The ‘Get Shredded’ Series – Part 2 (Environment)

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In part 1 you learnt all about what foods you should opt for to keep yourself full, you can see that here.

But sometimes that isn’t enough, sometimes you cannot stand another boiled potato or bowl of protein fluff.

You need some other strategies to keep you on track.

That cookie is calling your name from the cookie jar…

But you’ve got a goal, and you cannot afford to have an off day or to be really flexible with your diet.

Today I am going to give you some more tools from my ‘Get Shredded’ tool box, they have decades of empirical support, they’re simple, effective and safe.


Out of Sight Out of Mind

That common saying you have no doubt heard can be incredibly powerful when it comes to sticking to your diet. Our ‘food environment’ can heavily influence our eating behaviour. From the food you have available to the people you’re with or the utensils used to eat, they all have an impact on how we eat.

Obviously you have some restraints, you’re following a Macro Guided Flexible Diet, so you wouldn’t get caught out like the normal person. However, why make your life harder? You could easily and simply help yourself out and make sticking to your diet far easier. In short your food environment could set you up for failure or success.

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You might be thinking, OK OK I won’t let my food environment impact the way I eat, the problem is and studies have shown, that just knowing the relationship between environmental factors and consumption will not stop it influencing our eating behaviours.

Even if you’re not picking foods simply because you like them, you were hungry, you viewed it as ‘healthier’ and are making more informed food choices. Our food environment can have a large impact on our perceived hunger levels, because we often look to external cues (such as a finished plate) to tell us we’re full. This is a real problem even for us guys who monitor our calorie and nutritional intake, because our environment can bias our hunger levels. So even if you’re monitoring everything you eat, by manipulating your food environment you will bolster your dietary adherence. Get your food environment set up right and you will stick to your diet and be well on your way to that six pack.


1) Food Availability

My first tip is going to be in regards to food availability. A key reason people overeat is due to getting their portion size wrong. For example, you go to a restaurant with Michael Phelps and you both order tacos to start, a burger and chips for main and finish with an ice-cream sundae. Mike is heavier than you and expends way more calories from his exercise, of course he’s an olympic athlete, that meal may have been just what he needed. You on the other hand don’t need as much food as Mike, yet you both get the same food come out of the kitchen. No doubt both of you clear your plates, as it seems humans are hard wired to do so. It’s easy to see that if you kept eating the same portions as Mike you’d get fat fast.

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However, if you’re tracking your nutrition you have the ability to get the right portion size for you. You realise you don’t need as much as Mike, so you automatically consume the right amount of food for your goals. That is fantastic, however, as said before, we can still lose our way. For example, I have been there when I intended to eat just 2 snack-a-jacks, the right portion size for me, but ended up eating 3, 4, 5 and sure enough I edge towards blowing my carb intake for the day. What was the problem? I knew I only needed 2. The problem was taking the entire packet with me, much like ordering more than you need at the restaurant, but rather than falling into the ‘clearing my plate’ trap, I cleared the packet and overate. What I discovered to be a much more successful strategy was to just take the serving I intended to eat, then put the packet back in the cupboard. This prevented the temptation of having more. So if you want to avoid the ‘clear your plate’ trap, only take what you need, and put the rest back, out of reach.

[bctt tweet=”The moment when you join the whole tub club, and shouldn’t have eaten the whole tub…”]

You could also take this a step further and think about removing certain items of food from your kitchen/house. I am all for a Flexible Diet, in fact I actively promote it and think without using a flexible approach you will probably fail. However, when it comes to getting really lean, you gotta do what you gotta do. If you’re not trying to get super shredded, then maybe all you need to do is put ‘treats’ away. Out of sight, out of mind.

So rather than leaving a box of biscuits out on the counter, you know a better approach would be to put it away, at the back of the cupboard. Then if you really want it you’ll have to really try, you won’t be able to do it mindlessly. It’s very easy to just pick up a snack from the side, it take some real thought to open the cupboard and search. You could even take this a step further; put a picture of a physique you aspire to and stick it on the ‘treats’. Then when you go for them you’ll question your action ‘will eating this help me move towards my goals?’, heck you could even put a post-it note with that question on it and plant that on your ‘danger’ foods. That would be an incredibly powerful deterrent, and sometimes when you’re trying to get super lean it’s needed.

