Have you ever wondered why you aren’t succeeding despite “knowing” what to do? Maybe you’ve read every nutrition textbook in the library and aren’t lean yet. The problem might not be how much you know… it might be what’s around you.
When it comes to making life changes, we hear a lot about the importance of “mindset”. How you look at the world can shape the way you approach problems and view your experiences. And this happens both consciously and unconsciously.
Notice the latter part: many of our assumptions and worldviews are unconscious. We aren’t aware of them, even as we’re thinking them.
Have you ever “zoned out” while driving, and then realized you’re 10 miles down the road, not sure how you got there?
You must have been paying attention on one level, or you’d have crashed the car. And yet, most of your mind was elsewhere. Your unconscious brain was handling the job of driving while your conscious brain was focused on getting your errands done, what happened to you at work that day, solving the Covid-19 crisis, or whatever else you think about.
The way we approach health and nutrition is similar. There are ideas and thoughts that we’re aware of, and ideas and thoughts that we’re not. We can dive down into our brains to fish for our unconscious and subconscious thoughts and bring them to the surface. This might include unconscious thoughts like:
I’m not worthy of self-care.
I don’t deserve to look good.
Looking good is for vain people.
Eating bad food makes me feel good.
I don’t want people to notice me.
If I stay overweight, I won’t have to be social.
It can be a minefield in there! This will take some time to clear!
Self-analysis is an important — indeed, even essential — project, but it takes time and effort. It might take weeks, months, or even years to untangle all of our thoughts and assumptions about health and nutrition.
But you want to start getting in shape NOW! What do you do in the meantime while you’re digging around in your brain?
Change your environment.
How to change your environment
You can immediately change what’s around you. This includes things like:
Your daily routine
What tools you have available to you
The people you interact with
What foods you have near you (or far away from you)
Having trouble making it to the gym? Get home equipment.
Can’t seem to kick the PM ice cream and cookie routine? Don’t keep ice cream and cookies in the house.
Having trouble getting enough veggies? Buy veggies at the grocery store and keep them at your residence.
Surfing the internet keeping you up too late at night? Have your router turn off internet after 10:00 PM.
Friends always taking you out for pizza and beer? Talk to them about your goals. Explore other options for socializing. And look for opportunities to develop new friends, too.
Often times we convince ourselves that what we know, and what we plan for (our exercise and nutrition plan) will allow us to coast through any health and fitness obstacles that get in our way.
Newsflash! Knowledge and planning don’t always translate into behavior changes.
Control your environment — before it controls you
Click here to download an excellent article by researcher Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating. He describes the ways in which portion sizing has changed over the years, and how this affects our behavior. There are two basic ideas here:
Most of us will eat all that we are served — no matter how big the portion is. If we are served a small bag of popcorn, we’ll eat that. If we are served a bucket of popcorn, we’ll eat that. Presumably if we are served a Volkswagen full of popcorn, we’d do our best to finish that off too.
If we consistently eat bigger portions, bigger por