In a Drexel University study published this week, researchers found that an intervention that focused on changing the external food environment, rather than internal willpower, actually boosted participants' cognitive restraint and led to greater long-term weight loss.
Three weight loss interventions were compared for effectiveness with 262 overweight individuals over a three-year period:
Behavior therapy: the current "gold standard" in weight loss treatment: involves group support, regular weight-ins, exercise, explicit goal setting and monitoring food intake
Behavior therapy plus meal replacements: also replacing breakfast and lunch with calorie-controlled shakes or nutrition bars
A condition focused on getting people to change foods in their home food environments: HFE
Behavior therapy is aimed at bolstering someone's internal sense of self-regulation over food intake and exercise. Research has unfortunately shown that increases in self-control are not sustainable. Treatments need to also ensure that foods kept in the home are permanently changed in ways that make self-control more feasible.
Modifying the home food environment (or HFE) was the most effective strategy for losing and maintaining weight loss. Participants in this group were given homework assignments to identify and make numerous changes to specific foods that were still satisfying but less calorically damaging.
"Asking people to make healthy decisions, when there are thousands of food choices available, is emotionally challenging and complicated. HFE treatment is about mechanically trying to ensure that these changes are made, so the level of chronic temptation generated by foods in their homes is reduced."
This study highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with a supportive environment to reach your weight and fitness goals. If you'd like to exercise more, spend more time around like minded people. If weight loss is your goal, keep less binge-provoking foods in the house. In a previous email, I gave some tips on how to give your fridge a makeover in order to make healthier foods more accessible.
What are some other steps you've taken or would take to create a better home food environment?