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Many of us don’t realize how much our environments unconsciously impact our rate of success or failure in making lasting change. Sneaky Pete is highly influenced by his external environment, and advanced brain doesn’t recognize that fact.

Creating a default activity, where we don’t have to wrestle with a choice, saves willpower. When we create a default activity aligned with a behavior change we’re trying to make, it’s called an optimal default. Optimal defaults almost guarantee our behaviors and choices support our values and goals, and they happen automatically!

Here are some examples of optimal defaults you can create in your life:

NUTRITION

  • Put cut up fruit and/or vegetables on the center shelf of your refrigerator.
  • Don’t eat out of a bag or box – portion out a serving.
  • Eat from smaller plates and bowls.
  • Use smaller silverware.
  • Drink from tall, skinny glasses.
  • Put vegetables on your plate first, especially when taking food from a buffet.
  • Start with a smaller portion than what you think you need. If you need more, you can always take it.
  • Eat with no distractions.
  • Keep food serving dishes in the kitchen instead of on the table.
  • Keep fresh fruit on the kitchen countertop or table.
  • Cook less food.
  • Turn off the TV. You’ll have less distraction and can pay attention to satiety cues.
  • Eat your ice cream from a wine glass.
  • Don’t purchase tempting foods or keep them in inconvenient and out of the way places like the basement or the back of a top cupboard, in containers that don’t allow you to see them or cover with aluminum foil.

AT WORK

  • Sneaker Tuesday. Everyone wears comfortable shoes to make standing and walking more conducive.
  • Conduct walking meetings.
  • Conduct standing meetings.
  • On the phone = on your feet.
  • Park in the “worst” (or best!) spot in the lot.
  • Use or create a standing workstation (a cardboard box works well).
  • Use or create a walking workstation. If you can’t get one at work, use that treadmill in the basement as the place where you get caught up on emails or work in the evenings. (Go to http://powerhouseperformancecoaching.com/2010/01/make-your-own-walking-work-station.html and see how I built mine in a few minutes for less than $20.)
  • Set your computer with a reminder to get up and move or do a few Hit the Deck™ cards on a regular basis.
  • Instead of a potentially unhealthy potluck, suggest or organize a breakfast yogurt bar, salad bar or make-your-own sandwich station (with the healthiest options at the beginning of the line).
  • Keep candies or snacks off your desk or out of sight.
  • If you’re trying to remember to eat and snack regularly, keep food in highly visible places.
  • Set a reminder to break for meals and snacks at the appropriate times.
  • Bring lunch to work.
  • Bring healthy snacks to work.
  • Find a snack buddy. Share the responsibility of brining healthy snacks and remind each other to eat mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
  • Surround yourself with people who are already modeling some of the behaviors you want.

AT THE GROCERY STORE

  • Don’t go hungry or Sneaky Pete will be filling the cart.
  • Stick to the perimeter of the store.
  • Look high and low on the shelves for the less processed foods.
  • Choose food items that don’t have ingredient labels (beans, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains).
  • Sign up for something similar to a farm share or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where farm fresh vegetables and fruits are delivered to you on a weekly basis.

EATING OUT

  • Always order the small.
  • Split an entrée or have the server box half of it right away.
  • Ask the server NOT to bring bread or chips to the table.
  • Volunteer to be sober driver when out with friends.
  • Go online ahead of time, view the menu and decide what you’ll order before you get there.
  • Sit next to the person who eats the slowest.
  • Eat a small snack before you go.
  • Go through the buffet line without a plate to determine what things you want to put on your plate.
  • Take the smallest plate or bowl available at the buffet.
  • Put vegetables and/or fruit on your plate first at the buffet.
  • Sit at a table as far away from the buffet as possible.
  • Look to the light section of the menu first.
  • If you’re sharing small plates of food with others, ask that all plates be brought out at once so you can better keep track of how much food you’ve eaten.

EXERCISE

  • Turn off the TV – you’ll move more and skip the junk and fast food advertising.
  • Sleep in your exercise clothes, wake up and work out.
  • Pack your gym bag the night before.
  • Keep a spare set of workout clothes in your car or office.
  • Take your workout gear to work so you don’t have to stop at home first (and get sucked in to staying).
  • Get a workout partner.
  • Join a social group that is centered around exercise (meet-ups, leagues, training groups, etc…).
  • Always take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
  • Get off one to two subway, bus or train stops away from your final destination.
  • Sit down with your calendar on Sunday nights and schedule your workouts for the upcoming week.
  • Get rid of your TV remote control.
  • Put the alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. This will give you more time to wake up instead of hitting the snooze button.
  • Keep Hit the Deck™ on your desk or where you can see it.

WHILE TRAVELING

  • Walk instead of taking the people mover.
  • Walk around or stand while waiting for your flight to board.
  • Walk into the restaurant instead of sitting in the drive through. (If it’s a peak time going inside may also be faster).
  • Don’t have junk food in the car.
  • Keep a stash of healthy snacks in the car, your briefcase or purse like nuts, nutrition bars, or whole grain crackers.
  • Pack workout gear in your suitcase.
  • Stay at a hotel with a gym if possible.
  • Running or walking is a great way to get to know a new city. Many hotels have routes with maps you can use.
  • Bring an exercise DVD or PowerHouse Hit the Deck™ with you.