Managing your food environment

Carrie Dennett, a Seattle-based registered dietitian nutritionist, has a column in the Sunday Seattle Times and a blog that I regularly read at  She made some astute observations in an article entitled “Eating right: When Willpower Just Isn’t Enough”.  In discussing willpower and self-control she mentions that our willpower reserve can become depleted since the brain uses 20 % of the energy we take in from food.

When the brain runs low on fuel there is a negative impact on self-control:

  1. Lack of sleep-willpower tends to be stronger in the morning
  2. Lack of nourishment-eating nutrient-poor foods, skipping meals or restricting calories (i.e., dieting)
  3. Stress-under stress the brain works harder to control your thoughts, attention and emotions
  4. Alcohol-lowers your blood sugar so your brain has less fuel to make healthy decisions
  5. Using willpower-resisting less healthy food choices throughout the day makes it more difficult to resist in the evening

Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, provides the statistic that “the average person makes more than 200 food decisions each day”. Conserve willpower by using smart strategies to manage your food environment. If you develop habits/strategies that are part of your daily routine, then you can resist temptation when your willpower reserves are at a low point.  One of Carrie’s pre-decided habits is “not to buy anything from the pastry case at coffee shops”.

One of my food strategies has always been to avoid eating any unhealthy options present in common eating areas at work.  However, I will usually choose to have a delicious dessert at any birthday celebration!  Develop personal healthy eating strategies.


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