You’ve signed up for a healthy kitchen remodel. Consider me your contractor. It’s my job to turn your cabinets, fridge and freezer into hale and hearty fixtures in your home. But before we start the demolition, we need to take a peek at what drives your eating behavior. Do you eat to live, or live to eat? For those of you who view food primarily as fuel, this week should be a breeze. But if you’re like me and your eating habits are emotionally driven, pay close attention. The following steps are critical to your long-term success.
Call a Household Meeting
Problem: The ooey, gooey, chocolate ice cream your husband loves and can easily eat in 1/2 cup portions sends you into a feeding frenzy.
Solution: Talk it out. Because the kitchen is a shared spaced, it’s vital that you be open and honest with your family in order to make lasting changes to your diet.
Gather the troops to explicitly discuss your goals, expectations and anxieties. Encourage everyone—even young children—to voice their opinions and concerns. Don’t be surprised if everyone isn’t thrilled about the “makeover.”
Identify would-be saboteurs, and implore them not to have tempting foods lying around. Give them incentives (fewer household chores, for example), and strike a deal. Even if they don’t hop on board right away, at least they can promise not to set up stumbling blocks for you.
Face Your Demons
“Demons” are another name for cravings, which wouldn’t be so bad if you had a hankering for celery. Unfortunately, most people trend toward fatty, salty, savory, sweet, “carby” fare. Researchers from Tufts University found that chemical circuits in the brain help drive cravings. And these circuits are triggered by several factors, such as thirst and hunger, stress, memories, sight and smell.
The good news is many of these stimuli are within your control. Eating every three to four hours and staying hydrated helps keep hunger at bay. Exercising regularly, getting proper sleep, and practicing stress management help to alleviate tension. Regulating environmental factors is where things get tricky. There are factors you can’t control, such as the cinnamon bun joint conveniently placed next door to your favorite dress shop at the mall. But you can choose not to go to that mall. You can also control your exposure to indulgent treats in your home.
Ask yourself this question: Can you eat decadent foods moderately, or do your cravings drive you crazy? If you have your cake on occasion without eating the entire thing, go for it. Keep your diet in perspective, and you’ll still reach your health goals. On the other hand, if you feel helpless in a room with a pint of ice cream, it’s got to go.
Practice Product Placement
Even if you’re able to reign in your cravings, you should still practice caution. Relegate tempting foods to the back of the cabinet or refrigerator to make them less visible and accessible. Out of sight is hopefully out of mind. This tactic may also serve as a feasible compromise for family members who are not on the makeover bandwagon.
Place healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats, whole grains, healthy fats) front and center on your shelves. These are the items that offer the greatest satiety and nutrition for the fewest calories. Having them within arm’s reach—and in a form that’s ready to eat—will increase the likelihood that you’ll eat them. Refer to Dave’s Raves for my list of favorites.
Editor’s note: Join David Grotto, RD, LDN, for a LIVE Kitchen Makeover Twitter chat on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. CST on @FitStudio!
Author David Grotto is a FitStudio advisory board member, registered dietitian and the founder and president of Nutrition Housecall. He is the author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life and 101 Optimal Life Foods. He served as a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for more than six years.