Optimise Your Environment for Weight Loss — Actionable Strategies

We are talking strategies to optimise your environment for weight loss.

We live in an obesogenic environment; an environment which is very conducive for people to easily put on weight.

The reason you put on weight in the first place is, firstly owing to genetics. Some people are just genetically more prone to be overweight.

If you have always been someone who is overweight, you got there because you grew up in an environment which had easy access to highly calorie-dense foods and snacks.

If you have recently put on weight, that was probably because of the work from home situation. When you weren’t moving much during the day and you had access to highly calorie-dense snacks, and easy access to food delivery apps.

So the environment plays a huge role in the weight gain that you have experienced so far.

And it also plays a huge role in making sure that you are able to lose that weight successfully.

This is highly overlooked. People rely a lot on their willpower to make sure that they are doing the right things, while completely neglecting the environmental factors.

To reach your weight loss goals, you have to work against your default tendencies.

Since we are always surrounded by easily consumable packaged foods with brightly coloured attractive packaging. Our default tendency is to reach for them and snack on them.

Constantly on our phones, we are bombarded by ad notifications from apps like Zomato and Swiggy.

So, everything is working against our goal of achieving weight loss. You have to make sure that you’re able to tailor your environment in such a way that these triggers are minimized, so you’re able to make better decisions.

And in order to do this, ideally, you should make it impossible for yourself to make the kind of decisions that aren’t aligned with your goals.

Make it hard for yourself to consume foods that you don’t want to consume, and make it extremely easy for yourself to consume the foods that you do want to consume.

Here are a few things that you can do to make this happen.

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Keep easily snackable items away from you.

Don’t buy a ton of snacks which are highly calorie-dense, and store them in your pantry.

For most people who have put on a lot of weight, especially in the past few years during the work-from-home situation. You have developed these bad habits where you would feel tired; feel stressed from work. And you’ll reach for snacks.

Or you’ll sit on your work desk and start eating without being mindful of what you’re putting into your body.

You have built up these habits over the past few years. You have to unlearn them now.

In order for that to happen, don’t keep foods which are easily snackable in your vicinity. So don’t store snackable foods in the house.

If you feel that you do need to buy snacks, buy them in extremely limited quantities. And buy the smallest possible sizes.

If you’re buying, for example, Oreos. Don’t buy that huge pack. Buy the smallest pack. Preferably don’t store snacks.

Some people may think that I’m advising restriction from such foods and that I’m telling you not to eat such foods.

That is not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that if you have built up these habits over the past few years, and you’re not able to let go. And this is hindering your progress.

For a limited amount of time, you need to modify your environment in such a way that you don’t have easy access to tasty snacks.

Over time as that bad habit disappears and you unlearn it, you’ll be able to slowly reintroduce these foods back to your environment.

But there has to be a certain timeframe when you’re not constantly exposed to these things. If you’re trying to quit something, you have to make sure that you are not constantly being triggered by it.

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You have to reverse the neural connections that you formed in your brain over the past few years.

Those have to weaken over time.

Think of it this way.

Your brain, if you think of it as a huge field. Where there are no clear pathways.

field of corn

Now, if you walk through this field, you will create this sort of path, which is very mildly visible.

If you walked through that same path over and over the next few days, it will become more and more visible.

That’s how your brain works.

When you perform a new habit, the initial neural connection is very weak.

This is probably what happened during the beginning of the lockdown. You probably did not have a lot of snacking tendencies, but you started maybe snacking once in a while.

When you continue to do this over and over; that you walk through the same path in the field over and over.

It becomes a prominent pathway.

It strengthens the neural connections. They strengthen every time you perform that behaviour; every time you execute that snacking habit.

And over the past few years, if you’re someone who has suffered a drastic weight gain. It’s probably because you have developed that habit by repeating this behaviour over and over.

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The only way to reverse this is to eliminate the triggers from your environment.

So just don’t purchase these calorie-dense snacks for a while till this neural connection disappears. If you stop walking through that path in the field, over time it will disappear.

And the field will become like it was earlier.

Think of that analogy and implement accordingly. Don’t expose yourself to triggers. That’s the main thing.

Especially towards the end of the day; when your work day is over. And you have absolutely no energy to make good quality decisions.

That’s usually when your willpower reserves are at their lowest.

In the morning when you have woken up after a good night’s sleep, your willpower is at its at its peak. So you will likely not snack in the morning. You will not reach for easy to eat foods. You will make your breakfast.

But when the end of the day arrives, you have exhausted your willpower reserves.

Your willpower is like a battery. Think of it like your phone battery.

You have charged it overnight to 100%. Now, when you use different apps during the day, your phone battery goes on draining.

When you make decisions throughout the day, your willpower battery is drained similarly.

By the end of day, there’s very little remaining. And now if you make the last 1-2 decisions, your battery’s completely exhausted.

After that, you’re running on automatic. Whatever you see, you eat without thinking too much about it.

Your goal is to make that automated decision making process easy for yourself by making sure that you have your snacks planned beforehand.

If you know that when you come back home from work, you tend to snack on something. Make sure that you have pre-planned for that; that you have pre-cooked something healthy and within your calorie target; something high in protein.

Or you could have some kind of low-calorie healthy snack alternative stored in your house. Like Greek yoghurt and some fruit.

Make sure those are easily accessible so that when you finally come back home after a long working day and your willpower reserves are exhausted. And you feel like eating something, you don’t have to make a decision then.

