To be healthy, you must become an architect

No, I don’t mean that you need to go to university and get a degree in architecture and start drawing buildings – what I mean is that you need to design things so that they only work the way you want them to.

Let me explain. In Canada and most countries, the $1 coin is in use and there are no issues with it. We all use them, they are cheaper to make than paper bills, they last longer, they remain in circulation longer, they work in vending machines, etc. The United States has failed at introducing the $1 coin since 1971 in spite of several attempts and millions spent on marketing, etc. Why? They never changed the architecture. In Canada we stopped making the $1 bills. We created an architecture that permitted the $1 coin to be used and the bills went away. Simple.

People are creatures of habit. If people always do something a certain way and you introduce a new way but leave the old way intact, very few people will change. The new way has to be much better, easier and faster, or it is ignored.

This is true of health and fitness. If your habit is to eat low quality fast food and you have no healthy food in your home then your architecture is unhealthy. If you go out and buy some healthy food and put it in your fridge and cupboards beside the usual tasty but empty foods, you will fail. The old habits will win and you will eat what you have always eaten. Now, if you get rid of all the low quality food and stock your home with only healthy food – you will change. You won’t have a choice.

That is why it is so hard to stay on track this time of year – I have said if before, but let me repeat it – environment is stronger than willpower. If you go to work and someone fills the staff room with your favourite Christmas goodies – it is very likely that you will indulge. So how can you change that particular architecture? Don’t go in the staff room. Bring healthy food with you. Establish a bet with someone like promising to only have Christmas treats one or two days a week. Break your promise and you have to donate $2,000 to charity (write the cheque, but don’t put a date on it, leave it with your friend or a co-worker). Now you have an architecture in place that is stronger than your willpower.

Goodies brought to your home as a gift or leftover from a party? Have some then take the leftovers freeze them, throw them out, or give them away. Out of the house, out of your mouth, off your hips. Simple. You cannot eat what you do not have in front of you.

Boot camps, personal trainers, workout buddies, and classes are all architecture. If you pay for a three-day a week boot camp where your trainer expects you and calls you if you don’t show up, then you have accountability and a place to be where you will work out and get fit – because that is all the architecture is set up to do. It works because it is simple and designed that when you get to the class or the gym – your architecture is clear: work out. This is why most people fail to work out at home. There are too many other options like TV, e-mail, kids, food, ironing, bills, yard work, laundry, phone, etc.

When I train for a big race my coach sets out my weekly training plans in advance, and all I have to do is follow it. It prevents me from training to my mood or energy levels or convenience. I do what needs to be done because it is spelled out for me.

So what could you create architecture to achieve in your life?

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.

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