Surroundings, surroundings, surroundings
Perhaps one of the most important causes of our problem with being overweight, or even if we just want to lose weight for vain reasons, is our environment. Where you live, where you work, basically all the places where you live your life. Why, you ask? Well, the Western world is nowadays also referred to in literature as an obesogenic environment. That basically means that it is easy in our society to become overweight. Food and drinks are available everywhere. We are experts at making food tasty, it is often cheap and ‘ready to eat’.
You can probably get something to eat or drink within a five-minute walk. Chances are it’s even closer. If all the food around you would contribute to your health, a healthy body weight and fat percentage, it would of course not have been so bad. Unfortunately, that is not the case and so our environment has become part of the problem.
No, it’s not all your fault. There are factors that you cannot influence at an instance. We are continuously bombarded with incentives that encourage us to consume more. The result? We eat too much and get too fat. We find ourselves in a physical environment where it is easier to eat a lot. But it is also because of how we have organized society on a social and cultural level. We are often seen as “boring” if we don’t want to drink beer or wine at an event. Parties are usually given with an abundance of food and if you don’t join this meal you will be looked at very strangely. Etc.
There is not much you can do about many factors that influence your life. You have no influence on the food marketing of large companies. Nor where (fast food) restaurants are located. You can’t just change a culture. But you certainly have influence on some factors, such as your social and mental environment.
Humans are social animals. It is not without reason that an isolation cell is such a terrible punishment. The need for social contact is deeply rooted in our DNA. Our social environment has a huge influence on how we live our lives. If your friends all go out twice a week and drink and eat a lot, then you have a good chance that you will too. Or if it is very much appreciated that you join the Friday afternoon drink from work, then of course you have a greater chance that you will have a drink and some snacks.
Your family also influences the way you live. If you’ve been taught from childhood that exercising and eating healthy is important, you’re more likely to do the same as an adult. But if that’s not what you were taught, then it’s useful to provide yourself with the right people around you who appreciate healthy habits. You want to build some kind of positive social health network of family, friends, acquaintances and professionals who can help you learn, but perhaps more importantly, maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In addition, it is useful to see if you have many social occasions and situations where there is a lot of good food and drinks. That’s totally fine of course. Unless they constantly get in the way of your goals.
Think about how often you eat out. And with whom? Do you do that often? So what do you usually choose? Do you eat more (calories) than you would eat at home? And count the alcoholic drinks of the entire week. Many drinks have 100-120 kcal per serving. How many do you drink per week?
Do you not achieve your goals, and you often eat out. Or if you couldn’t count the drinks on both hands and feet, these may be your pitfalls.
If you have clear whether this is a pitfall, you want to work on it. Are there any occasions you can skip? Or can you make a better choice on the menu during a dinner? Can you drink less? You don’t have to stop drinking right away. Many people think in black and white when it comes to losing weight. But if you go from 15 beers a week to 10 beers a week then you have 5 x 120kcal = 600 calories saved that week.
With the mental environment we are talking about how you feel about yourself and the process ahead. You may have heard this statement before, and I think it really applies to lifestyle changes.
“Whether or not you think you can do it, you are right”.
Whether you can learn the right habits, adapt your environment and build a healthy lifestyle starts with believing that YOU can do it. Even if it hasn’t worked before. Think of it like this: it didn’t fail, you just found multiple ways to fail for you. That just means that you have to look for a way that DOES work for you.
How you see yourself, your identity, has been developed over all the years you exist. Everyone is an extremely complex interplay of your biology, experiences and environment. Many things influence your identity and it can be (very) difficult to change it. You don’t have to do that all at once. That can be done step by step. Aim for consistency and not perfection. Your identity is closely linked to how you see yourself and to your actions and habits. If you do something often, you believe more and more that it belongs to you as a person.
So think about who you want to become. Visualize what kind of life you lead. Think in detail what such a life looks like. What supportive habits are part of this life? How is your environment arranged? Which people have you gathered around you and how do you help each other? Your thoughts and imagination influence your success. So use them positively and be proud of your healthy habits and the person they make you.