Environ “mental” Cleanup: It’s an Inside Job…What It Really Takes to Lose Weight

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What is Environmental Cleanup?

Environmental cleanup is a way to reduce your reliance on self-control by removing the source of the temptation.

Often, we have temptations all around us that make our behaviors and habits harder to break. We may also have “triggers” that subconsciously encourage us to pursue and act out certain habits.

This approach will help you to become more mindful of the behaviors and decisions involved in the habit that you arebreaking.


According to the American Psychological Association, willpower has several pseudonyms:

· Determination

· Drive

· Resolve

· Self-discipline

· Self-control

So, What Is It?

Willpower is an ability to:

· Delay our gratification

· Resist short-term temptations while we strive towards long-term goals

· Override unwanted thoughts, feelings and impulses

· Respond rationally rather than react emotionally

· Regulate our behavior

Willpower is under the control of various areas of our prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that is responsible for decision making.

During situations that require controlled and rational thought, this is the portion of our brain that lights up.

Willpower is finite. It has not been designed to be with us as a constant resource. This is why we may feel unable to control ourselves at the end of a particularly stressful day.

Being finite, it can be depleted in numerous ways.

Several studies have shown that suppressing emotion, resisting temptations, normal everyday use of self-control (basically decision making), lack of sleep and stress are a few of the factors involved in diminishing our ability to control our impulses.

Questions to Ponder

· Who can be a part of my support system?

· What are my greatest temptations? Food, alcohol, social media, etc.?

· When am I most vulnerable to poor decision making? Am I tired, lonely, bored, emotional?

· Why…as in, what is my reason for making this change?

· How can I be more efficient in my use of willpower?

What Can We Do to Improve Our Chances of Success?

There are steps that can be implemented in order to help to you use your willpower more effectively.

First, determine what is that needs to be changed and set a goal. Remember that your goal should be:

  • Specific (Laser focus…what EXACTLY is your goal?)
  • Measurable (How will you know?)
  • Achievable (Can you attain it?)
  • Relevant (How does this fit into the big picture? Is this realistic?)
  • Time bound (Determine a REALISTIC time frame.)


Name ONE health related goal that you want to accomplish this year?

What is the significance of this goal? Be specific.

Environmental Cleanup Activity

Take an honest (and written) inventory of your environments. Often, we are unaware of things in our lives that may be detrimental to our health. Below are some common areas that people tend to have issues with. Check anything that you have noticed in your environment.


• Eating while watching TV

• Eating while cooking

• Counter snacks


• Desk

• Co-workers

• Office Parties

• Office Kitchen Sharing

• Co-workers Desks

• Eating Out

*Home Office

This particular area has similarities to a typical office, but the lack of physical social interaction can produce loneliness. Feeling of loneliness are a known trigger for emotional eating.

• Desk

• Loneliness

• Boredom

• Home Kitchen


• Kid’s Activities

• Driving Route

• Eating Out

• Friend’s Homes

Other (list)

How will you alter or cleanup your environment to achieve the goal that you have identified?

Who can help you with accountability?

Record, in a journal, the “triggers” in these places or situations that correspond with your behavior.

Make a plan. Write down your plan to deal with these triggers and temptations. Make sure to remove the culprit whenever possible.

If removal is not feasible, record something that you can do when challenged.

Be patient and remember that change takes time.

Additional Strategies

  • Meditation
  • Visualize your day (even in blocks)
  • Implement deep breathing exercise to lower stress and anxiety
  • Develop viable and healthy coping skills
  • Get the right amount and type of sleep
  • Learn to relax
  • Increase your exercise…like walking
  • Consume foods that support a healthy stress response

Char Aukland is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, Certified Nutrition Coach and former Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

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