Isn’t it ironic how easily resolutions dissolve, in spite of our persistent desire to be healthy?
In as little as two months, well-intended habits have collapsed into a pile of excuses. No need to sugarcoat it, they are in fact excuses. Albeit, good ones because these excuses, aka setbacks, are based on truths. For example, maybe you hosted the in-laws for five days, endured some long workdays or felt a moral obligation to support to the Girl Scouts (in which case you had to take the cookies). Fortunately, recognition of the truth can also be your ally when it comes being healthier.
An often-overlooked truth is the impact of environment on our choices. You can test this theory from anywhere, but the most valuable locations to evaluate are the ones where you spend the most time. Your place of work or home are prime opportunities to face the truth.
Imagine walking into your kitchen. Scan your countertops, what food do you see? Open the fridge, what is the first item to catch your eye? Move onto the pantry, look inside and pay special attention to the shelves at eye-level. If you enter your home through the garage, what food or beverages are stored there?
This is your food environment at home. What you see will have a strong influence on what you eat. Upon reflection about your home food environment, would you agree or disagree the space supports your health goals? No doubt, your willpower is strong. However, is it strong enough to keep you on track after a mentally or emotionally challenging day? Be honest.
Work environment also influences food choices and comes with its own unique challenge. Take the break room for example. This space offering social reprieve from mentally taxing work somehow doubles as a magnet for doughnuts, cookies and candy. The consistency with which they appear is mysterious, but a well-known reality. Not all places of work have a break room, but somewhere, there is a vending machine or a desk displaying a bottomless candy jar. Perhaps your social reprieve comes during happy hour, yet another environment that may not support your end goals.
In hindsight, it’s not all that ironic only 8% of people succeed with their resolutions. Could that change with a little foresight into how we design our environment? Would you stand more at work with a standing desk? Would a colorful basket of fruit on the kitchen counter encourage a healthier choice? If a pair of walking shoes stayed in your car, would you use them to de-stress before going home? What if you stopped hiding fruit and veggies in the bottom drawer of the fridge and instead used that for less healthy options?
Admittedly, it was watching my 5-year-old reach into a cupboard, positioned right at eye level for a little human, and grab a bowl of chips that led to this article. At her next snack attack, I’m sure she’ll be pleasantly surprised to find apples and oranges in that cupboard!
At this point, someone out there is asking; Why not avoid buying unhealthy food in the first place? True, that is one way to create a supportive environment. However, let’s be honest about reality. We all know we’re only one good excuse away from falling short on that plan.
Nicole Clark is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461.Nicole Clark