You Will Not Lose Weight Unless You Do This
Weight Loss: Change Your Behavior to Change Your Weight
Developing a plan to obtain weight loss is just like developing any plan for a project that you might undertake at work, at home, at school or on a committee. Weight loss really does require the same type of planning.
You know the old adage, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? And, just like any other plan you may develop, it is crucial that you are heading towards something that is important for you, a “real must”! That will give you the strength to persevere when the ice cream and those chocolate chip cookies are calling you at 10pm on a Thursday night.
The plan you “must” develop is probably going to require you to change. Ah yes, behavior modification. As one great anonymous philosopher once said, “If you continue to think as you have always thought, you will continue to get what you’ve always got!”
Changes are good, as long as they are changes for the better, right? Think positive! Move forward! If it’s weight loss you desire, then it’s weight loss you deserve. Go for it!
Set the Right Goals
Setting the right goals is an important first step. Most people trying for weight loss focus on just that one goal: weight loss. However, the most productive areas to focus on are the dietary and exercise changes that will lead to that long-term weight loss. Successful weight managers are those who select two or three goals at a time that they are willing to take on, that meet the following criteria of useful goals:
Effective goals are:
- Attainable; and
- Forgiving (less than perfect)
“Exercise more” is a commendable ideal, but it’s not specific. “Walk five miles every day” is specific and measurable, but is it attainable if you’re just starting out?” Walk 30 minutes every day” is more attainable, but what happens if you’re held up at work one day and there’s a thunderstorm during your walking time another day? “Walk 30 minutes, five days each week” is specific, attainable, and forgiving. In short, a great goal! Make sure you set yourself up to obtain a healthy weight loss. Failure is not an option!
Nothing Succeeds Like Success
Shaping is a behavioral technique in which you select a series of short-term goals that get closer and closer to the ultimate goal (e.g., an initial reduction of fat intake from 40% of calories to 35% of calories, and later to 30%). It is based on the concept that “nothing succeeds like success.” Shaping uses two important behavioral principles:
1) Consecutive goals that move you ahead in small steps are the best way to reach a distant point; and
2) Consecutive rewards keep the overall effort invigorated.
Reward Success (But Not with Food)
Rewards that you control can be used to encourage attainment of behavioral goals, especially those that have been difficult to reach like weight loss. An effective reward is something that is desirable, timely, and contingent on meeting your goal.
The rewards you administer may be tangible (e.g., a movie or music CD or a payment toward buying a more costly item) or intangible (e.g., an afternoon off from work or just an hour of quiet time away from family). Numerous small rewards, delivered for meeting smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards, requiring a long, difficult effort.
Balance Your (Food) Checkbook
Self-monitoring refers to observing and recording some aspect of your behavior, such as calorie intake, servings of fruits and vegetables, exercise sessions, medication usage, etc., or an outcome of these behaviors, such as weight loss. Self-monitoring of a behavior can be used at times when you’re not sure how you’re doing, and at times when you want the behavior to improve.
Self-monitoring of a behavior usually changes the behavior in the desired direction and can produce “real-time” records for review by you and your health care provider. For example, keeping a record of your exercise can let you and your provider know quickly how you’re doing, and when the record shows that your exercise is increasing, you’ll be encouraged to keep it up.
While you may or may not wish to weigh yourself frequently throughout the weight loss process, regular monitoring of your weight will be essential to help you maintain your lower weight. When keeping a record of your weight, a graph may be more informative than a list of your weights. When weighing you and keeping a weight graph or table, however, remember that one day’s diet and exercise patterns won’t have a measurable effect on your fat weight the next day.
Today’s weight is not a true measure of how well you followed your program yesterday, because your body’s water weight will change much more from day to day than will your fat weight, and water changes are often the result of things that have nothing to do with your weight-management efforts.
Avoid a Chain Reaction
Stimulus (cue) control involves learning what social or environmental cues seem to encourage undesired eating, and then changing those cues. For example, you may learn from reflection or from self-monitoring records that you’re more likely to overeat while watching television, or whenever treats are on display by the office coffee pot, or when around a certain friend.
You might then try to sever the association of eating with the cue (don’t eat while watching television), avoid or eliminate the cue (leave coffee room immediately after pouring coffee), or change the circumstances surrounding the cue (plan to meet with friend in non-food settings). In general, visible and accessible food items are often cues for unplanned eating.
Get the (Fullness) Message
Changing the way you go about eating can make it easier to eat less without feeling deprived. It takes 15 or more minutes for your brain to get the message you’ve been fed. Slowing the rate of eating can allow satiety (fullness) signals to begin to develop by the end of the meal. Eating lots of vegetables can also make you feel fuller. Another trick is to use smaller plates so that moderate portions do not appear meager. Changing your eating schedule, or setting one, can be helpful for weight loss, especially if you tend to skip, or delay, meals and overeat later.
TV, Distraction Can Undermine Weight Loss Attempts
For women who are trying to lose weight, eating a meal while watching an engrossing movie may be a sure way to sabotage a diet, recent study findings suggest. Women who normally control the amount of food they eat tend to consume more calories when they are distracted, researchers report in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study, women described as restrained eaters consumed significantly more calories when they listened to a detective story during lunch, than when they ate alone without any other distractions. Talking on the phone or listening to music are the other distractions that could undermine a dieter’s best intentions. The recommendation of the study’s author for people who wish to control their food intake and maintain or experience weight loss is to avoid distracting stimuli during meals.
So what are you thinking?
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