It's Not You, It's Your Environment

I write about environment a lot. I think about environment a lot. I believe that it’s the missing link in a lot of the behavior change rhetoric out there. I find that people underemphasize the importance of environment and overemphasize the importance of mind/body approaches (e.g., think this way, do this thing). [Yes, of course, your thinking and your actions matter...but they aren't the complete story].

Let me state this clearly and unequivocally: our environment is obesogenic.

  • Processed foods are specifically manufactured to hit our “bliss point”, the optimal taste profile that overrides our satiety mechanisms and encourages us to keep coming back for more.

  • Grocery stores are stocked with these hyper-palatable, calorie dense and highly processed foods.

  • In most places in the U.S., food is immediately and abundantly available - morning, noon and night.

  • Our environment is replete with obesogens, a class of chemicals that predisposes us to weight gain.

  • Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950; physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of our workforce

  • We have planes, trains and automobiles so we don’t have to walk more than 5 feet on our own if we don’t want to.

Suffice it to say, the deck is not stacked in your favor.

In his book Disease Proof, Dr. Katz says it better than I ever could: “You don’t need to be gluttonous to overeat or lazy to under exercise and gain weight in the modern world. You simply need to live in the modern world, which is why obesity and chronic diseases aren’t the exception. They’re the norm. There is both a place for personal responsibility and public policy in fixing what ails our collective health. While you are waiting for the world to change, it is possible to steer the course of your own and your family’s health in a better direction…”

To that, I say: Stop making things so damn hard on yourself. Don’t accept the cards you were dealt; re-shuffle the deck and stack it in your favor. Engineer your environment to beat the odds.