Day 40--Make a Rule As a Last Resort

Welcome to Day 40!




Make a Rule as a Last Resort


One of the most important, but overlooked, aspects of long term health and weight loss success is your environment. It can make success easy or hard. People who win at health and weight loss “stack the deck” by hacking their environments first--so that the healthy choice is the lazy choice.

3 Steps to Change Your Environment

Once you’ve discovered those bad behavior triggers by taking pictures there’s a three step process to change your environment:

  1. Change what you can change

  2. Avoid what you can avoid.

  3. Make a rule for what you can’t avoid.

Make a Rule for What You Can’t Avoid

If you can clean up your environment, then you may never need a rule or have to use willpower.  It makes things so much easier!  

But, not all environmental cues are within your power.

So, yesterday we talked about how to avoid the cues that we can’t change. 

Now we’re going to talk about how to neutralize the environmental cues that we can’t change or avoid. And we do that by making a rule.  

Remember in the past lessons where we talked about making rules--both bright line rules and jump through hoops rules.

Making a rule for what you can’t avoid is the solution when you don’t have control of the cue and you can’t avoid the cue. A rule shuts down the Assistant’s excuses for giving into temptation so that unavoidable cues no longer affect you. 

Example Rules

For instance, If you can’t avoid the work vending machine, you can make a rule to never buy food out of a vending machine.

If you can’t avoid the single serving cake stacked up next to the supermarket checkout lines, you can make a rule to only buy foods off of your shopping list.

If you don’t want to get rid of all social media apps, you can make a rule that “I only check my social media for fifteen minutes after I do my workout.”

If you can’t take another route home from work so you don’t see fast food restaurants, you can make a rule to always have an emergency frozen meal in your freezer. (Or, you don’t buy fast food). 

If you can’t get your coworkers to stop bringing treats to work, you can make a rule to eat only foods you bring to work, not your co-workers unwanted treats.

If you can’t get your husband or kids to get onboard with no chips in the house, then make a rule that Snacks go to the back of the cupboard.

If you can’t get yourself to stop eating those chips, make a rule that you only buy snacks for the kids that you’re comfortable eating (or ones that you hate). 

The Assignment

1. Look back at your photos from the other day—the ones that helped you to see your environmental cues.  

For cues that you can’t avoid, how can you make a rule to neutralize their powers?  

What rules can you think of to shut down temptations for cue you can’t avoid or change?

2.Pick one or two options (that you came up with or use some of mine) and make a rule around them.

Be sure to let me know what your plan is and I’lll help you get started.

Mission Freedom!

Download the EC Make a Rule Guide:


Want More?

If you’re interested in more information on this topic, you can check out the books that I mentioned in lesson 36.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

How We Eat with our Eyes and Think with our Stomach: The Hidden Influences that Shape your Eating Habits

Also, I came across an amazing review article on how the (Assistant) subconscious is affected by the environment when it comes to eating.  You can check out the abstract and click on the link if you want to know more. 

Obesity and the built environment: changes in environmental cues cause energy imbalances

International Journal of Obesity volume32, pagesS137–S142 (2008) | Download Citation


The past 30 years have seen dramatic changes in the food and physical activity environments, both of which contribute to the changes in human behavior that could explain obesity. This paper reviews documented changes in the food environment, changes in the physical activity environment and the mechanisms through which people respond to these environments, often without conscious awareness or control. The most important environmental changes have been increases in food accessibility, food salience and decreases in the cost of food. The increases in food marketing and advertising create food cues that artificially stimulate people to feel hungry. The existence of a metabolic pathway that allows excess energy to be stored as fat suggests that people were designed to overeat. Many internal mechanisms favor neurophysiologic responses to food cues that result in overconsumption. External cues, such as food abundance, food variety and food novelty, cause people to override internal signals of satiety. Other factors, such as conditioning and priming, tie food to other desirable outcomes, and thus increase the frequency that hunger is stimulated by environmental cues. People's natural response to the environmental cues are colored by framing, and judgments are flawed and biased depending on how information is presented. People lack insight into how the food environment affects them, and subsequently are unable to change the factors that are responsible for excessive energy consumption. Understanding the causal pathway for overconsumption will be necessary to interrupt the mechanisms that lead to obesity.