Here’s the thing. There are THOUSANDS of diet plans and workout programs guaranteeing weight loss success. I’m talkin, like, high thousands, too. How crazy is that?! I swear to you, every time I turn around, there’s another new fad. Gag.
With all of these diets supposedly showing you how to lose weight, how are people gaining it right back when they stop the diet? One word. Habit.
The Problem With Diet Plans
So here’s the problem with diet plans. Although they are GREAT at getting people to eat healthier foods, or to practice portion control, they forget one little thing. How to create good habits, and get rid of those pesky bad ones lingering.
Diets that have their own food are the worst culprits, I think, because they’re not actually teaching you anything. All you do is follow their provided meals and just focus on that, not learning how to cook your own things, do healthy swaps, OR letting you have the yummy dessert but only maybe a portion of what you normally would.
Why Habits Matter In Weight Loss Success
Here’s the deal-yo; habits matter. And they probably matter more than you think. While I was studying for my nutrition specialty, I learned about the habit loop. Suuuuper interesting, because I had no idea!
One quote that has always stuck with me from my lecturer is:
“Habit beats intention, every time”
Let that go ahead and sink in there for a minute. Habit beats intention. Here’s what it means. No matter how good your intentions are to start a new weight loss plan, or to eat healthy, or start working out, if you have a habit of NOT doing it, you’re NOT GOING TO. You aren’t going to magically *poof* and do everything 100% consistently.
You’re gonna fail. And you’re gonna fail more than once. But that’s OKAY. There are ways to get your habits (and mindset) back on track to finding some new ones, and ditching those nasty lil’ ones. Here’s how.
The Habit Loop Breakdown
The habit loop is comprised of three stages: cue, routine, and reward. How do these three stages relate to weight loss? Well let me tell you. Let’s break down each one.
The cue is pretty much your trigger that makes you do something out of habit. This can be broken down into a couple different types of cues; time, location, emotion, a preceding event, and other people.
- Time: Time is just what it means, you do the same thing at a certain time during the day. This could be anything from getting up when your alarm clock goes off, to eating a chocolate dessert every night after dinner.
- Location: Location is kind of a funny one, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. For this cue, it’s where you do the same thing because you’re at a certain location. Now here’s the funny part. Have you ever noticed that when, say you start a new class, everyone sits in the same exact spots as the first day, even when there’s no seating chart? Or when you go to the grocery store, you park in roughly the same part of the parking lot?? Habit.
- Emotion: Another cue is your emotional state. Do you do something habitually when you get super excited? Do you scream for joy, thrust your hands in the air, or do a happy dance? What about if you’re angry? What about when you’re sad. This one can play a MAJOR part in weight loss.
- Event: The easiest way to explain this one, is something happens and you react out of habit. For example, when your phone dings that you get a text message, normally you’d immediately pick up your phone and check the message.
- Other People: You probably could’ve called this one. You can develop habits based on the people that you’re around. For example, do you go off the deep end when you go out with friends? Order nachos when you’ve been eating salad all week? Social situations can make contribute bad habits pretty quickly, if you let them. Make sure to surround yourself to people who support your goals!
Before we dig into the rest of the cycle, I want to point out something. I can almost guarantee, that you react from an emotional state, to eating something you shouldn’t. Most of the time, it’s when you’re sad and you eat ice cream, or chocolate, or whatever other goodies you want.
Emotional eating, people. It’s crazy how much this has to do with weight gain. Do you eat out of boredom? Probably, if you’re not paying attention.
After the cue, is the routine, or action, as I like to put it. When you experience your trigger, what do you do automatically-without thinking? What is the habit that you’re trying to change?
Finally, you have the reward. The reward is what you get to satisfy your craving and tells your brain that your routine is something that’s good to keep going. Think of it like positive reinforcement to continue the habit.
Now, let’s put all of this information into how to put all of this into helping with weight loss.
How to Lose Weight Successfully With The Habit Loop
So, here is the fun part. We’re going to do a little experimenting. The whole process is to help you uncover why you really established the bad habits you’re looking to change. I’ll do examples as we go as well, so that you can kind of get the jist. Let’s get started!
1. Decide What Your Routine Is
So I know this kind of seems out of order from what you literally just read about, but I promise there’s a reason. You need to know what habit, or routine, you’re wanting to change.
For example, for losing weight, and for this post, let’s run with wanting to get rid of the habit of eating dessert after dinner every night. Boom. Awesome. Let’s figure out how to break the cycle.
2. Experiment with Rewards
Again, I know this seems out of order but it’s fiiiiine. This part is going to be the longest, and most eye opening part of figuring out your habit. What you need to do here, is pure experimentation.
You are going to see what rewards satisfy your craving. Or, in other words, we’re going to see what you actually crave after your routine. How you’re going to be able to figure this out, is to change your routine just a titch to get a different reward.
Let’s roll with this using our example above. So let’s say it’s after dinner. Well, instead of getting the dessert, maybe go for a walk around the block, come back home and don’t eat anything. The next day, maybe instead of doing some sort of activity, eat some fruit, or something sweet. The day after that, maybe try eating something sweet and going for a walk. You get the idea. Experiment, experiment, experiment!
The whole reason this is the most important part is because you’re figuring out what the actual craving is for your routine. Did you forget about the chocolate after you went for a walk? Maybe not, maybe you still thought about it. Okay, day two. When you ate your fruit (or other healthy sweetness), did you still want the dessert? Maybe no. If you didn’t think about the chocolate, maybe you just need something sweet to satisfy your taste buds because dinner didn’t. Or are you still hungry? Does someone else around you instigate eating dessert?
I recommend writing down your experiments and reactions to help you figure it out.
3. Identify the Cue
Last step of the cycle here. Now that we’ve been through different experiments, we’ve come up with some answers.
- The routine is eating dessert every night
- When you changed up the routine with the reward of eating fruit, or something sweet, you didn’t miss the dessert
Here’s how to isolate the cue. Remember those examples waaaaay at the top? Those are the ones that will help us figure out the exact cue. Just so you don’t have to scroll up again, here they are: time, location, emotion, event, other people.
What you’re going to do now, is write down the answers to these cues once the dessert eating urge happens. And you’re going to do it until you see a trend. So it would look something like this:
Time: what time is it?
Location: where are you?
Emotion: how are you feeling emotionally?
Event: what was the preceding event?
Other people: are there other people there with you?
Writing all of this down will for sure help you figure out what you’re really craving. Maybe you don’t need anything sweet at all, maybe you just do it because of the people you’re with.
After reading and studying this, it’s crazy how off you can be about what you’re really craving! If you put in the work, you can definitely break those bad habits stalling any weight loss. Also, if you’re looking for more information or material, here you go! (Also, his book is super interesting!) Now, what’s your excuse?
Tell me, what did you find out about your bad habits?? Was the craving actually what you thought?
Until next time!