“Help! There’s a snack in my house and I don’t know what to do.”
Snacks, junk food, treats, or whatever you want to call them — we all have a name for that food responsible for ruining an otherwise great day of eating. For some it’s cookies. For others, it’s chips or chocolate. And yes, for others, it might be alcohol. No matter what your snack is, we can all agree it’s hard to say no, but SU has a solution. Obviously, the best idea is to never let those pesky snacks in the house in the first place. But we understand there is a life outside of SU and other people involved. In addition to that, food is awesome and we want you to enjoy in the right amounts. These tips will help you do just that.
Before we begin, I want to paint a picture of the average grocery store, particularly what’s at eye level; also known as buy level. These are the items most people will see by default as they navigate the store. It’s the prime real estate of a grocery store and where many snacks live. Your neighborhood grocery store is smart by getting you to buy what we may tell you to limit. They don’t care about SU and our mission, and they don’t care about your goals, unfortunately. I’ve been meaning to talk to them about that. They know how impulse works and they’re good at getting that food into your cart and in your house. Whether it’s their fault, your fault, your partner, kids, or your friend’s fault isn’t the point. That’s a discussion for another day. Today we’re talking about what to do when it is in your house.
Step one: Make it hard to see
We know the saying “out of sign out of mind” right? Food lives by these same rules. If your favorite snack is on the counter, or at eye level you’re going to dive in head first. The more times you are tempted, the more opportunities you’ll have to go astray. Get the food off the counter, rearrange the fridge, or tuck the food away in the cupboard. If you’re repeatedly encouraged to eat, the brain will inevitably convince you it’s a good idea. When you don’t see it, you will be less likely to eat it because you forget it’s even there.
At home we have a big candy basket tucked away.
This thing is full of all my favorite gummies and I rarely touch it because I forget it’s there. Tonight, while I’m writing this, might be a different story since I remembered that basket, but that’s not your fault. It’s Mike & Ike’s fault for being delicious.
The example here may sound obvious but I bet there are some things you can maneuver to encourage better decisions. As you walk around the kitchen remember the saying “out of sight out of mind”. This may be a good reminder to put the higher quality foods up front.
Step 2: Make it hard to get into
This is going to sound a little silly but I promise it helps. Humans like convenience and any point of friction can limit the action. Think about a barrier that’s stopped you from doing something. Food is similar. If we intend on eating off plan and that particular food is hard to get into, we are more likely to turn back. It’s one more reminder that it might not be worth it.
For this example, I like to think about cookies. If you know me, you probably know I like cookies. I may not be the best at making them but I sure am good at eating them… in the right amounts. Just wanted to add that.
A few months back, I was gifted cookies — about 20 different kinds in individually wrapped bags. Every one of them had a twist tie on them and one day I walked up to the box, saw the ties, and said “That’s a lot of work for some cookies. I’m good.” I know it sounds silly but the fact that it would probably take me 10 minutes of twisting a bunch of bags made me realize it was not worth it. I left the cookies and did something else.
Again, think of your food environment. What can you do to some snacks to make them harder to eat? Assuming the food is now out of sight, can you put packaging into another bag, twist it up, and make it a huge pain in the butt to get in to? Perhaps. Give it a try and see what happens.
Step 3: Make it hard to justify
The final trick in saying no is one final reminder to stick to your plan and it might be the wildest idea: add stickers and notes to food that you tend to overeat. Before I dig into this one, I’d like to first defend the people who have trouble with food. I know someone may be reading this and say something like “That’s sad. How can someone need a note?”. Well, it’s because food is hard, life is hard, and some people don’t handle it as well as others, and our job is to help. This is another part of our master plan to make someone into the eater they want to be, not the eater they are, or the eater someone else is.
This step works because it’s the third hurdle someone has to jump over. You made it hard to see but you found it, you made it hard to get into but you’re in it, now you have to make it hard to justify. Yes, it’s a decision, albeit a difficult one, and I want to make it harder for you.
Think of the food you love and have difficulty saying no to. Imagine reaching for that and seeing a bright orange sticker that said: “Not worth it”. Or a note that had some sort of inspirational quote on it. Would you turn back? Maybe, and maybe is the best we can hope for. I’m not here to debate motivation, but I am here to remind people of the value in an opportunity to make a good decision. A sticker or quote provides an opportunity to make a good decision. It’s not going to carry you on forever but it can be the spark that ignites long term change. The more opportunities you give yourself to succeed, the more likely success will come.
Speaking from experience, and hearing many of our SU members do well with these tips, I wanted to share them with you one more time as a final reminder for how you can manage your food environment.
- Make it hard to see
- Make it hard to get into
- Make it hard to justify
When you get home, I want you to take a look around and see what you can do to improve your food environment. If you do this, you’ll increase the chances to make it where you want to be and learn how to stay there. Because let’s be honest. I know that food is making it into the house so I want you prepared for when it does.