Translator: Maurício Kakuei Tanaka
Reviewer: Adam Fitzgerald
My little brother
was very good at a few things
from a very young age.
The first thing he was really good at
was making everybody laugh without trying.
Like the one time I told him
he should have a little bit
of protein after a workout.
He got all excited
because he thought I said “poutine.”
The second thing he was good at
was eating large quantities of food.
Come dinner time,
it wasn’t uncommon for him to outeat
most of the adults at the table.
Now, as you may have guessed,
as a five-foot-nothing little boy,
there is, in fact, a downside
to regularly outeating full-grown men.
At just 11 years old, I could already see
that, if nothing else changed,
my little brother was headed
for an adolescent life
littered with teasing
and unhealthy eating.
As his older brother,
I wanted to do something about it.
As a nutrition, or kinesiology student,
with an intense interest in nutrition,
I knew that I had to do
something about it.
Initially, I wasn’t sure how,
but I was determined to find a way.
Now, in March of 2013,
I broke my leg while I was
walking to class,
and I slipped on some ice.
Yes, that is the whole story.
I was walking, there was some ice.
Poof, broken leg.
No lives saved.
No purses returned.
No cool story to tell.
Little did I know as I lay there
in that quickly melting puddle of ice,
waiting for the ambulance to arrive,
that this moment would forever
change the life of my little brother.
After I had a surgery
to attach a small titanium plate
and a few screws onto my fibula,
I was given two crutches,
and told not to put any weight
on my leg for two months.
This posed a unique problem,
as there was still plenty
of snow and ice on the ground.
And I still had two months left of class,
spread out over one of the largest
campuses in the country.
So, with that in mind,
I made a decision
that any hard-working student
in my position would do.
And I obviously decided
to stop going to classes.
Now, with all this free time
from studying at home,
I had finally figured out
how I was going to help my little brother.
I knew that what he needed to do
was very simple in theory,
but very difficult in practice.
What he needed to do
was change his eating habits.
I knew the things that he needed
to change, and the things that he didn’t.
The problem was that communicating
this through somebody else
would most likely just end up
like the childhood game of telephone.
The message gets passed along,
but with little misunderstandings
and misinterpretations along the way.
There’s not much left
of the original message,
and everybody’s just left confused.
And my little brother’s eating habits
are left unchanged.
So, keeping that in mind, I made
one of the best decisions of my life,
and I decided to move back home
for the next two weeks,
and make every single meal
that my little brother would eat,
educating him about proper
nutrition along the way.
While I was at home,
in the kitchen, I often found myself
awkwardly trying to maneuver
holding on to two crutches,
hot pans, and sharp knives.
It wasn’t very easy.
I also had to make sure to take
little breaks every few minutes
to make sure that the swelling in my ankle
wouldn’t become unbearable.
Now, after just two weeks,
not only were the results phenomenal,
but they were as a result of a strategy
that anybody can use.
The reason we were able to see
such dramatic and positive results,
which I’m very excited
to share with you later,
is that we changed his environment
to match his goal.
We made his environment work for him,
instead of against him.
This simply meant replacing
all of the bad options with healthy ones.
Making this uncomplicated adjustment
enabled us to easily
transform his nutrition,
from the standard American diet,
ironically referred to
from its acronym SAD,
to wholesome and nutritious
without a hitch.
Because of the planning this
wasn’t the least bit difficult to do.
When you remove the unhealthy options,
wholesome and nutritious food
becomes both plan A, and plan B.
The beauty of this solution
is that it takes willpower
almost completely out of the equation.
Quite simply, if it’s not there,
you can’t eat it.
An added bonus to this strategy
is if there’s no chips
on the counter calling your name,
it’s likely that you’ll just
forget about them,
and completely avoid the feeling
of deprivation all at once.
Little bit of a brain block.
This may sound a little bit
too simple to be true,
but I assure you it’s not.
When you remove the barriers
to your success —
in my little brother’s case,
unhealthy food —
and you replace, or you pave
the way, barrier-free,
the road to success
becomes a much smoother ride.
So set up your environment
so that it works for you,
instead of against you.
This works well for any goal.
For my little brother,
I was the environment.
I made all of his food,
gave him the right snacks,
and answered all of his questions.
But what would that have
looked like if I wasn’t there,
and how can you make this work for you?
Well, to be successful,
you have to minimize
the difficult decisions being made.
Say, for example, you walk into the lobby,
and, on the left of those tables,
is delicious chocolate chip cookies,
squares, and everything you like.
On the right side,
is fresh fruit and vegetables,
vibrant colors, chopped up nicely,
they’re crunchy and juicy.
You’ve been sitting in here
for two hours, so you’re starving,
you have a choice to make.
Should you choose option A on the left,
or should you choose the wholesome
nutritious broccoli on the right?
Given this scenario,
I think it would be very hard
for most of us
to resist the temptation of option A.
This is a real-life situation,
and it’s one that happens all the time.
It’s very important,
because of that reason.
So when you remove
the barriers to your success,
it will just become a little bit easier
for you to not have to make
that hard decision
in the first place.
Here’s how you can make
this strategy work for yourself.
Start off by finding out
what your personal trigger foods are,
and make a promise to not keep them
in your house anymore.
So that when the time comes,
the decision has already
been made for you.
Now, that’s not to say you can never
have these foods again.
If you really want one, you can always
just go to the store, and buy one,
or you can keep it
so that you’re only having them
at special events, such as this.
Just don’t keep a stash
underneath the cupboard
if you know that they’re going
to be an issue for you.
That’s how you make your environment
work for you, instead of against you.
That’s how you make healthy eating
the default, and not the exception.
So if you have a personal goal
of eating better,
go home, find all of your junk food,
and a neighbor that you’re
not particularly fond of,
and give it all to them.
The basis of this strategy worked
for my little 11-year-old brother,
and it can certainly work for you too.
Let me just finish off
by sharing the final results
of my little brother’s lifestyle change.
Let me also just point out,
that I had one main rule
that I wanted to follow
with the change.
At no point,
did I want my 11-year-old brother
to feel hungry, or deprived.
Here’s how that worked out.
After the first seven days,
he had lost five pounds.
After the second week,
it was eight pounds.
But it didn’t just stop there.
I went back to write exams,
and he kept going.
After 20 days, it was ten pounds,
and, by 36 days,
he had averaged half a pound a day
to top it off at 18 pounds lost.
[Make your environment work FOR YOU]
If everybody had their environment
working for them, instead of against them,
my little brother’s level of success
would be the norm.
My hope is that one day it will be.