Yet again, I caught myself being so deeply immersed in fitness that sometimes it’s making it difficult for me to understand people who are not in the same place as I am. Today, while listening to a podcast, it suddenly dawned on me – I found an answer, well, at least one of several, to the question of why many people cannot achieve solid fitness results. Inspired by what I heard, I decided to discuss the topic of the impact of the environment on the effects of diet and training.
Successful and sustainable body transformation is not a seasonal fad. Getting in shape is not about a few weeks of questionable diet and irregular, thoughtless workouts. It requires developing the right habits and then constantly reinforcing them.
This, in turn, means the necessity of abandoning old habits, and the older a person gets, the harder it is for them to do so. On top of that, being part of a social group exerts a more or less obvious influence on an individual.
All of this makes me begin to understand how the environment can affect the results of diet and training. Many people find it difficult to even start, and then persevere long enough in their resolutions because they are stuck in an environment unfavorable to such endeavors.
At the same time, I’d like to emphasize that this discussion does not attempt to shift the responsibility for fitness results onto external factors. Ultimately, if you don’t have any physical health impediments, nothing is stopping you from doing what it takes to generate results and achieve a solid physique.
I have written about the influence of the family home on obesity before, and this post is somewhat of a step back aimed at capturing a broader perspective, gaining a better understanding of something that constitutes a significant reason for the lack of diet and training results.
As I mentioned before, we all belong to certain groups, social contexts, modern tribes that have their established patterns of behavior, which to some extent define their members. Belonging to a group offers several advantages, but at the same time, it limits the individuality of the person.
Attempts to go beyond the accepted norms of the group, to stand out, may not be well-received, and there may be direct attempts to introduce order, to bring the individual back to a common denominator.
As a result, it may turn out that the members of the group to which you belong are not interested in the challenges of the fitness journey, even if they are aware of its purpose and would like to enjoy its fruits.
In such a situation, a person who wants to make a change may become the subject of jokes or silly comments and, as a result, prioritize their membership and position within the group over a positive change in their life.
Being hungover the whole weekend together will be “easier” than resisting, staying at home, eating sensibly, and getting up early for a workout. Overcoming social habits is very challenging, but it is one of the first significant steps towards achieving concrete results in diet and training.
Identity, expectations, and feedback
Another concept related to group membership and society in a broader sense, which is part of the environmental influence on diet and training results, is identity.
No matter what you think of yourself or how you perceive yourself, that image doesn’t fully align with how you are seen from the outside. In the minds of other people, you have some label, assigned tags, categorized hashtags. You are placed in a certain box, assigned some more or less precise category.
We all do this, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us in a way to understand the external world and helps us structure it. It’s a bit like an extension of the primitive categorization of elements in the environment into safe / dangerous, edible / non-edible, which helped our ancestors survive.
Now, how does this relate to fitness?
Making changes in life is difficult. Not just for ourselves, but as we change, we disrupt a certain order and image, a kind of worldview homeostasis functioning in the minds of others. When you stop being who you were, you force people in your environment to reassess their views, including their own position in relation to you.
Some may not want to see how you are changing because it creates a new situation for them as well. Perhaps it compels them to ask themselves uncomfortable questions.
And this is a somewhat neutral option. There are people who may actively, though sometimes subconsciously, not want to see the success of others. If you are getting in shape, and they are not, what does that say about them?
The attempts you make to change for the better will, therefore, generate some feedback, which can turn out to be positive (support and cheering) or may not be favorable (Why are you doing this? You’re going to the gym again? You won’t eat pizza?!), leading you to question your own decisions and wonder what others will say or how they will react to your next move.
Such thinking is, of course, unfavorable for you. I see how a strong attachment to your old identity and paying attention to others’ opinions can disrupt your dietary and training efforts.
How to counteract the influence of the environment on fitness results?
Alright, we’ve already established that our social circle, how we are perceived, what we think of ourselves, and how we react to feedback generated by the changes we make can negatively impact our fitness success.
So, what can be done to counteract the potentially negative effects of these mechanisms?
First and foremost, breaking certain social patterns, although difficult and necessary, does not mean burning bridges. Therefore, there is no need to be afraid of it.
However, eventually, there comes a moment when you have to make a decision, set certain boundaries, and prioritize. Either you feel comfortable in the existing power structure and don’t want to change anything, or something is gnawing at you, and you take slightly more “drastic” steps. At some point, your interest must prevail.
This could mean refusing to join a group outing, brushing off a snide comment, not caring about the fact that “you’re changing / you’re not the same as before.”
The key to achieving solid fitness results is defining your long-term training goals and answering the question: why?
Why do I want to change, why do I want to do this, why is it important to me?
If you understand the value of your actions, it will be much easier for you to stick to your resolutions and achieve your objectives.
The problem of the influence of the environment on diet and training results connects the extremely significant issue for me, which is identity, with the social factor, the fact that none of us is ultimately a completely solitary island and is susceptible to external stimuli.
However, in reality, the definition of the environment in the context of this post can even be expanded to the natural world.
If we talk about physique, how many northern bodybuilders do you know? If the weather in your part of the world means that you can’t spend a significant part of the year outdoors in tank tops, then physique training loses some of its purpose. It’s no coincidence that many top fitness influencers come from or move to California or travel to Dubai (the latter being related to other reasons as well, though).
But getting back to the heart of the matter and the main topics discussed in the post…
I have often questioned certain aspects of my own fitness journey. I wondered what people in my closest circle would think if I did X or Y. How they would react to Z. I wondered if I was losing anything by choosing fitness instead of more conventional and familiar behavior in a given situation.
At the end of the day, it’s just part of the game. Ultimately, if sensible nutrition, physical activity, and everything that comes with it are important to you, you can’t afford to let the environment influence your diet and training results. You can do better.
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