Can you believe this is the last of my four installments of healthy through the holidays?! Where did the time go? As many of you all know, my health challenge is still going on and you are still welcome to join at any time! Head over here to my Facebook group to join today so you can have access to all of the support and supplemental content you need to stay on track over the holidays and reach your health goals. Remember, even if it’s the last day of the challenge, the workbook is still available (click here to grab your copy). If you would like to continue with the group after I’m hoping to continue to grow and build this group of amazing women so we can support each other on our journeys of health and wellness. The group is open to anyone for posting and collaboration, and I will be more than happy to continue to moderate and provide content based on what it is you desire. The more active you are, the more you’ll get out of it and the more successful you’ll be. You are in complete control – how powerful is that?
Today I’m writing all about crafting your environment. Sounds great, but what does this mean?
This is all around how you can set up your environment for success. I’m not talking about nature, but your built environment. You can set it up to work for you, so that the desired choice is the easy choice. Pretty cool, huh? Just think if the stairs were in a beautifully lit walkway with fun pictures and colors. Or if restaurant meals defaulted to a salad or vegetables. Or if there was a filtered water bottle filler when you walked into a room. I could go on and on, but you get the point – prompts to promote healthy habits make it easier to stay on track. In the scenarios above, I bet you’d take the stairs, eat more vegetables and drink more water.
The examples above are things you don’t personally have control over, but ways business owners and organizations can promote healthy habits on a daily basis. Today we’re going to talk about how YOU can identify areas in your life where you’d like to make a healthier choice and then make a change that will make it easier for you to make that choice.
It takes as much energy to wish as it does to planElanor Roosevelt
This stuff is amazing and is a large reason why some are successful long-term and others struggle to reach their goals. Your environment, shapes how you respond to situations. Today I’m going to run through an example of how the lack of planning or crafting your environment can results in an outcome you may not desire. Then we will discuss how this can be avoided. Ready to dive it?
Here’s an example of someone we will call Kat. Kat’s tired and exhausted after a long day. Kat goes to the refrigerator for a snack because she is actually really hungry and hasn’t eaten much all day. She opens the door and there it is – Kat’s favorite dessert on the eye-level shelf, staring at her in the face. It’s going to be really challenging to say no, especially after a long day.
Kat knows she can have some if she wants, because she is practicing intuitive and mindful eating after joining my group, but she knows that’s not what she needs. She just told herself that she’s hungry from not eating all day. Does she think that cake is going to help her feel nourished? Probably not. Was she going to the refrigerator for the cake? Probably not. So while she can eat the cake if that is really what she wants, is it really what she wants and needs? Probably not.
She knows this and logically thinks through the situation. So what happens? She has some willpower and motivation at the beginning, but the long day and stress has her now fixated on that cake (because there is still probably a sliver of her that believes in diet culture with good and bad foods – no shame in this – we grew up with this belief, it’s deeply ingrained and takes time to change). Now the cake is all she can think about. Even if she eats a healthful, satisfying dinner, she is still thinking about it, because she told yourself she can’t have it.
She thinks, “I’m strong. I can do this. I didn’t want the cake when I came to the refrigerator, I don’t need it now.” But her brain is powerful and that very mindset is what gets her stuck. Because now she’s thinking, “I can’t have that” and it makes her brain want it more and more. She goes back to the refrigerator, opens the door and it’s there, right in front of her when. What does she do? She eats it. All of it. She enjoys a bite and then the rest is a faint memory. And then the negative cycle of self-talk begins.
This is the exact reason why environment matters to everyone. The person in this example had good intentions and a plan. She was going to eat a nourishing dinner and then go about her evening. But her environment set her up so a less desired choice was the outcome. The moment that cake was in her presence, the cake had the control. This is why preparation and crafting your environment is key.
Now I want to step aside for a second and address this issue – I am not saying you can’t eat the cake if you want. I am also not saying you are bad for choosing the cake. What I am saying is that if your plan did not include eating cake then this situation did not turn out the way you desired. Our society is filled with foods that will lead to over-consumption and poor health. If we aren’t prepared and cognizant of this, we will wake up one day and wonder how we got to where we are, struggling to maintain our health.
