You know how occasionally there’s a book that seems to flood the internet because everyone is talking about it? Its praises are plastered in thousands of articles all over the internet, and your friends keep telling you that you have to read it, it’s so good!
When a book is exploding with popularity, I’m actually less likely to read it. You know, so I can bask in the smug superiority of not conforming to the opinion of the masses.
That’s what happened with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. But a year ago, after everyone had moved on, I caved and read the thing. And then kicked myself for not reading it years earlier.
Consider What You Want
In her book, Kondo explains that before you tidy your home, you need to think about what kind of lifestyle you’d like to lead. Are you someone who wants to come home from a long day at work, stretch out on your yoga mat, and then take a long, hot bubble bath? Then you should arrange your furniture to make space for your yoga mat and stock your bathroom with bubble bath. The space you live in should help you live the life you want to lead. But you can’t arrange your space to do that unless you know what kind of life you’re designing for.
Later in the book, she addresses hang-ups people have about getting rid of things that used to be important to them but aren’t any longer. She writes,
“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
This is precisely what happens when we start losing weight. Deciding to lose weight draws a line between who we were and who we want to be.
It’s really hard for us to change when our environment isn’t equipping our new habits. The trappings of our past routines can pull us right back into doing what we’ve always done. So make it easy on yourself to change your habits by removing as much friction as you can between you and the actions you want to encourage.
Set Yourself Up For Success
The first thing you have to do is decide what habits you’d like to encourage and which you’d like to get rid of. Are you trying to eliminate snacking? Or do you only want to eat certain kinds of snacks? Do you want to be more present and mindful when you eat? Are there foods you want to stop eating altogether?
Arrange your kitchen to make life easier. For example, if you’re going to be weighing your food, leave the scale out on the counter. That way you don’t have to keep getting it out then putting it away again multiple times a day (a sure way to drive yourself crazy).
Similarly, don’t leave food on the counter. I know people who leave chips or cereal or even cookies right where you can grab ‘em in two seconds. Don’t do this. Seeing the food out then telling yourself not to eat it multiple times a day will gnaw away at your self-control.
If you live with someone who isn’t trying to lose weight, ask them to put their junk food in its own cupboard, and preferably separate from your food. If you don’t have room for that, put it in the back behind something else. That way you don’t have to look at it every time you open the cupboard. The less often you see something, the less you’ll be tempted by it.
Do you have a food that makes you kind of…lose control? One minute you’re normal, then you eat this thing, and all of a sudden, you’ve forgotten what the word “moderation” means? This is me and chips. I can’t keep chips in the house because they give me x-ray vision. As in, I can see them through the cupboard door whenever I step into the kitchen. Their existence presses against the back of my brain and whispers in my ear until the bag is empty. So…I don’t keep them in the house. It’s just not worth the constant struggle. Recognize what foods wreck your self-control and don’t buy them.
On the flip side, make foods that fit your calorie goals easy to grab. It’s better if you plan your snacks ahead of time, but we’ve all been in situations where you need emergency food. Pre-portion your snacks or pre-wash and pre-cut your fruit so that getting the right food takes as little effort as possible. And make sure your food doesn’t just fit your calorie needs. They have to taste good, and you should actually look forward to eating them, too. If you don’t have anything that fits all that criteria, then Google “snacks under [x number of] calories” and let the internet help you.
If you’re trying to be more mindful while you eat, don’t eat in front of the TV. And for heaven’s sake, don’t shove food into your mouth as you run around the house trying to do something else. When I counted calories, I eschewed this advice for years. Why bother eating slowly when I had already counted my calories? The pace at which I ate wouldn’t determine when I stopped, so I could eat as fast or slow as I wanted. As it turns out, I was technically correct…if I wanted to count calories forever. Since I didn’t, I had to learn to listen to my body’s cues to figure out how much I should eat. And then I kicked myself for not starting sooner. Are you sensing a theme here?
If you want to drink more water, bring a water bottle with you to work. Buy a fancy one and keep it on your desk if it helps.
Remember, you’re still you, even if some of the things that used to define you are changing. Let your environment reflect that change and support the person you are becoming. Make it easy to make good choices.
What About You?
What changes have you noticed in your space as you’re developing new habits?