I never realized how important having a controlled environment was for weight loss until I moved to Vermont back in 2006 after graduating from college. Up until that point in my life I had lived in fairly unhealthy environments for me, not because I was surrounded by unhealthy people but because I didn’t have the willpower to control myself around the food being brought into our home. Whether it was homemade cookies my mom had made, pizza ordered by my college roommates, or my weekly Project Runway date with Ben & Jerry, I allowed foods that I struggled with to surround me.
When I moved to Vermont in 2006 I was at my highest adult weight and was incredibly unhappy. Although I had grocery shopped for myself for years, this was the first time in my life where I thought twice about what I was buying. A huge light bulb moment for me was the first time I finished a jar of peanut butter by myself. Although I had eaten it over the course of a week or two, I realized that I was the only person to have eaten it. Whether I finished the jar in 5 days or 15 days, that food and those calories had been consumed by ME, and only me.
After that point I started to think twice about what I was buying, what I was eating, and how long it took me to eat things. How quickly did I go through that bag of cheese? How many servings of ice cream did I get out of that carton of ice cream? I realized for the first time that I had the power to control my environment and that very control helped me to lose weight! I chose what I ate, when I ate it, and how much I ate. All three were key to my weight loss.
Over the next couple of years I did a great job of controlling my environment, both when I lived with roommates and when I lived by myself. I maintained my 50+ pound weight loss and started to get into the best shape of my life. It wasn’t until I started dating Neal in 2009 that I was faced with my next challenge. Although Neal and I didn’t live together until we got married in 2012 it was the first time in years where another person’s food choices and eating schedule affected my own diet.
Now Neal is not an extremely unhealthy person by any means, but we were (and still are) extremely different in our eating habits. Neal has the ability to buy a bag of Reese’s Pieces and to eat them for 5 weeks. On the other hand, I would think about the candy day in and day out until they were gone. There were many times when I’d think to myself, “How the heck has he not finished those cookies he bought a month ago?” Our differences frustrated me and I started to allow them to affect my weight because I didn’t have the control Neal had.
You see, Neal may not eat the healthiest foods but he has really healthy habits. He is a textbook intuitive eater and does not allow food to control him. This was difficult for me because I figured, “Well, he’s eating it and he’s skinny so I’m sure I’ll be fine,” but the reality was that I couldn’t eat like Neal and have the unhealthy habits I had. I couldn’t allow my environment to become Neal’s environment, it just wasn’t going to work for me.
Over the years, I’ve had to find a way to control my environment in order to either lose weight or maintain my weight without controlling how Neal eats. Neal and I have found a healthy balance and we’ve both compromised in many ways. A perfect example can be found in the chips Neal buys for his lunches. Instead of buying large bags of chips we spend a little bit more money and buy individual bags of chips. Instead of there being a large open bag of chips to tempt me, Neal has his chips in the basement pantry away from me. I have also had to learn to have self-control and to not be tempted by foods that Neal enjoys.
This has worked really well for us these past few years, but I still struggle with controlling my environment when I have friends or family in town. Wanna eat out? Sure. Cheese and crackers for dinner? Why not? I still have a really hard time controlling my cravings and unhealthy habits when faced with social events or peer pressure, but I hope to gain more self-control in time. With lots of out-of-town guests visiting this fall to meet our daughter, I know it’ll be extremely important for me to set a standard and to control my environment as much as possible, because if not, I know I’ll feel unhealthy and discouraged.
Ultimately, the key is to be aware of what you struggle with and not be scared to keep those foods or habits out of your house. Create a healthy environment for yourself! Trust me, it’s a major key to weight loss.
What do you think about the importance of controlling your environment in order to lose weight? Let me know your thoughts on the Coffee Cake and Cardio facebook page!