The findings of a research study published in the August 2011 edition of the Obesity Journal state that “in comparison to leaner individuals, heavier individuals are more likely to overeat when there is a large variety of palatable foods available, but less likely to overeat when there are very few or no such foods available,” while, “leaner individuals reported a relatively low rate of overeating that was fairly constant regardless of the availability of palatable foods.”

This backs up what we found with our dieters –they are much more likely to overeat if they have lots of tempting foods surrounding them and, similarly, when they are having strong cravings, the likelihood of their eating off plan is greatly increased if the food is readily available as opposed to them having to go out and buy it. It’s certainly true that in sessions with our dieters we help them to develop effective resistance techniques so that they are able to coexist with any food and know that they will be able to control themselves. However, we also discuss with our dieters the fact that dieting can be hard, especially when dieters are engaging in the painful struggle of “Should I have this? I know I shouldn’t. But it looks really good. But it’s not on my plan. But I really want some. But you know you’re not supposed to have it, etc.” and it’s often worth it to do what we can to make it easier. To this end, while we never suggest that dieters cut out any food from their diets altogether, it doesn’t mean that they need to have a giant Costco-sized box of it sitting in their pantry, especially in the beginning when they are first learning and practicing new skills.

We also remind our dieters that while they cannot necessarily control what food and treats are in their office break rooms or served at parties and functions, many of them do have at least some control in deciding what food is brought into their homes. In order for dieters to exercise this control, we may initially need to do some work with them so that they feel entitled to make changes in their homes, especially if they have ideas like, “My partner and/or children will be deprived if they can’t have lots of treats available at home.” We may also work with dieters to change their thinking if they have sabotaging thoughts such as, “I can’t throw away (or give away) this food because somebody made it,” or, “It will be a waste of money if I get rid of these treats,” or, “I can’t ask the people in my home to make changes.”  We discuss various strategies with our dieters, like having them try bringing in only single-serving portions of their favorite treats or having their partners keep their junk food out of sight.

Especially now that we are entering holiday season, which means a prevalence of treats everywhere you look, it can be extremely helpful to remove (large quantities of) highly tempting foods from your immediate environment. While holiday season is not created to help people lose weight or maintain a weight loss, it also does not have to be such a huge threat to successful dieting. Whether it means not buying tempting junk food or getting rid of it when it is around, we counsel our dieters to take control wherever they can and limit the number of times a day they have to resist tempting food. And we always ask them: who will really suffer if there is less junk food around? Healthy eating is not just important for dieters, after all.

Thomas, J. Graham, Sapna Doshi, Ross Crosby, and Michael R. Lowe. “Ecological Momentary Assessment of Obesogenic Eating Behavior: Combining Person-Specific and Environmental Predictors.” Obesity Journal 19.8 (2011): 1574-579. Print.