Environmental barriers- in other words, things or people around us that get in the way of us making the healthy changes we need to – can have a bigger effect on us than we think. It can be easy to put it down to “no motivation” or “no willpower” but many times you could be fighting a losing battle- trying to swim upstream against a raging current.
So what are the most common environmental barriers and how do you work around them?
1: Your home
Your haven, your sanctuary, or is it? If your goal is weight loss, is your home set up to help or hinder you with this?
Is your pantry and fridge filled with healthy food or unhealthy food? Do you have some frozen leftovers on hand so you aren’t tempted to order takeaway? Are your exercise clothes clean and easily accessible, or crammed in the back of a drawer somewhere or the bottom of the washing basket? Is your home tidy, or are you overwhelmed with clutter or a list of chores so you have no headspace to focus on anything else?
Think about what you could change at home to make it easier for future you to make healthy choices.
2: Your workplace
Do you have a plan for meals and snacks to take to work, or are you winging it once you get there? Is there a stash of treats in your drawer, or a piece of fruit or portion of healthy trail mix for when you get those mid meal hunger pangs. Are your co-workers on board with your goals to get healthy, or are they offering you biscuits or cake at 3pm? Are you riding to work, or maybe parking ten mins away so that you get in an extra 20 mins of exercise a day? Or are you driving to the door so that you do as little movement as you need to in a day?
Consider your behaviours when you are at work. What could you change to make it easier for you to make healthy choices?
3: Your inner circle
This means the people who are around you, that support you, that you share concerns with, or see regularly. Are they aware of your weight loss goals, and if so are they supportive, dismissive, or critical of this goal?
Sometimes the attitudes of others, and their subsequent behaviour, can be changed completely if they understand your reasons for doing something. Getting fit to improve your confidence, having more energy for your family, taking care of your health so you can be around to see your grandchildren grow up, being a positive role model- all great reasons to give.
4: Your schedule
Have you set up your week so that you have time (and energy) to take steps towards becoming healthier? Or is your week so full of commitments, deadlines, and activities scheduled down to the last minute that you don’t have a spare minute?
There are only two strategies to overcome this kind of barrier- find more time, or do less. As there are only 24 hours in a day and you need at least 7-9 hours of sleep (yes, this is non-negotiable in case you were wondering), the only way to create more time is to say no to something you are already doing.
Maybe you can swap time slots- watching 2-3 hours of TV at night, scrolling through social media, doing favours for people, staying late at work to help other people, overcomplicating things that could be simple and investing too much time in them- replace them with planning meals, shopping at the farmers markets for fresh produce, cooking healthy meals you can also freeze for later, walking by the lake etc.
The other option is to do less. Schedule in time blocks- whether this is half an hour or an hour in between commitments- where you don’t have to do anything, those blocks are yours. Any appointments, favours, extra work, extra projects need to fit in around those spaces of nothingness that are there just for you.
You could use these time slots to exercise, meditate, eat a healthy meal slowly, enjoy a cup of green tea in the sunshine, read through new recipes etc. Whatever you need to feel like you are recharging you batteries and taking care of yourself.
You’d be surprised how much more effective you are the rest of the day when you give yourself regular breaks and use them to do things that make you healthier- both physically and mentally.