Theory is ridiculously simple compared to reality. When it comes to achieving your goals, anyone can conjure the perfect nutrition and exercise programme on paper; yet when it comes to realising the plan of attack, life throws a spanner in the works and before you know it, you’re back to square one…
Sound familiar? Fear not, for you are not on your own. One of the most common struggles I come across with my clients is the application of “ best laid plans” to daily life; the practicalities and realities of what is needed to achieve a certain goal
However, all is most certainly not lost; for I have discovered that success in the health and fitness arena can be made or broken by one’s environment. From the spatial layout of your kitchen, to the support network of friends and family that surround you on the daily, everything you interact with can play a part towards achieving your dreams.
Success in the health and fitness arena can be made or broken by one’s environment…
In this article, I am going to explain how to create the ultimate environment to set you up for long term success, with a particular emphasis on body recomposition. Although I will largely refer to techniques relating to losing fat, the principles and strategies outlined can be adapted to support anyone’s lifestyle in the quest for healthier living…
The Science Behind Environment
Having experienced how revolutionary one’s environment can be to progressing towards their goal, I decided to do a bit of research into the psychology behind it all.
Unsurprisingly, there is a pretty wide body of literature supporting the idea, most of which points to the conclusion that, by adapting one’s daily environment, he/she will be more likely to sustain a healthy lifestyle according to their own goal.
One study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, concluded that people ate 31% more ice cream than they would have had they eaten out of a smaller bowl, whilst another outlines the impact that convenience of access to unhealthy food has on our dietary choices.
I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of the scientific literature; instead, I am going to outline the ways in which you can optimise your environment to maximise your potential…
The Kitchen – Where The Magic is Made
“Abs are made in the Kitchen” – an absolute classic in the World of Fitness, and one of the few common sayings plastered all over social media that actually holds truth in reality.
After all, shedding the pounds is ~70% nutrition, 30% exercise; so it stands to reason that having a kitchen-environment that lends itself to healthy habits can be a bit of a deal breaker when it comes to fat loss.
There are a variety of things you can do to up your kitchen game to some next level sh*t…
For starter’s (pun intended), give the cupboards and the fridge the once over for things that are out-of-date; empty everything out, sort the good from the bad, and then return the goods to the rightful spot.
When you are returning the in-date foods, try placing foods of the naughtier persuasion towards the back so they are in a less convenient location for when the munchies set in.
Couple this with some fresh fruit, a water jug, and other healthy snacks (popcorn, rice cakes, peanut butter etc.) in full view on the kitchen counter and you’ll be on track to elevate your snacking game to the next level.
Finish the job by stocking the pantry with healthy staples to smash and grab when you want to whip up some speedy, nutritious nosh. We’re talking pulses, beans, whole grain rice, tinned tuna, ground spices, the likes of which will make it impossible for you to resort to the take-out menus when the clock strikes 6!
The kitchen has the potential to be a big driving force behind rapid progress. Shoot for at least 5/8 of the following points as a start!
The Perfect Dinner Table
Now that you’ve nailed down the environment where you make the food, it’s time to hone in on where you actually eat the food.
A large number of scientific studies have proven the impact of plate-size on portion control for those trying to sustain a calorie deficit. By using slightly smaller plates for your main meals, you are less inclined to go nuts on serving size when dishing out; considering portion control is one of the most common barriers to weight loss, this could be of benefit to your weight loss endeavours.
Next up, you need to think about the atmosphere ‘round the dinner table. For one, ditch the telly if possible, and try eating up at table instead of on your lap in the lounge.
Minimising distractions while eating allows you to focus on the meal at hand, therefore promoting inner awareness of fullness and satisfaction. Sure-fire way to nip overeating well and truly in the bud!
Interestingly, you can also alter your dining room to support your efforts by turning up the lights ; one study of eating behaviours in restaurants concluded that those who ate their main meal in a lowly-lit room ate 39% more than those in brighter surroundings. Additionally, the brighter group were 16-24% more likely to make healthier choices when confronted with a varied menu; applying this psychology to the home may prove revolutionary in stimulating healthier food choices.
After cracking down on the kitchen, use this checklist to help optimise your dinner table for healthy living…
Out & About
Within the confines of your home, you are blessed with complete control over your surroundings. Things tend to get trickier when you go out of the front door…
Although you have limited control of the environment itself when you are out at uni, work, or social events, you are able to determine the way in which you interact with it.
Friends, family, and work colleagues will undoubtedly have an impact in what goes in the tank on the daily (usually through brandishing the biscuit tin come the 11am coffee break…), so make them aware of your efforts and do what is necessary to limit things that may have a negative influence on your progress.
This may also have a dual purpose in giving you an added boost of external accountability; if, say, your workmates know you are trying to lose a bit of timber, they may automatically check in with you every now and then to see how it’s going. As my old rugby coach used to say: “teamwork makes the dream work”…
When it comes to optimising the workplace environment, forward-planning is the winning ticket.
Meal prep has long been heralded as a catalyst for healthy living; batch-cooking a tasty, flavoursome on a Sunday night and organising into appropriately portioned tupperwares is a great way to stick to the plan of action. This reduces the frequency of resorting to takeaways on the lunchbreak (notice i didn’t say STOP them altogether), which, over the course of a week, may be the guilty culprit for stunted fat loss.
The other environment you will interact with regularly will be cafes and restaurants. Use the graphic below to arm yourself with the strategies needed to maximise adherence to a fat loss diet when eating out.
Master The Mindset
The final, and most important, environment to consider is your internal environment: the thought processes, decisions, and mindset you employ every minute of every hour.
Whilst your mindset is arguably the fundamental factor determining long-term success, it remains the most complex to master. But don’t sweat it, as there are some simple steps you can take to promote a sound state of mind that facilitates progress
Firstly, ask yourself this: “am I being too restrictive?” This is because the number 1 problem I see with people who come to me seeking help is an intent focus on what they shouldn’t be eating. Sadly, this leads to an internal environment that holds negative connotations towards healthy living.
The solution? Allow yourself the foods that you most enjoy (in moderation) on a regular basis so as to maximise adherence; I personally believe that the most successful fat loss meal plans contain a small number of discretionary calories.
Further, be sure never to eat something you avidly detest just because of the perception that “eating (insert food here) help me burn fat”. No individual food is inherently thermogenic, and chowing down on stuff you don’t like the taste of will only minimise the chances of long-term adherence
Healthy eating doesn’t mean steamed broccoli and kale 24/7; there are millions of nutritious recipes out there that delivers on the flavour in the absence of unwanted calories.
I could go on all day about mastering the perfect mindset for healthy living, but for the moment try using the ‘Internal’ section of the checklist at the end of this article to help boost your mindset to support your goals.
The Final Word
We are but a function of the world around us; the places we go, the people we meet, and the interactions we have. It shapes the person we are, or wish to becomeAnon
Nowhere does this sentiment apply not accurately than to healthy living. Optimise your work, home, and social environments to support your goals and you will undoubtedly see significant progression in a surprisingly short period of time.
If you have any questions about adapting your lifestyle and environment to give you an edge on the road to your aspirations, then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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