Did you know that making changes to your daily environment helps develop good habits that will improve your lifestyle and lead to a leaner and healthier body; no calorie counting required?
As part of any healthy lifestyle it is important to know the two key factors for success, which are, eating well (nutrition) and exercise. While most people generally know what foods are considered healthy, many don’t want to memorize calorie tables, count macros or weight out portions. And, over the years our environment has shaped what we consider to be normal. In short, we assume we’re making informed choices on what we eat, however, research tells us that many of our decisions are automatic based on patterns we’ve learned over time. This leads to making quick decisions and taking the path of least resistance. We’ve programmed our brains to think like fast food, pick something we like from an easy menu and move on. In reality, while we “think” we’re making good choices, we’re actually putting very little effort into thinking carefully about the food choices we make. The same is true to when it comes to exercise; we think we’re making good choices but we let our old patterns do the thinking for us. As you can see, it’s all about environment; and, the environment we’re living in shapes our decisions everyday.
How to we change our environment?
It all starts with a good foundation and then adding positive environmental changes over time. The building blocks of a good foundation include your social environment and culture, your kitchen, your grocery habits, your day-to-day routine, and the people in your life (friends, family, etc) who are supportive. There are two important keys to building a solid foundation, one, making healthy behaviors convenient; and, two, making other behaviors less convenient. For example, use smaller plates and cups to control portions (most people eat everything given to them regardless of portion size); keep the bad foods out of the house making it less convenient; keep plenty of fresh whole foods in plain sight (oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, pears, etc. in a bowl on the counter or at eye level in the shelf in your fridge, making them easy to see and access). Park your car at the far end of the parking lot to increase your daily steps or keep your bike near the front door and instead of driving ride your bike instead. To be successful, its important to make small changes in what’s around us (our environment) that lead to making good choices without thinking about it.
Environment changes you can make to develop good lifestyle habits
The following tips are courtesy of Precision Nutrition:
- Use a meal delivery subscription – let someone else do the cooking, making your meal choices easy. Look for a service that offers meals for athletes, they usually offer more protein and fibrous vegetables (salads, broccoli, kale, etc).
- Keep junk foods out of the house – leave the ice cream, cookies and cakes in the store; instead, keep fresh fruit for snacking.
- Develop and use a meal plan – it will help you with what to buy at the grocery store, what foods to prep and what meal you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Keep an assortment of chopped vegetable in the fridge – this will make it easy for salads.
- Have shake-ready ingredients in the freezer – buy frozen (no sugar added) chopped fruit, or you can chop your own and freeze it, so they are ready to go right into the blender for a healthy shake.
- Keep your workout gear where you can see and use them easily – either at home or the office; if you can grab a kettlebell or resistance bands quickly, you’ll be more tempted to use them.
- Wear your sneakers or comfortable shoes everyday – then you are ready for getting in extra walking anytime.
- Schedule your workouts like you schedule a meeting – put your workouts on your calendar, it is a good reminder and it helps you develop good habits.
- When possible, combine working and walking – take a small work group outside and walk while you work, or, when on a conference call, get up and walk around your house, even use the stairs, you’ll be surprised how fast those steps and calories burned add up.
- Separate yourself from work for ten minutes each hour – work for 50 minutes and then step away from your desk for 10 minutes, walk, stretch, do some squats or lunges). When combined, these mini workouts will add 70-80 minutes of exercise to your day.
Remember, your environment has shaped the choices you’ve been making, and while it is difficult to change the way we think, it is easy to change our environment. Making these positive changes will re-train our way of thinking to adjust to this new environment and in the long-term lead to consistent good choices for both healthy eating and exercise.
As always, please be sure you discuss your nutrition and exercise plans with your doctor.