Live a lean and healthy life by conquering the “obesogenic” environment that has taken over in mainstream society. The obesogenic environment includes the following elements, none of which you have to go along with:
- A physical environment in which people drive everywhere and rarely use “active” forms of transportation such as walking or bicycling.
- A work and leisure environment that is almost completely sedentary, leading people to sit for extended periods for 8 to 12 hours a day.
- Food deserts in which you are constantly exposure to cheap, high-calorie processed food but an absence of healthy food.
- Pervasive endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure in shampoo and other personal care products that increase body fat stores and alter hormone function.
- Excessive use of smartphones and screens, which lead to sedentary leisure time and disrupt hormone levels via the blue light they emit.
Even changing views of what it means to be “overweight” may be contributing to the increase in obesity.
The good news is there are fairly simple steps you can take to shape your environment for a lean and healthy lifestyle. Here are ten:
#1: Use Active Forms of Transportation
If you need to go somewhere that’s less than 1 mile away, walk or bike. If you have a bike, try using it for all your transportation that is less than 5 miles away.
#2: Make It a Habit To Cook At Home
The younger millennial generation is the first generation to spend more money dining out than they do for food prepared at home, often choosing fast food, deli food, and pizza over healthier options. Food purchased from restaurants and fast food joints is less nutritious and up to 65% more energy dense than the average diet that is home cooked.
#3: Avoid Stockpiling Food
The rise of big box stores like Costco lets people buy items in bulk and stockpile large amounts of food. One study found that when people were provided with large quantities of convenient-to-eat food in their homes for two weeks, they burned through their stockpiles 112 percent faster than when people had normal quantities of food in their homes.
#4: Stay Active Throughout The Day
A simple way of reducing sedentary time during the day is to make it a habit to walk briskly for ten minutes after every meal. A recent study found that when diabetics did this they had healthier blood sugar levels than if they walked for 30 minutes altogether.
#5: Use Smaller Plates
A full plate sends the signal that you're eating a full meal, whereas a partially full plate looks like a skimpy meal, regardless of the actual quantity of food. Research shows that using smaller plates and glasses but filling them up is a simple way to eat smaller portions and thereby reduce calorie intake.
#6:Don’t Eat In Front of The TV or Any Screen
Distracted eating almost always leads to overeating. For example, when people eat while watching TV or a movie, they keep eating until the program ends, ignoring hunger cues and often far surpassing the amount of calories they would have eaten if they had been paying attention to their meal.
#7: Don’t Eat Out of Habit
Even if they are not physically hungry, simply thinking it is time to have a meal or a snack is enough to cause most people to eat. For example, many people are in the habit of eating in their cars or when turning on the television. Instead, eat all your meals at the table without added distractions.
#8: Create A Speed Bump To Manage Portions
Put half of your meal off to the side to create a “speed bump.” When you hit the “bump,” ask yourself if you’re enjoying your food or if you’re actually full. Studies show that when people are offered multiple small packages they will eat less than if they are offered a large package of the same volume. Even though the physical effort required to open another package is minimal, the smaller packages provide discrete stopping points that allow you to reconsider whether you want to continue eating.
#9: Avoid Food “Porn”
With the popularity of beautiful food on social media, we are exposed to tempting food on a regular basis. Recent evidence suggests that the visibility of a enticing food can enhance actual hunger by increasing the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.
#10: Avoid Dieting & Food Obsession
Paradoxically, people who diet frequently or are focused on specific aspects of food consumption appear to be particularly susceptible to environmental factors that spark overeating and undermine their attempts at restraint. Eating is difficult to monitor and a focus on food choices (such as choosing low-calorie, low-fat, “clean,” or gluten-free foods) causes people to focus more on what they are eating than on how much they eat.
For example, when people chose to ate bread without butter in order to “save” calories, they ended up eating more bread over the course of the meal, thereby negating the calories they had “saved.”