Environment Design

Published on Oct 18, 2019 in Personal


Last week I visited my mum in Italy and, once again, I ate far more than was necessary. My girlfriend and I are now at a point where we need to prepare psychologically when we visit my family, like going to war or something like that.

Visiting my mum has also become a regular reminder that designing the environment is infinitely more effective than will power when it comes to habits. When I’m at home I eat fairly healthily 95% of the time with no struggle. When I visit her, this percentage goes down to probably 20%. However, I’m exactly the same person so what gives?

My mum’s house is designed to make you fat. Food is literally everywhere and of every type. She has two fridges, cupboards full of snacks, chocolate and home baked bread, focaccia and pizza. It’s incredibly hard to resist temptations. I once read in James Clear’s book “Atomic habits” that the problem with will power is that every time you exercise it you have a little bit less for the next time until you eventually run out of it and give in.

The contrast with my house is stark: we only buy healthy, whole food that we cook at home. There are always healthy snacks, like nuts, ready to be eaten if I get hungry and when I have sweet-crisis I eat a little piece of dark (at least 75%) chocolate.

Sometimes we look for the complicate answer when a simple one could do. When it comes to habits I've learned the simple answers usually works best. Design a better environment. Change will happen naturally.

This reminds me of another quote from Atomic Habits:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Remember this next time you choose what to buy at the supermarket.


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