I’m a die-hard environmentalist and proud of it.
Now, before you think I’ve gone all commie-pinko-tree-hugger on you, take a step back. See, the environmentalism I’m talking about isn’t about carbon footprints or green-collar jobs or whether there should be tax credits for buying hybrid and all-electric vehicles. The environmentalism I’m talking about is about setting myself up for health success, specifically in the area of weight loss.
All too often, I hear people talk about how hard it is to lose weight and how much work it is and how expensive it is to eat well. While I will grant that controlling my diet isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever had to do, over the past few years I have figured out a few keys to success, the most important of which is managing my environment as much as I can. In the hopes I can help some of you who are pursuing health improvement this new year, I thought I’d share what this looks like in my world.
Get the Junk Out Of The House: In my house, there are very few snacks that aren’t healthy available, and those that are are hidden away. On the rare occasions that there are crackers or chips in my home, they live in the pantry. Ice cream lives in a corner of the freezer that’s so hidden I often forget about it.
Prioritize Meal Planning and Prep: To many people this sounds like MORE work, but in my experience proper meal planning and preparation saves me time, money, and also helps my waistline. Since I live alone, I find cooking every day to be overkill, but while I am a bit of a foodie and enjoy great restaurants, I don’t want to dine out every day. A few years back, I decided that my objective was to make sure that I can grab dinner at home on a weeknight faster than I can go through a drive-through, and I’ve done it. I’ve accomplished this by planning my menu, grocery shopping, and preparing food on the weekend so that all I have to do is grab something out of the fridge and quickly reheat it if necessary. Most everything I make is something that tastes better a couple of days after it’s originally made – such as lasagna, chili, or a lovely crock-pot roast. From time to time, I will make a few meals to put in the freezer so that if a weekend is particularly busy, all I have to do is grab something and cram it in the oven for about an hour or so in order to make 6-8 portions of healthy deliciousness available to me for lunches and dinners during the week.
Eliminate Unnecessary Decisions: One of my objectives in addressing my food environment was to support making the right choices as easily as possible at all times. Because I actually enjoy eating healthy foods, the most important area for me to attack has been portion size. I figured out some time ago that if I put all my food into appropriate individual portions at the time I prepare it, I only have to make decisions about portion size once per week rather than several times per day. Every weekend, my fridge looks organized and ready to support my nutrition goals, and when I look at it on Sunday nights I feel set up for success. This one practice has been absolutely key to me losing 62 pounds so far.
Have Veggies Every Time You Eat: This is a nugget of advice I got from coach Amanda Stites while she was running a body transformation challenge at the box this fall. I failed miserably at the challenge because I was in excuse-making mode for most of the 12 weeks, but I read this idea in a nutrition packet she sent to us and decided to try it. The fiber in the veggies makes me feel full longer, and this practice has led me to change the proportions of fruit and veggies I eat. Previously, I ate more fruit than veggies and as such consumed more calories and sugar. I can’t say I eat veggies every single time I eat, but I’m definitely doing more, and have rediscovered salads. I’ve dropped 12 pounds since starting this so I’d say it’s helping.
Find Supportive People: This is probably the 2nd most important factor in my success, after eliminating unnecessary decisions. Throughout my years of working on my health and weight loss, this has taken different forms. The first 18 months or so, I belonged to Weight Watchers and got a lot of my support via meetings. After my Weight Watchers center moved, I started relying more on my friends at the gym for cheerleading and advice. Today, my support system takes a couple of forms. I have two good friends at work, Kristi and Shelby, who are also very health conscious. I have lunch with Shelby almost every day and Kristi somewhat less often. We typically eat a healthy lunch from home in the office 3-4 days a week, and go out for pretty healthy lunch the other 1-2 days. In the beginning, our lunches out sometimes would include things like Five Guys, which I love, but when I decided to buckle down more we switched that out for Houlihans, which has some fantastic healthy lunch options like a small filet with spaghetti squash and asparagus, or we’d go to Wendy’s which has some very reasonable salads. I also get (and give) a lot of support via facebook by reporting on my endeavors and progress. And in a more recent addition, I’ve been hanging out some lately with fellow CrossFitter Mr. Pullup (who recently told me I could call him Kip) who eats Paleo most of the time and therefore is highly supportive of my desire to eat primarily dead animals and dead plants as opposed to junk.
Like anyone else, I’ve had my ups and downs with my efforts to improve my health for good. I’ve lost weight, gained some back, and then had to refocus and try it again. But the one thing that consistently helps keep me on track is staying in tune to my environment.
If you are trying to lose pounds or get leaner, you know that diet is the majority of the battle. So please – consider becoming an environmentalist like me. You’ll be glad you did.