Social impacts on Body Composition: A real-life example from NYC
2014 is winding to a close and I’ve had the best year of my life. I married my dream girl, had the trip of a lifetime; romancing in Paris and embracing the holy land from a brand new perspective, and celebrated so many big occasions like my sister’s wedding, my sister-in-law’s Bat Mitzvah, and my brother-in-law’s graduation. There were feasts to be had and I enjoyed every second of it quite mindlessly.
My most recent life experience has been packing up my life in Seattle and starting a new one with my wife and dog in New York. I’ve always been keenly aware of my surroundings including the way people look, sound, eat, dress, and live in different places. The New York lifestyle is very different from anywhere else I’ve lived and doesn’t exist anywhere else in the USA. It’s much more European and has an International feel because of the diversity and constant stream of tourists from all corners of the world. I had a revelation over the weekend while walking through Central Park on my way to the grocery store.
I never fully appreciated the external effects on health and body composition. I have reaped the benefits of living in New York over the last month and a half, and currently am at my 8th grade bodyweight. Your surroundings include the people, the lay of the land, and the pace of life. All of these things have a profound impact on body composition. I’ll do my best to explain with real-life examples.
The people you surround yourself with can be both a boon or a burden to your body composition goals. My approach to weight loss, muscle gain, recomposition, whatever has been sustainable and balanced to allow individuals to maintain a social life and their sanity. Losing weight is EASY in a vacuum, as you simply eat fewer calories than you burn. Real-life is not so simple because we have social obligations, parties, vacations, and other fun things that can derail a diet or prevent it from getting off the ground.
My weekends have typically been pretty routine here as I start off by taking my dog on a long walk, head home for a few lazy cups of coffee with my wife, and then walk to brunch. Brunch is a thing here…everybody does it and it usually involves fantastic food and bloody mary’s or mimosas. The difference is that brunch spans several hours but conversation and slowly sipped drinks replace endless food because it’s expensive and not as readily available!
Another big difference that I’ve noticed in the city is the lack of fast food, the higher prices for food, and generally smaller portions. Access to food has created a big obesity problem for our country and has led to so many health initiatives that Michelle Obama’s school lunch program seems like a good idea compared to others.
I went to college in Oklahoma, paid $275 a month for rent, and could drive my car at $2.20 a gallon a mile away to grab McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Cain’s chicken, KFC, Little Caesar’s, or even frozen custard for about $5. The access to certain foods makes it very easy to eat highly caloric and low nutrient meals in certain parts of the country, while in New York it’s really not possible.
The final difference is probably a theme of this article. Everyone walks here! Nobody has a car and the only seated transportation is on a bus or subway that involves walking up and down stairs. I probably take an extra 5,000 steps and burn upwards of 300 extra calories every day just by walking through the park with my dog, going grocery shopping, or just exploring this amazing city.
Selling my car was an incredible release of anxiety as I waved goodbye to traffic, insurance premiums, and expensive gas. An unforeseen benefit was getting to walk everywhere in New York!
How can the three examples be put into action during a body transformation? It’s very important to create an environment that’s conducive for your success.
Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who might have experience with weight loss or muscle gain as they’d be happy to guide you and share their secrets. Think about hiring a coach (*hint hint*)!
Incorporate your diet breaks and cheat meals into your social life. Pick out restaurants that don’t have all-you-can eat chips and salsa, loaves of bread, or bottomless hush puppies.
You don’t have to move away from your fast-food infested hometown, stop hanging out with the guy who eats pizza three times a week, or break up your long-term relationship with fried chicken, but you should be aware that the frequency and easy access can be damaging to a weight loss program.
Exercise is obviously part of any weight loss or body recomposition program. Additionally, it helps to increase your non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). Walk places you usually drive, walk to get your morning coffee, or take the stairs instead of the elevator the 4 flights to your apartment.