Getting Your Environment In Line

When you think about getting started with eating better, where is the first place your head go?

Stop eating cookies?

Eat salads for lunch everyday?

Only eating boring food?

Never eating out again?

What if I told you that you are moving way too far ahead?  You have moved past step one and step one doesn’t really have all that much to do with eating cookies, having salad, or going out to eat.  It starts in your environment.

Your environment is 1-3 places you spend most of your time.  These places need to be set up to support your success. If they are not, it will be detrimental to your long term success.  The goal of working on your environment is making your home or desk a place that is supportive of your goals instead of having to constantly use willpower.  

Have you ever come home from work starving opened the fridge or pantry to start snacking on chips instead of just starting dinner?  

If you answered yes, we need to start making simple changes to be successful.  For the next few days, follow this daily tasks to get your environment set up for success.

RIGHT NOW: Take all the food that is on the counter, table, or on your desk and put it away.  This food can find a home in a cupboard, fridge, or the trash if needed, but it is no longer taking up space in the open.  Also, if you are like my grandma and leave spice drops in a dish in the living room those need to get put away too.

Removing foods from counters, tables, and desks will remove the temptation to snack mindlessly.  If it is out of sight, it is out of mind.

The next parts are going to be much harder to clean up if you have kids, significant others, or a roommate.  It is the clean-up of the kitchen. You have two options here, to compromise or to rule the kitchen. I have personally tried both ways and I promise neither one is easy.  You have to pick the one that works for you.

To Compromise:  Food that does not fit into your goals is moved to an inconveniently located cabinet.  You know the corner cabinet that doesn’t open right. This space needs to be inconvenient for you to just grab something.  You can continue to stock this cabinet or you can stop and let it empty out or someone else can take over. But, don’t forget to have the conversation with them.

To Rule:  This is the take no prisoners approach.  I use this a lot with cooking and I account this to why I only ever cook 1 meal at my house.  What is here is what there is to eat. Take it or leave it. It can be harsh and isn’t easy if your support system isn’t on board.

The next steps begin with the clean-up of the fridge, freezer, and pantry.  You can attack these one day at a time or take a day and do it all.

Start with cleaning it out, like cleaning it all out.  Remove everything from the space, wipe it down, and toss any food that has been in there for too long.  Now let’s dig into what you find in there:

Beverages

Any calorie-containing beverages need to go.  This is not an exhaustive list but…

  • Soda
  • Fruit Juice
  • Milk
  • Sports Drinks
  • Commercial Coffee Creamer

Replace with…

  • Water, Unflavored Coffee, Tea, Sparkling Water (La Croix, Topo Chico)  

Bad Fats

  • Highly Processed Oils
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Canola Oil
  • Cottonseed Oil
  • “I can’t believe it’s not butter” butter
  • Margarine

Replace with…

  • Fish Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Whole avocados
  • Ghee or Grass-Fed Butter
  • Nuts / Seeds
  • Almond Butter
  • Peanut Butter (nothing but peanuts and salt)

Condiments

  • Jelly
  • Ketchup
  • Mayo
  • BBQ
  • Commercial Salad Dressings

Replace with…

  • Homemade Salad Dressings (oil, vinegar, spices)
  • Mustard
  • Hot Sauce (Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot)

Packaged Meat

  • Pepperoni
  • Hot Dogs
  • Brats
  • Packaged deli meat

Replace with…

  • Preservative-free meats (no nitrites or nitrates)
  • Lean meats
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Legumes

Grains

This is going to be most things that are in a package.  Things like….

  • cereal
  • bread (even whole wheat bread)
  • crackers
  • cookies

Replace with…  

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains (quinoa, steel cut oats, millet, buckwheat, brown rice)
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes

Snack Bars

  • Cliff bars
  • Power bars
  • Nature Valley bars
  • Granola bars

Replace with…  

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables (baby carrots, broccoli florets, celery sticks)
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Sweets  

This category is pretty straightforward

  • candy
  • flavored yogurts
  • fruit juice

Replace with…  

  • Fruits
  • Berries

Get rid of…(freezer section)

  • Heavily processed boxed items
    • Waffles
    • Breakfast Sandwiches
    • Pizza
    • Corn Dogs
    • Fries
    • Ice Cream
    • Frozen Yogurt
    • Freezer Meals

Replace with…

  • Frozen fruit (berries are best)
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen fish (unbreaded)
  • Frozen meats
  • Freezer Meals (you created)
  • Soups/Chili’s (you made)

Baking Ingredients

  • all refined flours
  • gluten
  • thickeners
  • anything you would use to bake a cake

Replace with…

Most likely nothing, if you need to bake for the sister’s dog’s birthday then you can go out and get the ingredients.


If you are unsure if something should stay or go, it probably should go.

As you are doing this or preparing to do this pay attention to any resistance that may come up.

If it does, sit with it and see if you can find the root of it.

Why does getting rid of unsupportive food bring up anxiety.?

Is it because you are throwing it away or is it something deeper?

Sit with it and see if you figure out why a resistance comes up.

If throwing it away bothers you, give it away.  This step is critical to you being successful long-term.

Let me know how your kitchen clean up goes! I love hearing from you.  Check out the follow up to this post about Rules of the Kitchen

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