Creating Supportive Environments

Our present environment encourages a high fat, high calorie, sedentary lifestyle; one that promotes obesity and its related diseases. In the past, lifestyles were physically demanding and food was not readily available. Even 100 years ago, our ancestors didn’t just reach into the refrigerator or cabinet to snack. Before supermarkets, sub-zero refrigerators, and fast food drive-thrus, high-fat processed foods and 400-calorie coffee drinks were not so common. Today, high-fat, high-calorie, processed, jumbo-sized foods are at our fingertips at home, work, and other environments.  In order to battle the bulge and poor health, we need to set up our environments to be conducive to accomplishing behavior change. 

Think about the environments you find yourself in regularly- home, work, social, dining out, travel.

Setting up supportive environments:

The most important environments to control are your home and work—where you spend most of your time. Start with food purchases—stock your home and work with fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, individually portioned food, and water.

There are two main avenues for creating supportive environments:

  • Additive –  adding things to your environment to make it supportive of healthy eating and increasing activity.
  • Subtractive – subtracting high-fat and high-calorie “trigger” foods from your environment.

Of course, the things you do to create supportive environments  must always be relevant to the behavior change in question. If mid-afternoon is your trouble time, then make sure you stock your environment with some kind of fresh produce and a lean protein to have as a snack. This is also where keeping food records comes in handy. Records help you identify environments that are supportive and target environments that need to be modified. They also allow you to set specific changes in the environment that need to be changed, set specific goals, and track your progress.

So, what’s the bottom line?

  • Expect that food environments will not be supportive wherever you go
  • Be prepared: ask questions
  • Create supportive environments
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