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For example, I am beginning a mini-cut in a few days and I had run out of some of my favourite cereals, like Reeses Puffs. Normally I would replenish my cereal stocks, but because I knew I was starting a diet I decided to just get some oats and leave the Puffs. Reeses Puffs aren’t exactly the most ‘diet friendly’ food, being low in micronutrients, containing little fibre and thus won’t keep me very full. Sure I could easily fit the cereal within my macros and stay on track, but I don’t need them and I’d be better off having something like oats or those foods discussed in Part 1. This is a simple way to keep myself on track, I’d only be making my life harder by having the puffs in the house.


2) Food Variety

The next step after food availability is variety. In short, the more choices we have, the more likely we are to over-consume. In one study they tested whether a group of men would overeat when presented with a greater variety of foods. It was found that the guys ate a third more when they were offered sandwiches with four different fillings as opposed to just one. Furthermore, they found that the men ate significantly more when three flavours of yoghurt all distinct in taste, texture and colour than when given just one flavour, even if that flavour was their favourite. I can relate to this, I love malteasers, but I’d get sick of them after a packet, but if you presented me with Celebrations, with malteasers, snickers, bounty and more I’d definitely find a way to have more than a packet worth. I’m sure you’re the same.

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We’ve all been there at a buffet, you have multiple choices of starter, main, dessert. You literally cannot contain yourself. You want to have it all, and even if you only have tiny bits of each, you are always stuffed by the end. This is because as humans we are inquisitive, we want to try what there is on offer. But, if what is on offer isn’t all that different, then we can deal with that limited variety, and not over eat. So if we want to keep on track, and not break out diet, we are better off limiting our choice. Yeah it’s boring, but it is incredibly effective.

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Again, if all you have in the house is chocolate ice cream, sure it tastes great, but after a while it gets less appealing. This is called food habituation, the more we are exposed to a food, the less appealing it becomes. Just like when you hear a joke, sure it is hilarious the first time, but the 5th time? Not so much. So, if you have chocolate ice cream, cookies and donuts, you can rotate between these, never getting bored, and always wanting more. So do yourself a favour and cut back on your food choices a little. I’m not saying eat chicken, rice and broccoli all day, but don’t make your life harder by having every type of food in the house.

This can work on the level of one meal and your entire diet. What that means is you’ll be less likely to eat more when you have less choice of foods in the house, and you’ll be less likely to over-consume if you limit your food selection at each meal. For example, if you had an omelette for dinner, and were offered another, you’d likely turn it down, but if you were offered dessert, no doubt you’d be more likely to say yes.

[bctt tweet=”I could eat a whole bag of plain boiled potatoes…said no-one ever”]

If you want to take this one step further eat single plain foods, something like a chicken breast with a plain jacket potato and vegetables. Rather than eating pizza, which is a combination of foods, or adding a tasty dressing such as BBQ sauce. As you can imagine, the more plain and simple a meal is, the less appealing it is and the sooner you’ll get bored and therefore won’t overeat. In the final few months of my contest prep I found by sticking to a small selection of foods I was much more consistent and it made my life a lot easier.

However, I want to warn you that this limitation of food is getting further and further away from a flexible diet. I do not advise limiting your foods for a long period of time, it’ll lead you to breaking your diet. This food limitation strategy becomes very useful when at the final stages of your diet, when you are really trying to get rid of that stubborn fat. At that point you’ll be more interested in getting shredded than food anyway.

But, you can also use this theory to your advantage:

  1. Increase the variety of low calorie foods in your diet.
  2. Decrease the variety of higher calorie foods in your diet.

By doing that you will be less likely to get bored of the foods that will aid you in your diet, and you will be less likely to eat those that are calorically dense and will be more likely to make you break your diet. So have loads of fruits, vegetables and lean protein sources in the house, but limit the pastries, cookies and ice-cream.


