Why Habits Matter

Habits & Weight Loss

One of the most important factors to consider when you’re trying to lose weight is your habits. They decide whether or not you will succeed, but they’re very sneaky. What makes a habit a habit is a fact that it happens on autopilot: which means that they’re hard to notice at the moment. How often do you think about getting on your phone? Most likely not often.  You see habits follow this process:

Habit Cycle

It usually begins with a trigger. In the phone example, most people’s trigger is boredom. Following that, you will have the desire or craving to get on your phone. You then follow that up with the behavior/action of pulling up your phone. Finally, the reward is that your brain releases dopamine from phone activity. There have been several studies done to prove that activities on your phone release dopamine. Once you reach the reward stage that behavior is reinforced. This makes the next cycle more automatic.

When you have problems with your diet it’s the exact same! I’m sure you know some stressed or bored eaters. They are following this cycle. If you are struggling with dieting odds are you are too. Luckily you can fix this! Here is how to combat each phase.

Trigger Phase:

You will have to begin with the first step: awareness. When keeping a food log you should also track what happened that day. For instance, ask yourself: “I messed up at dinner what happened earlier that day?” When you identify what your trigger is you can start to work around it.

Desire Phase:

When you notice you have the desire to eat something delay the action. You could: go on a 15-minute walk, work on a hobby, or anything else that could distract you.  Even if it’s 15-minutes by delaying the action you will be able to take control of the cycle.

Action Phase:

Finally, the best way to combat the action you have two routes to go: make the solution easier, or the action harder. If you’re a snacker you could make the solution, eating healthy, easier by keeping healthy snacks in your pantry. Conversely, make the snacking action harder by hiding it in hard to get places, or keep them out of the house.

Reward Phase:

In this phase, it is not a good idea to punish yourself for bad behavior. It’s been shown that punishment is not a good deterrent. Instead, when you do an action you want to encourage give yourself a reward. DO NOT USE FOOD AS THE REWARD. Our society has raised us to use food as a reward, but if you are trying to succeed with weight loss you should almost never do this. It will create a brand new loop giving you the same problems. Instead, you have to reward yourself with something you enjoy but won’t make the problem worse.

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