If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I will not eat [insert yummy food you have deemed evil here] anymore,” then you’re no stranger to using the concept of willpower to modify your eating habits. Sure, you can stick to it for a few days, maybe even weeks or months — but eventually, you’re going to get fixated on how much you miss that food and it will be all you can think about. Or you’re going to encounter it at a party and have a weak moment and stuff a dozen of them in your mouth.
“The concept of getting thin by willpower is tough and doesn’t work,” says Felicia Romero, who has more than 15 years of experience as a fitness entrepreneur and trainer and who joined her sister, Antonia, on season two of Fit to Fat to Fit on Lifetime. “Our brain sometimes lets us down because food restrictions, deprivation diets and imbalances with blood sugar can leave our willpower powerless.”
In reality, our environment — such as social factors, our workplace, the treats your significant other brings home from the grocery store — helps shape our eating habits and greatly contributes to our ability to lose weight. Social gatherings or dinners out can lead to overeating and overconsumption of alcohol, which can throw us off our routine and make us forget about our goals. We are surrounded by influencers every day, whether we recognize them or not.
“Willpower alone doesn’t give you the tools necessary to achieve your fitness goals,” says Romero, who hosts the Felicia Romero Classic, which is an NPC national qualifier each November, and holds five pro wins herself. “Having a plan, setting goals and having accountability go far beyond sheer willpower.
Romero names some of her favorite kitchen hacks for ensuring your environment helps — not hinders — your goals:
Keep nuts and a bowl of fruit on the counter so you’re more likely to reach for that instead of chips or cookies.
Just like our waistlines, our dinnerware has expanded over the decades. So if your grandmother’s china feels too petite to eat on, your sizing has become warped. Choosing smaller plates, bowls and glasses helps decrease serving sizes because it tricks your eye into thinking there’s more on your plate. In fact, studies show you serve 20 to 25 percent less when using a smaller plate.
According to a Cornell University study, a high color contrast between food and plate helps people eat less. In the study, participants who served themselves pasta Alfredo on a white plate (limited contrast) piled on 22 percent more pasta than those who were given red plates (full contrast). Time to brighten up your dinner table with some fun colors. It also can work in reverse, so choose green plates if you want to eat more leafy greens.
Don’t eat in front of the TV or your laptop. After each bite, put your utensil down while you chew and swallow. Not only will you feel more relaxed, but you’ll also eat less, chew more and improve your digestion.
If produce wilts away in your fridge, wash and cut your fruits and veggies right after you purchase them. You’ll be more likely to eat them if they are clean and ready to grab.
Line of sight
Hide your less-than-healthy options on shelves that are higher or lower than eye level — you’re less likely to choose it if it’s not the first thing you see when you open the fridge or pantry. Place healthy choices front and center.
Buy a Slow Cooker
This kitchen dynamo saves time for meal prep and allows you to cook up enough food to last for several days.
“Preparation is key in anything we do in life, but consistency is king,” Romero says. “Without consistency, we will never be able to truly change our lives. The details really come from the day-to-day routine and habits, so make sure they are healthy ones.”