Does the following scenario sound familiar? You stay on-track all day, only to come home, exhausted and famished, and binge on your 13-year-old’s Cheetos. You end up annoyed and frustrated, wondering why you don’t have more self-control.
Well, forgive yourself. Research shows that your environment plays a crucial role in determining what, and how much, we eat. The solution is to take control of your environment, and the first step is to become the Nutrition Gatekeeper. That’s the term used by food marketers to describe the person in the family who primarily determines what food comes into the house. The Nutrition Gatekeeper is also a key determiner of the food environment in your household, and may make or break your medical weight loss program. Here’s how to take back control in your house:
- Step One: Claim the Title. If you’re not the Nutrition Gatekeeper in your family, it’s time to step up and proclaim yourself. You simply can’t leave grocery shopping and take-out ordering for your family to someone else (the exception of course is if that person is on the same medical weight loss you plan you are)! Being the Nutrition Gatekeeper is a big responsibility, but also provides you the privilege of controlling your environment—and helping your family become healthier in the process. Why does anyone—regardless of his or her age or metabolism —need a constant supply of junk food in the house? As you anoint yourself the Gatekeeper, you can make sure these foods don’t cross the threshold into your kitchen.
- Step Two: Make a List—and Don’t Deviate. You know the old saying ‘When you fail to plan, you plan to fail?’ As the Gatekeeper, you’ll need to invest time getting ready. This means making a detailed list of all the foods you and your family need to fuel yourselves over the coming week. Start by thinking through all the meals you’ll be eating, as well as what your kids or spouse will need for their lunches. Enlist their support by asking which fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks they want, and have them make their own list. Make sure they understand that you won’t be bringing the usual high-calorie, less-nutritious choices they may be used to into the house.
- Know Your Danger Zones. Do your kids pressure you to buy candy at the grocery store when you shop together? Go shopping at night without them. Are you a sucker for coupons for foods you know aren’t good for you or your family? Throw the circular in the trash as soon as it arrives. If you have a weakness for the snack aisle when you’re famished and exhausted, grocery shop Saturday morning after breakfast. Better yet, avoid the temptation entirely and consider shopping online: You’ll never be tempted by something you see on the shelf that’s not on your list. Your online account will also save you time by pre-populating your existing list so you have the option of automatically getting all your healthy favorites each time your order. And the online account won’t pester you for that chocolate-coated cereal you may binge on, either!
- Have Junk Food Rules. Being the Gatekeeper isn’t easy. Expect to get some pushback from your junk food-loving family members. Remind them that you are doing this for your health and theirs. Explain upfront what the rules are and then follow them. However, at the same time, provide some flexibility for them, too. Decide how often you’ll allow treats in and what they will be. Establish a drawer where they’ll go—and make sure it’s one you won’t ever need to open. Also, make sure it’s a drawer, rather than a cupboard: Research also shows the more food is front-and-center, the more likely you’ll eat it (otherwise known as the “See Food Diet!”).
Also, establish a time and place where your kids can eat their occasional treat, and make sure it’s not the seat next to you in front of the television! [LINK: /science-center/behavior/effects-of-tv-viewing-on-weight/] You’ll probably find that you’ll earn their respect and gratitude (over time!). There’s a bonus, too: Stepping up and becoming the Gatekeeper—rather than the doormat—will also help you learn to assert yourself in other areas where your environment may be hindering your weight loss efforts.
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