The world is out to get you… fatter! That’s right. Modern society is conspiring against your fat loss goals… plotting and scheming to make you eat more and move less. Scientists even have a name for it: “The obesogenic environment!” Food is everywhere! Labor-saving devices are everywhere! Temptation is everywhere! So is negativity and mediocrity.
Here’s the bottom line: many of your eating behaviors are set off by environmental triggers…
Those triggers are lurking in your kitchen, in your dining room, in grocery stores, in restaurants, and even in the “behavioral norms of social circles.”
The good news is, research has uncovered more than a dozen super simple, but ultra-powerful action strategies you can apply in your life to create an environment around you that’s conducive to fat loss and high levels of fitness and health success.
There has been a ton of research published on this subject, and thankfully one team of researchers from the State University of New York at Cortland compiled it all for us in one place.
In a research paper titled, “Environmental Changes to Facilitate Weight Loss” which was published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, the authors reviewed 22 of the most important and relevant studies about the power your environment has to influence your behavior and your weight.
In this review, 13 points were isolated and chosen as some of the most important action strategies you can take and changes you can make to reduce temptation, eliminate exposure to temptations, and increase exposure to positive situations and people. Basically, this is how you remove the triggers that set off excess and inappropriate eating.
It’s not enough to simply think about working out and calories and macros. Changing your environment, wherever it is possible and practical, is an important part of achieving successful behavior change to improve fat loss.
The changes most discussed in the scientific research have been focused on two major areas:
- Changing the eating environment.
- Changing the social network.
The social environment plays a major role in the spread of obesity. It is harder to change than your home and kitchen environment, but there are ways to change that as well.
I know you’re busy so I’m going to keep this short and summarize it all in a punchlist for you below…
13 strategies and changes you can make today to set up your environment for fat loss success:
1. At home, confine your eating to only one place (typically the dining room).
This means no eating at your work desk, no eating in front of the computer, absolutely no eating in front of the TV, and so on. Studies showing the benefits of this technique go back to at least 1971.
2. At home, use smaller dinner plates.
It may sound gimmicky, but eating off smaller plates has been documented as an effective strategy to encourage eating fewer calories, by studies at Cornell University.
3. Do not leave large serving bowls or plates at the dining room or kitchen table.
What could be a worse environment for promoting fat loss success than eating at a buffet? How about your own buffet, at home, right in front of you on your own dinner table. If you bring all the large containers your food was cooked in and leave them on the dining room table, you don’t even have to get up out of your seat to fill up on seconds or thirds (at least at the buffet restaurant you have to cross the room).
4. DO leave healthy foods in visible places.
Leave health food near and in front of the refrigerator, on the dining room table, on kitchen counters, and on kitchen tables. Put 5 pieces of fruit in a bowl by the front door and set a goal to grab one piece every day on the way to work.
This is one of my personal favorites, and it’s so simple! I like to leave sweet potatoes and potatoes in bowls on my kitchen counter too, and I also leave my Quaker oats container out on the counter as well instead of putting in away in a cabinet.
5. Reduce visibility of unhealthy foods – keep them out of sight.
I’m sure you don’t keep junky foods stockpiled in your own house do you? But maybe another family member who is “not on the program” does. If so, be sure it is put away in cupboards, in a basement freezer, in the back of a closet and so on. Better yet, if possible, do not keep any junk in the house at all. For occasional treats, force yourself to go out and buy them (and do not shop hungry).
6. The company you keep can influence your own weight.
Studies by Christiakis and Fowler of more than 12,000 subjects confirmed how spending time in a social circle of overweight people who are not interested in changing their weight, health and behavior, increase the odds that you will not be inspired to change either and increase risk of your weight gain. Make a note about the “not interested part.” A group of people who are interested in improving their health and achieving fat loss can be a great place to be, regardless of their current shape.
7. Proactively build a social circle full of physically active people who have good eating habits.
If you do not have active, healthy-eating friends yet, make them, don’t sit around and wish for them, go out and make them. Two easy ways: 1. Join a gym. 2. Connect with active healthy eaters online (like in our fitness support community at www.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com)
8. Join up with partners and teams with people who have goals and are making a consistent effort to work toward them.
How others in your social circle behave has a major influence on your own effort level. A study in the journal, Psychology of Sports and Exercise found that the amount of effort you perceive a friend on a team is making has an impact on your own effort level.
It’s okay if your group or partners are not far along the path yet, what matters is whether the people you associate with have goals and are making the effort to work toward them. Goals and effort – those are the two key words.
9. Whenever possible, eat meals with light eaters who are making an effort to work toward fitness goals.
Surround yourself with people who have health and fitness goals and are making an effort to work toward them. These are also the best type of people to go out to eat with.
10. Say no to the bread at restaurants!
This is not an anti-carb or pro-low carb sentiment. It’s simply keeping you from taking in excess calories in an environment where calories are already out of control. Restaurant meals with drinks, appetizers, main course, and dessert not only typically top 1000 calories, they can top 2500! Yes, a whole day’s worth of calories in a single meal. It’s fat loss sabotage. And you want bread too? Move bread on restaurant tables away from you, ask that it is taken away or better yet, ask that it’s not put on table in the first place, if possible.
12. Eating in groups at restaurants or food-focused social events is known to increase the amount that people in the group eat.
Research has shown that eating more in groups not only has to do with the typical behavior of the other people at the table (are they active healthy eaters or not interested in fitness and health), but actually with the amount of time spent at the table in large groups. Be on guard at long dinners with groups of any size, because a long time at the table means more time to eat and drink.
12. When eating with a companion, decide in advance how much you are going to eat and commit to that decision.
Research suggests that if someone at a restaurant dinner table, even a single companion, eats a lot of food, you are likely to eat more food as well. It’s not simply social pressure – even if your companion doesn’t nudge you to eat more, it doesn’t matter – just seeing a friend eat more opens the door to you eating more. (Same thing goes for ordering dessert)
13. Accept that you can’t avoid all negative influences, but you can decrease your exposure to them and build your immunity to them.
It’s rarely possible to avoid everyone in all your social networks who are not interested in health and fitness or who are even overtly un-supportive or negative.
Here’s what you can do: Take the time to identify the people who support you and the people who don’t. Increase your exposure to the positives, if possible. Limit your exposure to the negatives, if possible. Learn to build your resistance and immunity from un-supportive people you cannot avoid.
I mentioned at the start, these strategies are super-simple, and in fact, they may appear so simplistic and obvious that for some people, reading this may have prompted an “I already know that” or “that’s nothing ground-breaking” reaction. Keep in mind these two points:
1. These are research supported strategies that work.
2. The question is not whether you know something, it’s whether you’re willing to practice it.
Tom Venuto, Founder & CEO,
Burn The Fat Inner Circle (www.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com)
PS. I know the social environment is a real tough one for a lot of people. As the last point above mentioned, you can’t always get away from the negatives completely, not in the short term. But you can always, instantly, get around more positive people and one incredible, fabulous way to do it is to join a health and fitness community online – I mean a really dynamic one that thrives on positivity.
If you recognize that social environment is the area that’s been holding your fat loss back, but you’re not sure how much of it you can change yet, then take a moment and check out this page that explains what having an amazing support circle could do for you: www.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com
Related: 5 Tips For Autopilot Fat Loss
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation