Change Your Environment to Lose Weight

Our environment significantly influences our behaviours, often without us even realising it.

When it comes to health and weight loss, restructuring your environment can make a substantial difference in your ability to adopt and maintain healthier habits.

Environmental restructuring involves modifying your physical and social surroundings to support your goals and make healthier choices easier and more automatic.

In this guide, we explore the concept of environmental restructuring, its benefits, practical strategies for implementing it, and tips to sustain these changes over time.

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What is environmental restructuring?

Environmental restructuring is the process of changing your surroundings to promote your desired behaviours and reduce temptations or barriers that hinder those behaviours. This approach leverages the principle that our environment plays a critical role in shaping our actions. By creating an environment that supports your health goals, you can make it easier to stick to healthier habits and achieve long-term success.

Why change your environment

Environmental restructuring is essential for several reasons:

  • Ease of access. By making healthy choices more accessible and convenient, you reduce the effort required to maintain these behaviours.
  • Reduced temptation. Modifying your environment can help minimise exposure to temptations and triggers that lead to unhealthy behaviours.
  • Automatic habits. An environment designed to support your goals can help automate healthy habits, making them more consistent and less reliant on willpower.
  • Enhanced motivation. A supportive environment can boost your motivation and make it easier to stay committed to your goals.

How to change your environment

Assess your current environment

Start by evaluating your current environment to identify areas that may be hindering your progress. Consider both your physical space and your social surroundings.

  • Physical space. Look at your home, workplace, and any other areas where you spend significant time. Identify elements that support or undermine your health goals.
  • Social surroundings. Assess the influence of the people around you. Consider how their behaviours and attitudes impact your own habits.

Set clear goals

Define specific goals for what you want to achieve through environmental restructuring. Having clear objectives will guide your changes and help you stay focused.

Example: “I want to increase my daily vegetable intake by having more fresh produce readily available in my kitchen.”

Make healthy choices easy

Modify your environment to make healthy choices more accessible and convenient. This could involve simple changes like rearranging your kitchen or more significant adjustments like creating a home gym.

Example: Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter and store unhealthy snacks out of sight in a pantry.

Reduce exposure to temptations

Identify and minimise exposure to temptations that lead to unhealthy behaviours. This could mean avoiding certain aisles in the grocery store or limiting the amount of junk food you keep at home.

Example: Avoid buying sugary snacks and instead stock up on healthier alternatives like nuts, seeds, and fruits. If they’re not in the house, you can’t eat them.

Create cues for healthy habits

Use visual and situational cues to remind yourself of your health goals and prompt desired behaviours. These cues can serve as powerful triggers for positive actions.

Example: Place your workout clothes and shoes in a visible spot to remind you to exercise in the morning.

Join a supportive social environment

Surround yourself with people who support and encourage your health goals. Engage in activities with like-minded people and seek out social settings that promote healthy behaviours.

Example: Join a fitness class or a healthy cooking group to connect with others who share similar goals.

Practical strategies to change your environment

Kitchen and dining area

  • Organise your pantry. Arrange healthy foods at eye level and keep less healthy options out of immediate sight. Consider using clear containers to store healthy snacks.
  • Prep healthy meals. Spend some time each week preparing healthy meals and snacks. Having these ready to eat options makes it easier to choose nutritious foods.
  • Use smaller plates. Using smaller plates and bowls can help control portion sizes and prevent overeating.

Living spaces

  • Declutter common areas. Create a clean and organised living space that reduces stress and promotes relaxation. A clutter-free environment can also make it easier to find and use healthy items.
  • Set up a relaxation zone. Designate a quiet area for relaxation and mindfulness practices. This space can be used for activities like meditation, reading, or stretching.

Workplace

  • Healthy desk setup. Keep healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and water at your desk to avoid unhealthy temptations. Use a standing desk or take regular breaks to move around.
  • Ergonomic adjustments. Ensure your workspace is ergonomically designed to prevent discomfort and encourage good posture.

Exercise spaces

  • Home gym. Create a dedicated space for exercise at home. Equip it with essential items like a yoga mat, resistance bands, and dumbbells.
  • Visual reminders. Place motivational quotes or fitness goals in your exercise area to keep you inspired.

Social environment

  • Supportive relationships. Build and maintain relationships with people who support your health goals. Share your journey with friends and family and ask for their encouragement.
  • Healthy social activities. Plan social activities that align with your health goals, such as hiking, cooking healthy meals together, or attending fitness classes.

Tips for sustaining environmental changes

  • Start small. Begin with small, manageable changes and gradually expand. This approach makes it easier to adapt and maintain new habits.
  • Regularly review. Periodically assess your environment to ensure it continues to support your goals. Make adjustments as needed to address new challenges or changes in your objectives.
  • Stay flexible. Be open to adjusting your environment as your needs and goals evolve. Flexibility allows you to adapt to new circumstances and maintain long-term success.

Common challenges and how to solve them

While environmental restructuring can be highly effective, it may also present challenges. Here are some common obstacles and how to overcome them:

  1. Challenge: Limited space
    • Solution: Maximise the use of available space by being creative with storage and organisation. Use multi-functional furniture and vertical storage solutions to create more room.
  2. Challenge: Resistance from others
    • Solution: Communicate your goals and the importance of these changes to those you live with. Seek their support and find compromises that work for everyone.
  3. Challenge: Initial costs
    • Solution: Start with budget-friendly changes and gradually invest in more significant adjustments as needed. Look for second-hand equipment or DIY solutions to save money.
  4. Challenge: Maintaining changes
    • Solution: Establish routines and habits that make it easier to maintain environmental changes. Set reminders and regularly review your environment to ensure it continues to support your goals.

Final thoughts

Environmental restructuring is a powerful strategy for promoting healthier behaviours and achieving long-term success in your health and weight loss journey.

By modifying your physical and social surroundings to support your goals, you can make it easier to make healthier choices.

Start with small changes, be consistent, and regularly review your environment to ensure it continues to support your objectives.

With the right approach, environmental restructuring can help you stay on track, overcome challenges, and achieve lasting success. Begin transforming your environment today and take the first step towards a healthier, happier you.

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