I was working with a client recently, and I suggested that she start doing things like use her fine china or play relaxing music while she eats. She looked at me like, “Yeah, ok, sure, whatever.”
I could see it all over her face: This woman isn’t going to help me at all.
She just wanted to lose weight. And “use your fine china” was clearly not what she wanted to hear. But don’t underestimate the power of how making small, environmental changes like this can make a huge difference.
Environmental changes are often overlooked, because they seem completely unrelated to your eating habits. But trust me, they are. And the best part is, they’re super easy to make.
When you make small changes to what’s around you — like putting fresh flowers on your table or lighting a candle while you eat — it sends a message to your brain that something different is happening. It takes you out of your usual zoned-out state and makes you more aware of what you’re actually doing. In other words, what you eat and how you’re eating it.
Also, being aware and present while you eat helps you change how you think about food and about yourself. When your thoughts change, your habits change. And when your habits start to change, you are that much closer to having the body you want.
Here are other ways making environmental changes helps you:
You’ll appreciate your food. If you make an effort, you’re going to pay more attention to what you’re eating. You’re going to actually enjoy your food and the experience of eating. All of this makes you more likely to eat slowly and not binge.
You’ll eat healthier. If you set your table or play relaxing music, you’re not very likely to sit down with a bag of Doritos and a pack of M&Ms. (Yes, I have done this.) Eating is now an event, and you won’t ruin it by eating crap food.
Your food preferences will also change — you’ll realize how gross what you usually eat is and how much better healthy food tastes.
You’ll be nicer to yourself. These kinds of changes are small acts of self-care, and making them helps you change how you feel about yourself. Feeling good about yourself helps eliminate that critical voice in your head that tells you what a loser you are after you scarf down your lunch in five minutes.
If you’re an emotional eater like I was — and sometimes still am — it takes work to change how you eat. Having a tendency to binge eat doesn’t go away overnight. In fact, you may never be completely rid of the urge to shove food down when you’re sad, irritated, tired, or bored.
But you can drastically increase your odds of overhauling the way you eat, just by making these kinds of tiny changes to your environment. It’s like half the battle is already won, and you didn’t even have to try that hard.
Remember, awareness is everything, because you can’t change anything unless you’re aware of it first. The good news is that developing awareness is as simple as setting a table.