Meme Day Friday! Today’s takeaway: Environment is everything.

I really do not want to pile on. The Broncos are a great team. But this was simply awesome.
I really do not want to pile on. The Broncos are a great team. But this meme was simply too awesome not to share.

First things first. Is this not the single best Seahawks meme that came out of the Super Bowl? I really, really do not want to pile on. I consider Peyton Manning to be one of the great sports stories – and possibly the greatest comeback sports story – of our generation. He’s astonishing. But as Russell Wilson said to Doug Baldwin late Sunday night in the Seahawks locker room at MetLife Stadium, after all of the flash bulbs and parachute journalists had gone home: “That s— wasn’t even close.” Yup.

Okay. Back to business.

Environment is everything.

Quick – look around right now. Are you in a space that is clean, well-organized, and just screams “healthy”? Is your gym bag packed and ready to go for today’s scheduled workout? (Even better – is it full of the sweaty gear you already used today because you already got your workout in?)

Or, are you at a work desk with piles of all kinds of stuff around, feeling disheveled and distracted?

(Don’t worry too much if you’re behind  Door Number  Two – I am too right now, because I’m on a book deadline and today’s workout will come out kicking and screaming after I’ve completed my work goals for the day. It’s just one of those days.)

Environment is everything when it comes to living a health-centered lifestyle. It’s just absolutely everything. You must make it easy and convenient to do the things that promote health. That means things like packing your gym bag the night before, making your meals in advance if you know you’re going to be in a rush, planning healthy meals, and doing everything you can to make it as easy as possible to make healthy choices.

And imagine how you'll feel five years from today if you start right now. Awesome. That's how you'll feel.
And imagine how you’ll feel five years from today if you start right now. Awesome. That’s how you’ll feel.

That’s what Meme  Day Friday is all about. It’s a chance for me to share an image, a thought, or a mantra that moves me to create that healthy environment as often as I possibly can. Here’s the one I picked for today: “A year from now, you will wish you had started today.”

I collect these things all the time. For 2014 I bought a calendar with running photos and great inspirational phrases. (February’s quote:  “No matter how slow you’re going, you’re still lapping everybody on the couch.”) I’ve written another favorite on my office white board: “It’s the start that stops most people.” I love this stuff.

Creating a healthy, positive environment is essential for basically everything. When I was a hospital emergency room volunteer I was appalled at the appearance of the room – every emergency room has one – where they bring someone who passes away, either en route to the ER or once they are there, for their families to identify. It was dank and dark and whoa – I just knew when I was 22 years old that there was something really wrong about that environment. Having lost a parent early – my father succumbed to complications from heart disease when I was a teenager – I just felt so strongly that a room like that needs to look like, well, the room where my grandmother passed away in hospice care: light, beautiful, peaceful.

Workplaces are another environment where I sometimes have to just say “Huh?” when I look at how tone-deaf employers can be when it comes to creating environments that breed success. The Winter Olympics begin today. I’ve covered four Olympic Games for different employers. One of those employers – there is no other way to say this – employed screamers for managers. You got yelled at no matter what you did. One day I got yelled at for doing something exactly the way the manager had asked me to do it. Just because that was the culture. The manager had changed his mind about what he wanted between the time he asked me to do it, and the time I completed the work, two hours later. By the end of that Olympics, I was physically sick. How do you function healthfully in an environment like that? Oh, one more detail about that workplace. They made junk food readily available, for free, all the time. Stress plus long hours plus inadequate sleep plus junk food. What a way to run a workplace, right?

Environment is everything. A clean, organized living or work space.  A fruit bowl instead of a candy bowl at the front desk. Dark chocolate for dessert instead of  milk chocolate. (We just graduated to 85% cacao  at our household. Delicious and healthy, and a half-ounce is plenty – which is a miracle for this former milk-chocolate addict who could never stop at one.) The commitment to working out every 48 hours, no matter what, for someone (ahem, me) who even at a healthy weight made excuses when work was busy busy. Getting rid of the junk food in the house (not just putting it on a back shelf), reading labels and not bringing a thing into the house with artificial flavors, colors, or fats (that includes trans fats – the “partially hydrogenated” oils you find in some baked goods, tortillas, and even, seriously? – Ghirardelli chocolates). All of this leads to a healthy environment.

And posting those positive images and memes around my office, and remembering them when things get stressful. I have a book deadline in a week, and I will eat healthy meals today and get my workout in. You can count on it.

By the way: about that meme I chose. In two weeks, I will celebrate my five-year anniversary of walking into a Weight Watchers meeting and finally copping to the fact that I couldn’t handle my weight issues myself, and I needed help. What would life be like today if I hadn’t made that choice, and committed to sticking with it? I can’t even imagine. Healthier than ever, happily married, writing for major publications and book publishers, speaking on corporate wellness issues, and still working in sports journalism – for employers who respect me, treat me well, and support my work. I may not be better at life than Richard Sherman (yet), but those five years have sure helped me get a little closer. And on we go.

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