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Health-ifying your Environment by Samantha Mackinnon, RD, LD

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Having trouble making the healthy habits stick? Are you surrounded by tempting foods during the day, have an evening snack drawer that might as well be sponsored by Hershey’s OR would you describe your friends/family/coworkers as “not exactly health conscious”? If you’re having setbacks in your health goals, it may have more to do with your surroundings rather than sticking to the actual habits themselves. It might be time to make some adjustments to your environment. 

Set yourself up for success by first acknowledging who or what your saboteurs are. They could be the all-you-can-eat snack pantry at work, that friend that always wants to go out for burgers and beers, or YOU when you’re at the grocery store and pick up those chocolate bars/ice-cream/oreo packs just because. 

Next, come up with a strategy for how you’re going to improve upon the situation. I won’t say eliminate or avoid because that’s impractical but YOU can definitely make a conscious decision to choose a healthier alternative. Here are some of my favorite strategies I try to stick to: 

1. Don’t bring it in the house. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. Plain, simple, easy. When it’s 10 o’clock at night and that sweet craving hits, the bad stuff isn’t there to turn to. Find a healthier alternative like a small serving of yogurt, decaffeinated tea, or some hot water with lemon and ginger to quiet the craving. Succeeding in this strategy means that you need to have willpower when you go grocery shopping to NOT BUY IT. Make sure you don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach or try your hand at online grocery shopping to help keep it out of your basket. 

2. Research restaurants in your area that offer healthy options. You don’t have to say “no” to dining out just because you have health goals. What you should do, however, is your homework to see which places serve meals that don’t break the bank for you, and appease whoever you’re dining out with. Here in the Heights, my go-to’s are Bella Green and Local Foods, which have a little something for everyone. If people are your problem, try having an honest conversation with that person and let them know what your goals are. If all else fails, eat before you see them so then you can say “Aww shucks! I wish I could but I JUST ate.” 

3. Come up with your own Relapse Prevention rules. Say your problem is all the food at work. First step is to start bringing in your own food and snacks (and actually eat what you brought). Second step is that IF you want to indulge in a workplace goody, THEN you have to complete some form of exercise (above and beyond what you normally do). This might mean climbing some staircases, going for a 10 minute walk, some push-ups or squats in your office, a spin class after work, whatever suits the indulgence. This may help put your work time habit into perspective. Do you really want that cookie if it means you have to go all the way downstairs and back? It can also help limit how far you let your indulgence go (1 cookie vs 3 cookies). 

4. Most people equate eating healthy with eating bland, flavorless food so aim to make your healthy meal times more appealing to you. Try a new recipe, make your favorite side dish, try a Vital Kitchen meal (promo code: districthcrossfit) or sign up for Blue Apron, prep a crockpot in the morning so you have it to look forward to when you get home. Also, don’t eat foods you hate! Don’t like broccoli but eat it anyways? Don’t do that! Nothing will make you dread eating healthy more. Pick a veggie you actually like and if you think you don’t like a veggie, try prepping it 3 different ways before you decide definitively that you don’t like it. 

5. Use social media to your benefit and follow accounts that inspire you to be healthier. Obviously you follow us! But try following other locals like Black Swan Yoga. I really like following Working Against Gravity for their informational content on Instagram and Whole 30 has great recipes I like to browse through. I wouldn’t say I follow many “influencers” because I think they put out unrealistic expectations but I do follow a lot of athletes (especially crossfit athletes), other dietitians, and of course food accounts for motivation.