What’s the first thing you do after a stressful day at work or an anxiety-provoking call? If it’s dive into a box of cookies, you’re not alone.
If you’re struggling with healthy eating, managing stress is of course a great solution. (Poor eating habits are hardly the only harmful effect of under-managed stress.) But that’s not easy, and besides, willpower doesn’t actually go all that far in helping us manage our diets. We’re incredibly susceptible to our environments.
It might not sound like it, but this is in fact excellent news! Why? You can get yourself to eat more healthily by just changing what’s around you. A few lowkey ways to circumvent your tendency to sabotage your food choices and portion size choices might result in better long term goals.
- Keep treats out of sight and reach. You’re much more likely to snack on food if you can see it. One study found that female office workers ate the most chocolate if it was in a clear, within-reach container, and the least chocolate if it was in an opaque, out-of-reach container. So don’t make that cookie jar glass, and definitely don’t keep it on the counter: store those goodies in a cabinet (and maybe even toward the very back)!
- Use a small plate. The bigger the serving vessel, the more you’ll eat, even if you don’t like the food all that much. So serve yourself on a small bowl or plate. If you’re genuinely hungry when you’re finished, you can always go back for more.
- Choose your plate color wisely. Some people suggest that participants ate less cookies and popcorn when they were served on red plates. But other research shows that when the color of the food matches the color of the plate, we eat more. So go for that red plate—unless you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce.
- Pick restaurants with softer music and lighting. It won’t change what you order, but it’ll change how much you eat: try turning down the lights at the dinner table at home—and, if you’ve been blasting the tunes, turn the volume down, too!