You already know what to choose.

You shouldn’t have to think:

“Now that I’m hungry. What should I eat? Maybe I should just open this food delivery app and look at what’s on discount.”

That should not be the case.

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You should have already planned for the situation beforehand so that when the time comes, you don’t have to think twice.

Planning is really key.

The other day I had someone in my DMs and who live in a joint family. They told me that it’s very hard for them to stay on track because they plan for their own breakfast the night ahead.

But when they join their family members, they see that the family is eating other food items. And they can’t help themselves but eat some of those food items. And they really want to avoid that.

They wanted to know what could be done in this situation.

If you’re someone who lives in a joint family, you cannot stop your family members from eating different foods. And you have different goals from them.

So you have to find a way to stick to your program while at the same time not hampering the eating habits of other people. In this case, the only solutions really are:

➡️ you can plan ahead of time so that your meals accommodate for other foods

➡️ if it’s just one meal that’s causing a problem, the other solution would be to make sure that you eat that meal separately. Because if you’re very determined about reaching your goal, and you feel that being surrounded by these food items makes it irresistible for you to eat them. The best solution is to avoid exposing yourself to such food items.

That is really the crux of today’s session.

Instead of relying on your willpower, rely on fixing the environment. Rely on taking care that you’re not exposed to the triggers which make you eat without control.

If you do that, you will be successful.

If your house is packed with snacks, it becomes very hard for you to achieve your weight loss goals. That’s what I’ve seen usually.

And even for people who are professional athletes. When they are trying to really lean down for competitive events, they make sure that their house is stocked with foods which are aligned with their diet.

If you have food delivery apps on your phone, I want you to uninstall them.

If you’ve trying to lose weight, these apps will make it very difficult for you to reach your goals. They have entire marketing teams whose only job is to keep you hooked to the app and make you click on their ads.

If you’re competing against a team of experts whose only job is to make you buy food. It becomes an uphill battle. Then you’re just fighting against your own psychology.

If you’re very serious about your goals, don’t keep these apps in your phone.

Uninstall them right now.

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Next thing. Avoid looking at food porn.

There are these things like, Mukbang; Korean eating channels, where people just eat food and others watch the videos of people eating food.

Kind of weird to me, but it’s a thing.

And if you follow food channels and bloggers on Instagram, it’s the same thing as exposing yourself to constant triggers in your environment.

When you keep exposing yourself to food porn, you’ll feel like eating those things. If you have weight loss goals, don’t expose yourself to these videos.

Don’t spend your time on YouTube watching food related videos.

And if on Instagram these videos pop up in your feed, go to the top right corner. Click on not interested.

That will keep your feed clear of all these food-related videos.

Imagine this.

If you’re constantly triggered by someone to feel angry. If you really dislike some person and every time you see them, you feel angry.

Will you intentionally constantly expose yourself to videos of that person talking? And go talk to that person every other day?

You won’t do that. You’ll try to keep away from that person.

Keep that person out of sight and out of mind so that you don’t have to feel angry all the time.

Similarly when it comes to your weight loss, don’t keep exposing yourself to videos of really tasty foods. Don’t keep exposing yourself to tasty packaging in your environment.

Keep these out of sight and out of mind. Until you have completely removed that habit pattern from your head.

To end the session, I have just one more tip.

Separate your eating space from your working space and from your sleeping space.

So don’t eat in your bed. Don’t eat while you’re working at your work desk.

The reason for this is very simple. Your brain likes to compartmentalize different activities and different spaces.

That’s why people felt so lethargic when they were working from home. Because your brain associates the office as a workspace and the home as a leisure space.

When you combine both of them, you feel unproductive trying to work from home.

The same thing applies when it comes to your food habits. If you use the bed for sleeping, your brain has associated that connection with the bed. And you use your desk for working.

But when you start eating in those places. When you sit down to work now, your brain also wonders if you’re going to eat.

When you get in bed and you’re trying to sleep. But if you keep eating in your bed as well, your brain has also associated eating with that environment.

Just like when you go to your office, you feel like working; you feel productive. And when you come home, you want to relax.

If you get into bed and you feel like eating. If you get into your work desk and you feel like eating. You go to your dining table and you feel like eating.

You have just conditioned yourself to crave foods wherever you go in the house. The solution to this? Separate your eating space from everything else.

Eat only in your designated eating space i.e., probably your dining table. Just eat there.

Don’t eat while you’re working. Don’t eat while you’re in bed watching something mindlessly.

Try to not eat outside of your fixed meal times.

That’s also something that’ll only come with practice. If you have three major meals and one snack that you eat throughout the day, those are the only times that you should eat anything.

Try to not eat in between those meals.

If you can implement these strategies to optimise your environment, you would make the weight loss process much easier for yourself.

Don’t try to force yourself to make decisions that you think are good for you.

Instead, make it easy for yourself to make those decisions. And you’ll have a much easier time instead of feeling like it’s a constant uphill battle.

If you have been trying to reach your weight loss goals for a while now, but are struggling a bit in the process.

It’s probably because of a lack of consistency, a lack of guidance or a lack of support.

If you’d like a 24×7 support system to hold your hand and guide you through the process till you get to your goals, you should consider 1-on-1 coaching with Workday Physique.

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Ajitesh Gogoi is an online fitness coach and the founder of Workday Physique™. His mission is to empower busy executives to achieve their weight loss goals. And transform them into their most confident selves.
Ajitesh Gogoi

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