Is Your House Making You Fat?

If you keep choosing cheese curls over biceps curls, your home could have a lot to do with it.

“Your habits are more tied to your environment than you know,” psychologist Jeremy Dean, the author of “Making Habits, Breaking Habits,” said.

Eat enough chips on the couch, for instance, and you’ll automatically associate couch time with chip time. Our routines are so influenced by environmental cues that research shows it’s easier to change our habits in a novel setting.

“We see major shifts in behavior when people move to a new house,” Dean said. But you don’t have to relocate to start anew; you just need to become aware of the subtle cues that say “cake!” and replace them with healthy alternatives.

“The typical person makes about 200 food-related decisions a day, but she believes she makes 25 to 30. And it’s those 175 that you’re not aware of that can push you to eat more,” Brian Wansink, the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and the author of the upcoming book “Slim by Design,” said. 

Here’s how to help your home help you get (or stay) slender.

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Testimonial – Amanda M


I have worked with Amanda for years, and I have been thrilled by her determination, strength, and success. You will be encouraged as you read her story. The after photo was just now taken (7/16/13 at 5 pm).

Amanda M: “My weight has been an issue for me since my late teens. I started gaining in high school and by graduation was considered overweight. Over the years the pounds just kept adding up due to inactivity and excessive overeating and drinking. I’ve had success losing weight a couple times, both times by tracking calorie intake, but I was on a “diet” and as soon as I lost weight I’d return to my old eating habits and the weight would come back.

My lifestyle was mostly sitting, eating and drinking. I rarely got physical activity and when I did every joint in my body would ache. I was to the point where I would grunt and groan just putting on my underwear in the morning. I couldn’t find any clothes that fit and the embarrassment over my appearance had curbed my social activities and affected my marriage. I knew I had to do something but always had an excuse not to start. It was so easy and comfortable to just eat, drink and be merry and I didn’t want to give up that lifestyle.

Finally, at 37 years old, 5’8” and 224lbs, I saw an announcement at work that they would be starting a Weight Watchers group. We’d be able to attend the meetings at work with people we are comfortable and familiar with. I went to my first meeting and was instantly hooked on the program. It really does work. The Weight Watchers app for my iPhone made it so easy to track my food and activity and made me realize what smart food choices were and what foods to avoid.

I started slowly by experimenting with different foods and substitutions for the things I normally would enjoy. Now I’d much rather reach for some watermelon instead of cake or extra green beans instead of mashed potatoes and gravy. I still eat the foods I love, like steak and shrimp, but I watch my portions, load up on protein, fruits and veggies and season with herbs and spices instead of butter and oil.

One thing I realized pretty early on is that I’d have to cut out alcohol. I love wine. I loved a whole bottle of wine with dinner every night. I had to learn to love a glass of wine on special occasions. A day that ends in d-a-y is not a special occasion.

Once you start to pay attention to the nutritional information you see just how bad the average American diet is for you. You have to pick and choose the right time to indulge. The program I follow allows you to do that and doesn’t restrict you from enjoying those treats you crave.

After I changed my eating habits I started to see results within a few weeks and it inspired me to get active. I dusted off the old treadmill and started walking. Just walking. At first it was 30 minutes a few times a week but over the months I’ve increased the speed and incline and now spend about an hour a day working on cardio. I also mix in some strength and core training a couple times a week. It feels so good to be active. I have energy and strength I never knew I possessed and I can finally keep up with my husband and 10 year old son.

The change in the mirror is unreal. I’m amazed by how different I look and feel and my confidence is through the roof. I can’t count the number of people that have told me they didn’t even recognize me. My own mother in law didn’t know who I was when I saw her out in public the other day. It’s still hard to believe that I don’t have to shop in plus sizes anymore. I can actually go into trendy stores and the clothes fit! But wait, it gets better. I used to have so many health problems…heartburn, stomach upset, insomnia, the list goes on. Since I’ve adjusted my lifestyle all of my health issues have been resolved. I can’t remember the last time I had to take an antacid or was up tossing and turning during all night.

