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Path to Health - Day 11: An Environment of Success

I spent the last two days really addressing emotions--one of the E's in The CHEEP Method--and today I want to talk about the other E: Environment.

Our environments hold great sway over how we make our decisions each day, and it's because we typically want what's easily available to us. So the more you can craft your environment to your goals, the more successful you will be. If you've noticed how websites today have much different layouts than websites from a decade ago--especially websites designed to sell you something--it's because there is a science to understanding how placing which elements where produce the greatest desired results. Subscribe boxes are readily available--often times intruding through a popup that prevents you from seeing the rest of the site until you exit out of it. Buying one thing often leads to a suggestion to easily add another purchase to your order with a single click. It's the new age of herding your attention and your behavior through the digital environment through which you travel.

And similarly in the real world, a change in environment can dramatically change your behavior. When I lived in Colorado, I had my piano keyboard set up 24/7, and so practicing was easy--something I could do daily. Since I moved to Pennsylvania, my living arrangements have changed, and I currently have no room for my 88-key keyboard to be setup all the time. If I want to practice, I have to go through the hassle of taking it out of its case, setting it up, plugging stuff in, becomes a huge inconvenience, and so I have fallen out of practicing much to my dismay.

But what does this mean for weight loss? Quite simply, the more you make healthy options your environmental defaults, the healthier you will become. But what does that look like? Well, any dietician or weight loss coach will usually give you the first, easiest answer: throw away ALL the junk food in your house!

...However, that option isn't always easy. Most of us don't live alone, and many of us live with people who aren't ready to eat the same healthy foods that we want to eat. Maybe you're still living with your parents (nothing to be ashamed of, especially given our economy lately), and so since you're not the head of the household, you don't have the authority to change your environment so dramatically.

There are some alternatives, however, such as getting a mini refrigerator or cooler for your room and storing some healthy stuff there (which also helps prevent other people in your home eating up stuff you bought and made just for you). Preparing your meals ahead of time also helps. Take one day out of the week to plan your meals for the week, grocery shop, and prepare everything so that you can just grab and go later on instead of feeling the pangs of having to cook and clean.

Another great deterrent to temptation is posting a visualization picture--a picture of what your goal body weight/shape is--on your fridge or set as the background to your phone, so you have a constant reminder of what you're aiming to achieve.

Placing your running shoes by the door or by your bed can help you get in gear to exercise. Having nutritional supplements sitting out somewhere convenient (like on your nightstand if you take them upon waking up) helps remind you to take them. The bottom line is to just make all healthy choices as easily accessible as possible. Nobody knows your routine better than you (especially if you're working at creating good habits), so test things out to see where the best placement is for having the tools you'll need to succeed on-hand without having to think about them.

Oh, and you're still going to have to interact with people at work, so unless you want to run off to a Buddhist monastery, don't go to the extreme with changing your environment by cutting out all people who don't eat the same stuff you're eating. However, you CAN supplement your social circle by getting involved with groups who are after the same or similar fitness goals as you are (which is one of the reasons I love DietBet). Jim Rohn famously stated, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with." If you feel like you're not meeting your goals and you look around to discover that you're the most successful person in the room, find a new room. The rules of environmental influence apply to the people in your life as well.

If you find that you are involved in some sort of toxic relationship, whether it's with a romantic partner, coworker/boss, roommate, family member, church, or whoever else, then find a way to either fix that relationship or just leave it entirely. I know that leaving a job because of a bad boss or cutting an abusive parent out of your life can be extremely difficult, but support groups exist to help you do just that. At the end of the day, you have to make sure you're caring for yourself properly, so don't let a toxic environment keep you sick.

Changing your environment can be difficult, especially given how a macro-level view of your environment can still affect you (such as the town/state/country you live in, its laws, economic state, social norms, etc.), and changing anything on a macro level is far more difficult than just cleaning out your fridge. So if you find yourself worrying about how the macro-level environment is impacting your quest for weight loss or any other goals you have, just remember what you do have the power to influence, and that you're still working as best as you can to improve yourself.