3) Who You Eat With

Next up is who you eat with, and it was touched on before with Mike. As humans we are easily influenced by our peers, so much so, it can impact what we eat and how much we eat. For example you and your flat mate are having pasta for dinner, it’s their turn to cook. Your flat-mate however isn’t on a diet, and is actually trying to gain muscle mass, so is eating a lot more than you. But you’re splitting the meal, you know it’s too much but your mate thinks you need the same and so gives you more than you need.

So you end up having a massive plate of pasta, which if you ate would definitely cause you to break your diet. Not only do you want to eat the food, but your mate made if for you and wants you to eat it. You don’t want to look like a d*ck and you’re hungry, so you eat it. You broke your diet.

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I experienced just this, although slightly differently, it was with my vegetarian girlfriend. We’d normally eat together, which when I was gaining weight was fine, because I had more food to play with to make it work. However, when I was in contest prep my diet looked very different, and our vegetarian meals didn’t really have a place. You see they were normally full of bread, potato, cheese and were low in protein. I needed more protein and less carbs, and I also wanted more veg to keep myself full (check out part 1 as to why these are so filling). So what did we do? We still ate together, but different meals.

Another example was with my client Ashley, he has a job that requires him to eat with potential clients. He found he ended up overeating, in order to not stick out like a sore thumb, eating starter, main and dessert. I explained to him how he could still eat those three courses, but he couldn’t eat the same as the others and stay on track. So I said for his starter and main choose something high in protein, with minimal carbs or fat, so he’d not end up ordering food and needing to leave any on his plate. Then when it came to dessert he could get involved by just opting for a black coffee, saving hundreds of calories. This approach worked incredibly well for Ashley and he continued to drop fat.

You see there comes a time when you have to take more control over your diet. It doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot eat with others, but you may need to start making your own meals. The more accurate you can be with your diet, the more precise and sooner you will get to your goals.


4) What You Eat With

OK so you’ve sorted out your portion sizes and are in control of your own food, making the chance for you slipping up greatly reduced. However, those tips are great, and combined with selecting the right foods a really powerful way of sticking to your diet, but you’re still finding yourself fed up. You’re eating less than your mates, and it makes you want to splurge, eat more than you need.

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This happened to me, I would look at the food on my plate and already perceive the meal as not enough. You see large plates, big serving bowls and jumbo portions are common place now, and so we see them as appropriate and normal. When people are given larger plates they eat more, this trend is continually found within studies (e.g. people eat 27% more when given a 12.5-in. plate than a 9.5-in plate), and the problem is they generally don’t realise it, when asked, they think they eaten the same as the others with smaller plates.

Even professional bar tenders who pour drinks everyday fall into this trap, when they are given wide, short glasses rather than tall, thin glasses they over-serve by 29%, this is due to using the external cue that is the height of the liquid in the glass. Again this gives further evidence to the importance of accounting for what you eat in an accurate way, and your Macro Managed Flexible Diet does just that.

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So what can you do? You can change what you eat with. Alan Sugar was clued up enough to jump on-board with this idea; when he diets he uses a tiny fork, in fact he even released a whole book talking about this approach. Basically, you down-size from a normal spoon to a teaspoon, from a normal fork to pastry fork and from large plates to small plates. I found this really helped me feel more satisfied, for example the amount of oats I could use to make porridge reduced, and no longer filled my bowl, so I switched to a smaller bowl and used a teaspoon, my oats would fill it to the brim and my food lasted much longer. Although I knew the amount of food had reduced, I felt so much more satisfied. This is particularly powerful when combined with the low calorie per bite foods as given in part 1 as you could literally overfill your plates, so visually it looks like you are eating loads.

[bctt tweet=”I’m going on the tiny fork diet”]

Another benefit of smaller utensils is it makes you take more time over your food, which allows fullness signals to occur while you eat, rather than after. You can’t pile food into your mouth so you finish the meal in seconds, instead your smaller utensils force you to eat smaller amounts, making the meal take longer. This will help you stick to your appropriate portion sizes and prevent you feeling the need to over-eat.


