Quite often what looks like a people problem can really be an environment problem.
You could stick the smartest, most disciplined, highly motivated individual in an ice cream store and at some point, if you wait for long enough, they’ll be scoffing ice cream as if their life depended on it.
So tweak your environment to support you not sabotage you.
If you have 3 packets of tim tams in your fridge and cupboard, they need to go before you eat them. If you have trouble getting up in the morning, place your alarm clock on the other side of the room. If you need to exercise before work, set out your gym clothes ready to go the night before. It’s much easier to complete a task that you’ve already begun than to begin a new one.
Tweaking your environment is a major theme in the book “Mindless Eating” where they share several major strategies to prevent over eating. Studies have emphatically shown that simply using smaller bowls and plates, avoiding watching tv or reading a book whilst eating and actually eating on your own rather than with company make major differences to the amount of food we eat. Are the people who watch tv whilst eating dinner gluttons because they eat more or do they simply have an environment problem?
The next thing is to build habits. Habits are actions that we perform without thinking. When undertaking change, you are making a lot of new decisions and constantly monitoring your behaviour. This will drain you of the energy to continue to make the right choices and deplete the motivation of your elephant. That’s where habits are so important. They are almost unconscious actions that don’t drain you of mental energy. An example would be to build your gym routine into your other routines, say when you drop the kids off at school you go to the gym immediately after. Drinking a glass of water 10 minutes before you eat every meal will help you to ensure you’re getting sufficient water each day and prepare your body for digestion. These rituals are simple and can be completed with a minimum of mental and physical effort.
The final strategy to ensure you successfully complete your change is to rally the herd. It is said that we are the average of the 5 people with which we spend the most time. So who are the lucky people you are spending your time with?
If you want to achieve a change, you should spend more time with people who have achieved what you want to achieve. If your goal is to run a marathon, do you think if you spend the majority of your time with people who have run marathons before and will be running again that you’d be a better chance to succeed, than if you spend all of your time with people who never run? Of course. Do you think if you spend more of your time with people who are fit and healthy that you’ll become more fit and healthy? Naturally. Studies have proven this to be the case.
You can also rally the herd by making yourself accountable to the people around you. Once you’ve decided upon your goal, share it with those around you. It’s amazing how helpful people can be if you tell them what help you require. If they don’t know what you’re trying to achieve, they can’t help you.
So even if you’ve failed in your previous attempts to achieve your health and fitness goal, I want you to try again. You may not be the lazy, unreliable, undisciplined person you thought you were, you may have simply had an environment problem. So tweak your environment, build good habits and rally the herd and try again!