Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
On my doctor’s scales over a period of about four months, I have lost 36 pounds. One of the primary keys to dropping the pounds is my having created an environmentally friendly environment to losing weight and achieving a wellness lifestyle.
What changes have I made to my environment to promote weight loss either directly or indirectly? One item new to my environment is the stationary bicycle that now sits in my foyer where I can conveniently exercise which has helped raise my metabolism to enable me to lose weight consistently. I realize not everyone owns or can gain access to a stationary bicycle but there are other inexpensive items or tools for weight loss that one can use to help burn calories (e.g.: a jump rope, a mini trampoline). I recommend these tools for weight loss be left in plain sight as a reminder to use them daily.
Another behavior regarding my environment that I just started doing is to park farther away from the door whenever I go shopping or anywhere. Having to walk those extra steps to my destination burns calories that can add up to pounds dropped over time.
The environment in my kitchen and pantry also has changed. Sugary desserts can no longer be found in my home. Fried and pre-processed foods also are monitored more closely before purchasing to minimize purchasing and the intake of hidden sugars and salt. In my refrigerator, one will find more fresh fruits and raw vegetables to eat.
Thus far I have discussed environmental factors that an individual can control to promote a healthy life. What about those situations or environments that are out of one’s control, such as family get-togethers, church potlucks, and office parties? One option is to avoid such settings but in reality, doing so is not always possible or healthy. This is where advanced planning is required to maintain healthy behaviors surrounding food. For example, setting a limit of only eating one plateful of food is a healthy goal to set when eating where an abundance of food is available.
Another important environmental factor to promoting weight loss and healthy living is the people that one allows into his or her environment, especially those individuals whom one hangs out with on a regular basis. Do your friends eat healthily and encourage you to be active? Or are they a bunch of couch potatoes who sit around stuffing themselves on chips and other unhealthy snacks and who encourage you to do likewise? Personally, I chose to hang out with and have healthy eaters as friends.
Before closing, I want to point out that I believe the home is the most important environment that needs to be controlled to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. Some of you may say, “my family would never give up their sweets and unhealthy junk food.” How do you know? Have you shared with them your desire to be healthy and why you would like them to make getting healthy a priority for the entire family?
When children are in the home, I recommend parents talk to them about how unhealthy the environment has been in the past in the home but that things will be different in the future. Apologize to them for the poor examples set thus far when it comes to eating and getting regular exercise. Remember, anything a person learns can be unlearned; so, in time, children will adapt when they get hungry enough to eat the healthier foods that become available and when routinely faced with healthier role models.
In closing, I encourage others to do an inventory of his or her environment, particularly in the home. Does the environment promote a healthy active lifestyle or an unhealthy sedate lifestyle? Are foods found in the home healthy for the body or unhealthy? Remember, living and eating healthy is a choice, and to make such choices more attainable each of us, as individuals, must make the choice to keep our environments conducive to such choices.