The key to improving your health and losing weight is your environment. We in the 21st century live in a toxic environment. Artificial food, false friends, and feelings of discontent lead to stress, weight gain and self-medication. To embark on a journey toward health, we need to put away the fast food, vitriol and anxiety of everyday living to embrace real food, real experiences, mindfulness and thankfulness.
I know I lived in that environment up until a few years back and experienced its negative consequences. With ready access to Quarter Pounders, Diet Cokes, and M&Ms, I doubled my size and diminished my disposition. These unhealthy eating practices were exacerbated by too much face time at work and Facebook for leisure. The result was an unhealthy, grumpy middle-aged man who could not walk around the block. Something had to change! Only when I started to change my environment did I change my life!
There were three aspects to my environment that I decided to change in January 2015. Weighing more than all but three of the heaviest players in the NFL with a goods deal less muscle tone and height, I had to take the following actions to change my environment and restore my hearth:
- Changed my food environment. The first aspect that I set out to change was my pantry. There were several nemeses that I had to swap out. The first was Ice Cream. I was an absolute ice cream fanatic. So much so that I created an acronym for my Ice Cream addiction – ICR. This is how it is used. Once my kids could drive, I would call out – “Hey, Kyle can you go on an ICR. Get me a large M&M blizzard and get something for everyone else.” ICR if you have not figured out yet is Ice Cream Run and it supplemented the ice cream I already had in the freezer. In addition to Ice Cream, I kept a pantry well stocked of chips, peanut M&Ms, and a big 1-gallon plastic container of mixed nuts. All available for ready access whenever I became stressed. This had to change so I sought out alternatives.
I initially replaced my DQ Blizzard with Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches and eventually Non-Fat Greek yogurt with Banana’s (I still stay away from Ice Cream totally since it is a trigger food). I replaced peanut M&M’s overtime with WW Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie flavored bars that are individually wrapped, the same calories of a two peanut M&M’s and less likely to gouge on by the cupful! I replaced chips with a crunchy, healthy alternative that absorbs Salsa just as well – Broccoli. I dealt with my Mixed Nut affliction in a similar way that I did Peanut M&Ms. I swapped out the tub full of Mixed Nuts from Costco with individual packets of smaller size that are less likely to gouge on in fits of stress eating. These and other food changes got me one third of the way to a better environment.
2. Changed my social and work environment. The next thing I needed to do was change up how I spent my time. During the day and into the early evening I was spending time locked to a desk in conference calls or directing my team. At night, I read the latest political debates late into the night on Facebook. Both resulted in too much work time and not enough downtime. Additionally, the constant diatribe of uncivility on social media was stressing me out. I could feel the cortisol racing through my veins as I dealt with the next work issue or latest political debate.
I decided to take two measures to change my social and work environment. First, I vowed to get up and move for 10 minutes each hour and to block out 1 hour for working out in the morning. Additionally, I vowed to leave no later than 7 PM unless the world was ending. At first, I thought these actions would detract from my work effort, but I was wrong. Instead, it fostered communication between my team and I and provided me with the respite to come up with better actions.
The second thing I did was make a determined effort to spend less time on social media and to spend that time on positive feeds. I accomplished this in two ways. I monitored and reduced my time reading social media. When I could not reduce it as much as I hoped, I decided to change my feeds and to listen to mindful podcasts. I actively sought out positive Facebook groups such as Spreading Positivity and liked their content. Over time, my Facebook feeds have changed because of this determined effort from politics to positive messages. Many of these serve as inspirations to my blogs! I have switched my environment from Trump to Tranquility!
3. Changed my internal environment. The most important environment to change to get healthy is the internal dialogue running through your head. The change in the social and work environment helped a lot in this endeavor, but I was still having negative thoughts. To counter them, I took up meditation and mindfulness. I have used the Headspace application as well as the Christian Meditation blog to get mind off the problems running in my head to the progress I am making in my heart!
Changing your environment is the first step to changing to the new you! I did it and so can you!