Do you ever get the feeling that you’re doing everything right when it comes to your eating and exercising, but just not getting the results you want? Often times getting consistent and sustainable results to the way we look and feel isn’t down to how much we know, but how much we do.
And how much we do can be put down to a number of varying factors, like the habits we’ve developed over our lives, our intentions and our environment. Improving our habits and growing our intentions are the obvious choices to focus on, as they seem a lot more clear-cut.
However, environmental factors can be just as powerful in how they affect our health and lives. The problem is they can be much more subtle, if not invisible if you don’t have any awareness of them.
Before using our environment to our advantage we need to look at our own unique daily situation and raise our awareness of our environment.
What sort of people do you surround yourself with? Are there certain friends who you know will lead to poor eating choices? Where do you go? What shops do you go to? What part of the shop do you visit? What food do you buy regularly? What sort of food to do you stock in the kitchen?
Answer these and you might get a better idea of how your environment is affecting you.
Now we can start to create a plan of action in manipulating our environment, so that we can make negative behaviours more inconvenient to commit and healthy, positive behaviours as easy as possible to do.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Have a kitchen clear out
This is pretty much as simple as it sounds and is something that I recommend all people do, even experienced healthy eaters. It’s very easy for negative foods to creep in the kitchen cupboard.
The moral of the story as I always say is ”if it’s in the house, at some point someone will eat it”.
Therefore, if you have food in your house that goes against your health goals then get rid of it. Either throw it away or give it away.
If you buy ‘naughty’ foods then aim to buy or make small amounts of the best damn quality you can get. Savour it, indulge in it and then make sure there aren’t days worth of leftovers to get through after. Get rid.
Make your kitchen healthy
This is the polar opposite of the first environment tweak.
Add as much healthy, unprocessed food to your kitchen and pantry and do this regularly. Make sure healthy food is easily available and in abundance.
Focus predominantly on vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, whole grains (oats, quinoa), legumes and beans.
As well as this, stock up on flavour enhancers such as spices, vinegars, stock and herbs.
Tweak your regular routes
Do you have a coffee shop or café that you frequent regularly on your way to work or regular daily route?
Have a think if there’s any regular pit stops you take on your walking, driving or commuting routes, and whether what you’re buying is conducive to your goals.
Croissants, muffins and grab and go breakfasts are common on the morning commute. These pit stops serve as a type of trigger for potential negative behaviours and are best taken out of the equation.
Could you take a slightly different route so you can swerve the temptation of buying something unhealthy?
Use smaller plates or bowls
This is one you’ve probably heard before and for good reason. There’s a lot of research behind the psychology of using smaller plates and bowls to eat from and it comes down to how much we eat in the end.
By eating off a smaller thing, we’re likely to eat less food (research suggests up to 20% less). This can help us to keep our portion sizes in check and in line with our true hunger levels.
I’m not talking doll sized plates but stock up on ones that are slightly smaller than your usual plates- somewhere between a side plate and a regular sized plate.
Buy a water bottle
Another classic one for you here.
Buy a 500ml or 1L BPA free bottle so you can better track your water intake and take in 2L+ per day.
It’s easier to drink water when you have it in front of you all day and harder to understand how much your having if you drinking by the glass.
Keep healthy work snacks
This helps with those 3pm slumps and to stay strong when someone offers you yet another slice of cake even though it’s only Monday.
Think nuts, cooked meat, small portions of fruit, Greek yohurt, or even a small lunch portion.
Assess who you see often
This might sound harsh, but it’s a good one to take stock of.
Raise your awareness to the people that you hang out with and meet often and if certain individuals lead you to eat or drink a certain way. Is there a certain person who always asks you to after work beers or invites you to that particular brunch spot?
If so then that someone is facilitating our unhealthy eating/drinking behaviours. It’s harder to get out of negative eating patterns if someone is providing a stepping stone to those behaviours.
Could you explore other socialising options? Visit a different brunch spot? Could you plan ahead? Maybe eat a healthy meal before you head out? Or discuss your goals with your friends.
Workout from home
So you’ve noticed this one isn’t to do with food or eating healthier. Anyway, I thought I’d add this one in as I think it’s just as important in leading a healthy life!
Having to venture out and go to the gym is an environmental obstacle to exercising. The longer it takes you to go from your house to your gym, the harder it can be to stay consistent with your plan.
This is why if you do go to gym, then it’s a great idea to go to or from work via the gym. This detour reduces the inconvenience of committing to a positive behaviour.
If you don’t want to or won’t go to the gym then you’ll need to bring the gym to you. By having options available at home then you can go from watching the walking dead to exercising in 30 seconds or less.
Some options you could use are to buy a set of dumbells to do circuits with, buying a kettlebell which is small and a very efficient way to train or simply by watching and copying youtube HIIT videos like these: Fitness Blender.
Or get a dog, then you’ll have to go for a walk or run twice a day!
- Schedule in exercise sessions.
- Reduce barriers to doing the exercise- time, distance etc.
- Enhance your environment to make exercise easier to start.
Start by implementing one environmental adjustment that you think will work best for you. Try and stick to it for 2 weeks then move onto the next adjustment if you’ve been successful.
Rinse and repeat and continue to raise your awareness of how your environment impacts your life.