When people ask me “How did you do it?” I always answer “Eat right and exercise. You know everything they tell you to do.” I never say the word diet. Diet implies something you’re “on”. To maintain a large weight loss you need to find a healthy balance of calorie intake and exercise that becomes your daily routine. Setting small goals each week helped me to introduce changes gradually. These were just little goals like drinking enough water or eating vegetables with every meal. When you add these changes together they create a healthy routine. Tracking is extremely helpful to me too. Tracking makes me aware of my food and exercise choices and holds me accountable.

I’ve truly gone through a lifestyle change during this process and I will continue to track my daily food and exercise even after I reach my goal. I’ve lost 65lbs so far and have 15 more to go. It takes perseverance. But just keep at it and you can make these changes, too. It’s all up to you.

Remember, no one can do this for you. You have a choice and are in complete control. The ability to change is within each of us. One day I simply believed I could do it and I did. So can you.


Success Story: In It to Win It by James DeMedeiros


Name: Eugene Katchalov
Hometown: New York, NY
Occupation: Professional Poker Player
Age: 31
Height: 6’1″
Weight Before: 230 pounds
Weight After: 180 pounds
Duration: 14 months

Does winning truly revolve around how strong your mind-set is? If 31-year-old Eugene Katchalov is any indication, it probably does. Katchalov is a world-renowned poker professional and a member of Team PokerStars (@PokerStars) who thrives on an intense, year-round travel schedule that sees him visiting virtually all corners of the globe. To maintain his level of notoriety, this champion card player diligently plays poker 12 hours a day while using his quick wit to carefully craft and execute a winning strategy. And, as it turns out, he uses that same dedicated approach in everything he pursues.

Case in point: When Katchalov was being considered for the Ukrainian version of The Bachelor, he didn’t sit around waiting for producers to make up their minds. Instead, he evaluated the situation and concluded that he’d better lose some weight. “I realized it wasn’t going to look too good if I was overweight on the show, and I wanted to increase my chances,” Katchalov said. With that one decision, he immediately dove into an intense training regimen. “In the end, I didn’t get selected,” Katchalov recalls, “but at the same time, I felt so good and I saw so much progress—even in just three or four weeks—that I really wanted to keep going.”

From there he soon discovered he’d need to drastically alter his diet too if he was going to continue to see results. Previously he’d eat everything and anything he wanted, which included lots of fried potatoes, red meat, rice, white bread, and very, very oily and buttery foods. “I think food made me happy,” says Katchalov, “and that kind of resulted in me starting to gain weight after my teens.” But with help from his trainer, Lincon Rodrigues, who travels on the road with him and handles his nutrition, Katchalov learned how to stack the deck in his favor. He now eats a “protein-heavy diet” and avoids carbs in the evening. To ensure he stays on track, Katchalov allows himself one weekly cheat meal. “It’s helped me to actually really appreciate those foods and I find myself waiting for these cheat days,” he says.

The poker pro also found another way to stay motivated—not surprisingly by making fitness-related poker bets with one of his Team PokerStars friends and teammates. Combining both his new and long-standing passions helps keep Katchalov in the gym and his eye on the goal. He works out six times a week for as long as two hours per session, where he makes sure to hit every muscle while performing a lot of everything, including CrossFit. So far he’s won two of the three bets. The stipulation of the wager he did lose? Katchalov had to perform 1,000 pushups, a feat he ante upped and completed in around three hours.

When reflecting on his incredible 14-month transformation, Katchalov indicates “nutrition and exercise were both equally responsible” for his amazing 63-pound weight loss. He’s since taken the last three months to successfully bulk up by 13 pounds, bringing his current weight to 180 pounds. But, numbers only partially explain his story. When it comes to proper nutrition and exercise, “you can fall in love with it.” And, this love affair has already yielded impressive results. “Now when I’m at the poker table,” Katchalov explains, “I feel like I have much more concentration, much more energy, and I just feel healthier and more mentally aware.” With that combination, it’s clear Katchalov will continue to capture more royal flush victories, not only in the game of poker, but also in the game of life.