5) Where You Eat

You might think I’m a little mad, but where you eat your food can also impact how satisfying the meal is and can predict whether you’ll overeat. Remember I talked about food habituation, in that the more you eat something the less appealing it becomes. Well this gets short circuited when we are distracted.

For example in one study two groups of children were presented with 1000kcal of snack foods, one group watched television and the other had no television. As you might expect the children who had television playing continuously consumed more calories then the no television group. Basically the tv distracts you from your food, and so your brain isn’t given a chance to get bored of it. This makes overconsumption very easy. Think about it, if you have ever gone to the cinema and got a large bag of popcorn, you just dip in every couple of seconds and by the end of the film you’re scraping at the bottom of the bag. But, if you were given that same bag, and were left in a room on your own, no distractions, no doubt you’d get sick of the popcorn. Again this sort of distracted eating is continually presented as problem in obesity studies.

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So when you eat your food, concentrate on your food, taste each bite and enjoy it. Don’t put on a film, listen to a podcast, or play a video game while eating, these will distract you and you will mindlessly eat your food easily leading to overconsumption.


The ‘Get Shredded’ Environment

Using the above I am going to describe the perfect food environment for getting shredded. If you want to start seeing your abs pop or even striations in your shoulders, set yourself up for success by cultivating a ‘get shredded’ environment. Think of it like a Hyperbolic Time Chamber (if you don’t know what this is, we can’t be friends…only joking just be sure to check the below), but without the weird time difference, you have no distractions and all the tools to drop fat. You will enter this ‘Get Shredded’ environment fat, and leave it ripped to shreds.

 

  • Minimal Mindless Eating: put high calorie ‘treats’ in the back of cupboards, out of site.

  • Virtuous Variety: limit choice of calorie dense foods but promote variety of calorie sparse foods.

  • Perfect Portions: make your own meals.

  • Undersized Utensils: use smaller plates, bowls, and cutlery.

  • Concentrated Consumption: remove all distractions when eating.

Cultivating this environment will streamline your journey to shreds. The fact is everyone is influenced by their surroundings, it doesn’t matter if you are an average Joe or are a master macro counter. If there is a donut on the table in front of you, you want it. When the people around you are eating monstrous portions and your food hardly touches the sides of your plate, you want more. The cupboards are full of loads of delicious desserts, you want them all.

So do yourself a favour fill your house with my ‘Get Shredded’ Food List and create your ‘Get Shredded’ environment, and you will be well on your way to the ripped physique you want.

Click Here for Part 3 – How Sleep Can Help You Get Shredded


References
  • Wansink B. Mindless eating — why we eat more than we think. New York: Bantam-Dell; 2006
  • Wansink B, Painter JE, North J. Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size influence intake. Obesity 2004;13:93–100. [59] Wansink Brian, Payne Collin R. Counting bones: environmental cues that decrease food intake. Percept Mot Skills March 2007;104:273–7.
  • Brian Wansink, John S. Dyson. From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better – Professor of Consumer Behavior, Cornell University, 110 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14850, United States
  • Temple JL, Giacomelli AM, Kent KM, Roemmich JN, Epstein LH-Television watching increases motivated responding for food and energy intake in children.- Volume 26, Issue 2, February 1981, Pages 215-221 – Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Feb; 85(2):355-61.
  • Epstein LH, Saad FG, Giacomelli AM, Roemmich JN- Effects of allocation of attention on habituation to olfactory and visual food stimuli in children. Physiol Behav. 2005 Feb 15; 84(2):313-9
  • Temple JL, Giacomelli AM, Roemmich JN, Epstein LH – Dietary variety impairs habituation in children. Health Psychol. 2008 Jan; 27(1 Suppl):S10-9.
  • Leonard H. Epstein, Jennifer L. Temple, James N. Roemmich, and Mark E. Bouton. Habituation as a determinant of human food intake. Psychol Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 Jun 29.
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