One side of the HAES (health at every size), intuitive eating and food freedom world will argue that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and that is OK. There is a nuance in this that is why I deviate from this belief. I would argue that not being aware of how foods affect us takes the control away from us and gives it to the food (and the food manufacturers). While I agree, you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, you need to ask yourself – is this actually what I want and need?
Food today is often created to make us want more, even if we don’t need it. That is how they make more money – by selling us as much food as possible at the lowest cost, and then making us crave the foods when we aren’t eating them. Love it or hate it, i’s a business. There are entire food labs that focus just on creating products we can’t resist.
It is ignorant to think that our hunger, satiety and eating patterns are not affected by the accessibility of cheap, low-quality food and the beaviors of others. While I agree you have the freedom to eat whatever you want, you need to be aware of how the food affects you. This is the power that allows you to make decisions that are in alignment with how you want to feel.
This is where mindful eating comes into place. With mindful eating you know that when you eat chips you tend to eat half a bag in a sitting and often feel poorly after. With the approach I advocate for, you would allow yourself to have chips but you would only buy the chips when you want to have them in the house (maybe this is once a month instead of once a week). You would portion them out instead of sitting with the entire bag. This allows you to stay in control of your eating while still eating the foods you desire.
OK so how does this apply to the example above?
If Kat didn’t have that cake in her refrigerator, she probably wouldn’t have even thought about the cake. Having it there set her up for wanting it. So who is in control here – the cake or Kat? She is still early in her intuitive eating practice and has some of the traditional beliefs around weight and dieting. When she sees the cake she wants it – which is fine – but she feels like she shouldn’t eat it and feels stuck. If you desire to following intuitive and mindful eating, then at this point you eat the cake. You want the cake and not eating it will follow with negative self-talk. Acknowledge this and then have a piece you are comfortable eating and you enjoy every bite.
Can you see the area for improvement?
If you desire to eat a certain way, you need to set your environment up for success. If you have celiac disease and could not eat gluten, you would not fill your home with gluten items you love. That would be torture. This is no different. If you desire to eat a healthful diet you surround yourself by choices you want to make. Then when you have the inkling to have a slice of pie or cookie, you can without guilt or shame. because:
- You know you’ve been eating how you desire to eat for the past 5 days. You know that dessert can fit into your diet.
- You know you are in control and choosing what you want to eat and when you want to eat it.
- You are honoring your true desire when it presents itself.
- You are not allowing those around you, food manufacturers, or your past habits to determine what you will eat or how you will feel when you eat it.
You can finally find food freedom
This concept can be applied to any healthful habit you desire to partake in – exercise, meditation, mindfulness, sleep, alcohol use, tobacco use, etc… You name it, and you can find a way to craft your environment to be more supportive. This does get more difficult when you have others you live with who don’t subscribe to your school of thought. But I would encourage you to begin the discussion in an open manner. Here are a few ways to broach the topic:
- I would like to start eating healthier. Having chips in the cupboard makes it difficult for me to do this. While I have some ideas of how to approach this, do you have any suggestions of what we can do so I don’t see the chips every time I open the cupboard?
- I would like to start going to be earlier so I am more rested and calm during the day. Are you open to helping keep the house quiet after 9pm so I can do this?
- I have noticed I struggle when there are sweets in the house. I am working hard on this and am wondering if you are willing to support me in the process to limit my cravings and stay on track?
- I would like to start exercising to prevent diseases like diabetes, which you know my mom was just diagnosed with. I was thinking I could join a gym or create a small gym in our basement. Which do you think would be most in alignment with our financial situation right now?
BONUS – All of these can be followed with – “would you like to join me?”
Check out this week’s freebie in the free resource library to start identifying areas in your life where you can craft your environment for success.
Do you already practice this?
If so – What techniques have you found to help the most? What areas in your life do you use this in?
If not – what would you like to work on first? Can you name 1 action step you take today to change your environment to be in alignment with your goals?