizer or salad
• Plan ahead by eating and/or exercising before the party
• Chew gum to prevent snacking
• Don’t stand near the food
Remember, although you cannot control everything completely, you can focus on how you react to these cues. If one strategy does not work, try another. Do not get discouraged if you slip. No one is perfect. Every small change helps!