Does Our Environment Create Our Behaviors?
Is it the junk food itself in your house that causes you to eat it or is it you that causes you to eat the junk food? Does your coach cause you to eat healthier by holding you "accountable" or is it the new feeling of motivation of finally believing that you can reach your goal causing you to eat healthier? Does our environment really cause us to behave in certain ways?
Environments can trigger behaviors, but they cannot cause behaviors.
Take the scenario of a person walking into their house after a long day at work. There is a bowl of M & M's on the counter. The person walks over to the bowl, grabs a handful and downs them in two seconds.
Now, most of us would reach for the M & M's because we believe that we lack the "will power" to resist and are physically exhausted from being on our feet all day. So, in trying to find a solution to this negative habit, we then seek advice from a health professional... or the internet. The professional or blogger advises us to clean our house's of all M & M's and junk food so that we won't have to rely on our will power during that time... sending the message:
Environments cause behaviors. Change the environment and you will change the behavior.
The only problem with this is that it really isn't the environment that causes you to change your behavior. Think about it. Picture me in the room with you when you got home from work and as you were reaching for the M & M's I screamed out "Wait! There's cyanide on those M & M's! Don't eat them!" you would most likely put them down quickly and look at me like I'm an idiot. The action of you putting the M & M's back down into the bowl and not into your mouth was caused by your thought "I gotta put these back so that I don't die from cyanide" and not from the M & M's them self.
The M & M's didn't change in either scenario, but your thinking did.
In the first scenario you were running on auto-pilot. You see the M & M's when you walk in the house and you think (consciously or unconsciously) "I'm too tired to cook right now, I need something to eat right now." You then pick up and eat the M & M's. In the second scenario your thinking changed due to you believing that the M & M's were covered in cyanide.
The M & M's and the environment were the exact same in both cases, the only difference was your thinking in each situation.
Your thinking causes your behavior. Not the environment.
This may sound over-analytical, but this really is the key to breaking any negative habit that isn't serving you in your health and fitness.
Now, am i advocating that you don't get rid of the junk food in your house? Absolutely not. What I am saying though is that the mainstream idea that it is the environment that causes behavior change is false. Environments can trigger behaviors but they cannot cause them unless you unconsciously let them. I tell all of my clients that as soon as you take full responsibility for your behaviors then you can change your environment. Otherwise you will forever be a slave to your environment and you will keep repeating the same habit that is getting you the same results.