Clean Out Your Cabinets, Lose Weight: How Your Environment Can Be Your Best Defense Against Overeating

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You’ve heard it before: make eating right a no-brainer. Keep junk food out of the house and fill your kitchen with easy-to-eat healthy options. But it’s very tempting to keep just a few favorite snacks on hand. You know how to manage your cravings, right? You can eat just one, right? Perhaps not. Recent research published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that overindulging may be in your genes. But even if you are predisposed to overeating, you can do something about it!

In the study conducted by Professor Lesley Campbell, Director of Diabetes Services at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Dr. Arthur Jenkins from the University of Wollongong, data from 300 healthy individuals with a family history of type 2 diabetes –  the type associated with high sugar, high fat diets –  was evaluated. Researchers found that many different defects in overweight and obesity genes were at play in these individuals. And these defects account for about 95% of issues with excessive weight gain. 

Sounds like if you have these defective genes, weight loss is a lost cause so why not pick up a package of Ho Hos and give in? According to Professor Campbell, “Genes bring out underlying predispositions, and there are fairly predictable interactions between genes and environment,” as reported by Science Daily. “So if people are predisposed to a strong appetite, large amounts of easily available, highly palatable, food are likely to make them fat.” Meaning genetics and your environment are key factors in whether or not someone will be overweight.

So what does this really mean? Simply that being surrounded by tasty foods will cause a large percentage of people to overeat, particularly if they have one of the many genetic defects identified in the study. But not to worry, there’s a quick fix. While we can’t change our genes, we can change our environment. Maybe not all the time – we can’t stop the receptionist from putting out that bowl of candy – but there is a lot we can do. Read on for a few smart strategies to help you slim down.

– Clean out the cabinets. This weight loss standby bears repeating. With scientific evidence that supports a genetic inability to say no to high-fat, high-sugar foods, there’s no reason to even try keeping sweet treats and salty snacks in the house.

– Get the good stuff. Now that the junk is gone, you’re going to be hungry – and that’s okay. Try pre-washed, pre-cut low sugared fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth and pre-washed, pre-cut veggies with pre-portioned healthy dips like hummus or yogurt-based sauces for salty cravings. The ‘pre’ in prepared is the key here. Part of the appeal of junk food is its snackability – the ability to open a package and start eating away. Making healthy foods just as easy to grab and go will make the transition from garbage to good-for-you all the easier.

– Empty your desk. Almost every office worker has a snack drawer or candy bowl at their work station. Get rid of it. The temptation is just too much – especially after a stressful meeting. If hunger strikes, get up and get something to eat. If the effort of getting food doesn’t seem worth it, you’re probably not experiencing real hunger.

– Stand or sit strategically. When you can’t change your environment, like at holiday dinners and cocktail parties, change your location within them. Facing away from buffet tables and standing far from where hors d’oeuvres are being served is the next best strategy. Visually eliminating temptations can sometimes work as well as physically eliminating them.

– Change the channel. Professor Campbell believes, “The reason we see so many people getting fat is that they carry strong hunger genes while the environment is maxed; it’s an obesogenic environment that rewards eating.” And no one makes the rewards of eating more clear than late night food commercials. When advertisements for juicy burgers and large fries come on, flip to another station to avoid temptation. Even better, get up and get moving during commercial breaks.

What do you do to prevent a snack attack from derailing your healthy eating? I’d love to know, comment and share!

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August 2013
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