Today we will be focussing on the meso and macro levels of The Environmental Model.
Our health is partly determined by the environment in which we live, at least to the extent that the environment plays a role in influencing the choices we make in our daily lives. To explain this, I have developed a theoretical model that assumes that our behaviour is (roughly speaking) influenced on three different environmental levels ranging from the lowest (micro) level which is your immediate personal context, through medium (meso) scale factors such as your wider social network or friendship group to the highest (macro) level which is the larger society in which you live (Figure 1).
Meso environment: a shared responsibility
While the micro environment is almost entirely your personal responsibility, there is some good news in the fact that it hugely impacts the meso environment, because there is a fair amount
of overlap. The meso environment usually includes a social component - family members, friends and colleagues who all affect your behaviour. Your children will tell you to keep buying
that box of biscuits and your colleagues may not feel like going for a walk during lunch break so, despite your inclination or good resolution, you also remain at your desk. When it comes
to alcohol consumption, the meso environment typically has a strong (usually negative) influence.
Clients often tell me that they try to drink less, but that their environment (meso) simply
makes it impossible. They come up with a number of different explanations. “People really don’t like it when I don’t drink” is the one I hear most often. I’ve also heard “I often have business
meetings and it’s really not done to be the only one not drinking” or “I sometimes intend not to drink when we go out for dinner with friends but, as soon as the waiter takes the drinks order
and it’s my turn to say what I’ll have, I give in and order a beer or a glass of wine.”
“People really don’t like it when I don’t drink” is the one I hear most often.
People like to come up with reasons to drink (“It’s almost the weekend”, “I’ve been working really hard”, etc.), mostly to justify their drinking to themselves. The result is that
the intention not to drink soon becomes “I’ll just have one drink”, and usually ends up at multiple drinks. It is mostly peer pressure that sweeps us along, making choices that, with
hindsight, we wish we had not made. This middle level of your social environment is a lot harder to change on your own. But the meso environment doesn’t only bring doom and gloom. After all, there are not only shared influences, there is also the sharing of responsibility, which can be a positive thing in your life.
I have a lot of support these days from my friend Marciano with whom I start my day. Every day we do a proper morning
workout session starting somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. The reason why I choose to start my day with some exercise
is that I know myself quite well. I know that I will not do it in the evening because by then I will be tired after a day of working (for what it’s worth, I also regard parenting days as hard work) and I want to spend time relaxing with my family. By exercising in the morning before my workday begins, I can tick off an important element in my effort to stay vital - every day of the week. If I manage to fit in a session on the weekend, that’s a bonus. My meso environment helps me a lot in this
way. Every morning, Marciano and I start slowly with a cup of coffee at the gym and then we move on to an hour or two of
training, depending on the shape of my working day.
Another personal example comes from the time I worked at the university. I used to take a short break with four colleagues every day at 3 p.m. We used to walk from the fifth floor, where
we had our office, all the way to the basement of the building. Sometimes we did some pull-ups under the open staircase, or L-seats (a balancing exercise in which you lean on your arms
and keep your legs stretched out in front of you) on the stair railing. This break was a brief moment which interrupted a long day of sitting. Besides the physical activity, it was also a
social moment which meant a lot to all of us. Writing about it makes me smile - I think I still have some pictures of us somewhere - but it was a good, life-enhancing routine. In fact,
all aspects of health came together in that break because, a little less than 10 minutes later, we would climb the stairs again to the department kitchen where we would enjoy a delicious
homemade snack. Every day someone brought something in; we usually made a flavoursome smoothie or shake or we had some yoghurt with fruit. Other colleagues thought we were
crazy, but the ritual persisted, thanks to the group. I did it until my very last day at the university and I can only commend the sense of shared responsibility which made it happen.
Richard Wollenheim: “A good environment is not a luxury, it is a necessity”
It is difficult to get a grip on this last environmental level. The greater, societal context in which we live is, as it were, arranged for us rather than by us or with us, and it is often arranged with
a whole range of conveniences designed into it. For instance, it is not rare to see that an elevator or escalator is more accessible than a staircase in public buildings or office blocks. Consider as well the numerous places you can get food nowadays, without
even mentioning the food you can order on your cell phone straight from the couch. The macro environment is very diverse and includes the built environment, the neighbourhood
in which you live, the limited availability of parks, recreational areas and outdoor gyms and, even more fundamentally, the kind of roads that discourage walking, forcing us to use cars
or public transport instead. It includes the presence of snack bars and supermarkets - and even the layout of these. These are factors over which you, as an individual, have little or no
control. The responsibility for adapting the environment to human needs rests with local government but it’s true to say that living in a pleasant, stimulating environment makes the pursuit of good health a lot easier, or to quote the philosopher
Richard Wollenheim: “A good environment is not a luxury, it is a necessity” .
Dr. Ludidi (PhD) is a nutrition scientist, and bestselling author of ‘The Dr Ludidi Method of Intermittent Fasting’., who motivates and inspires people to understand their bodies and how great food can positively change their lives. He is a top nutritionist, who works with elite athletes, artists, performers and business executives from all over the world, in his special Private+ Coaching Program. Dr. Ludidi offers help via nutrition programming and lifestyle coaching for sports performance, general health & wellbeing and more.
"Because science shouldn’t be just for the scientists."