Set up your environment so you can win

Before Christmas, I headed down to Cornwall with the best intentions. I was going to allow myself to indulge over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day and not restrict myself. However, I didn’t want to eat for the sake of it and be greedy, instead, I wanted to listen to my hunger cues and stop when I was full. When it came to alcohol, I thought, I may have one or 2 glasses of champagne but maybe not.

For the most part, I stuck to my intentions, I enjoyed those 3 days, didn’t feel over-full and had 1 glass of champagne on Christmas Day – which by the way, was enough to make me feel tipsy. The problem was, I couldn’t restart my usual eating habits after Boxing Day…The boxes of chocolates, left overs, cheeses and crisps were too damn tempting!

Ordinarily, I find it pretty easy to eat food based on how it makes me feel, not just off how it tastes, I enjoy sticking to my normal routine because it makes me feel good. I could feel that a lack of fibre and protein and an increase in sugar and processed foods was making me feel lethargic, constipated and crappy but I still didn’t stop myself.

As soon as I arrived back in Manchester, my old eating habits kicked right back in. I think the reason I struggled to regain my ‘normal’ eating pattern whilst I was in Cornwall was because I wasn’t in my environment. My environment is set up to help me sustain my eating habits, my mum’s house over Christmas was full of tasty, tempting treats. Habits seem to be heavily influenced by the environment you’re in. So many of my patient’s struggle to keep up with their spinal exercises when they go on holiday, even when they intend to.

Habits are easy to maintain when you don’t have to use will power, a habit is like a reflex, you do it without really thinking about it. Every time I walked past the open box of quality street, I was having to use will power not to grab one. I was fatiguing the decision making part of my brain when I went to the fridge and debated with myself over whether to have a turkey salad or a turkey, brie and cranberry sandwich.

Now, I know a week of eating ‘off plan’ is not the end of the world, in fact, eating in this way just reaffirmed why I usually eat the way I do. However if you want to form a new habit or kick an old one, are you setting your environment up to empower you? So, if you want to start eating more fruit & veg and not binge on biscuits every night.. But you keep filing a biscuit tin with your favourite biscuits and then expect to rely on will power not to eat them you’re setting your environment up to encourage you to fail. Instead, stock your fridge with pre prepared veg & fruit snacks and stop buying biscuits! That is a winning environment which will solidify your habits.

How could you change your environment to support your habits which will help you reach your 2019 goals?

Paula xo

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