The Secret to Losing Weight

(excerpt from my self-improvement book Redefine Yourself: The Simple Guide to Happiness)

If you want change to stick, it needs to become a habit. Especially when it comes to weight loss.

Habits are highly ingrained, learned behaviors. They are your subconscious' autopilot reaction. In a Duke University study, researchers found that 40% of our daily actions are habits. Your brain loves to multitask and will do everything in its power to build an association (consciously or otherwise). It wants to run on autopilot so that it can do the million other things it needs to do.

More times than not, your subconscious puts your keys in the same place and help you drive your proverbial car in the constant rush of your life. Habits are essentially the underlying force of your routines and take very little effort to carryout. They maintain the order in your life!

What if they are destructive, though? What if you recognize these bad habits and try to change them, but repeatedly fail? What if you want to lose weight but still grab a snack before bed like you normally do?

I wish we could just start a new routine and call it quits on the bad habit. Since the brain depends on repeated occurrences—or the value of the routines and rewards—a process must take place before this change occurs. The brain needs to know that a new habit is equally or more important.

A habit is a mental sequence that must be triggered to start. The brain must recognize a cue—an environmental signal for action based on repeated occurrences. It doesn’t want to waste its time on routines that won’t lead to rewards. It builds an association between a cue and helps develop a routine in hopes of a predictable reward.

If carried out repeatedly, the strength of a bad habit is probably too powerful to be extinguished quickly. You may figure out the cue to this habit and still succumb to the same destructive habit. It takes practice and your brain must be taught a new connection between the cue, the routine, and the reward. The mind doesn’t want to lose its prized reward, and it will keep leading you back to what it knows best —your habit!

How do you change something so ingrained that it happens subconsciously, and that will try to undermine your individual efforts to alter it?

The answer lies in the cue and reward. Most people try to erase the whole formula and completely remove themselves from the habit (and not just the bad routine).

Unfortunately, the reward and cue are too ingrained in us to simply extinguish instantly. Even if we try to escape it, there may always be something in our environment that triggers our routine. After all, we want our reward!

In the book The Power of Habit, the author Charles Duhigg wonderfully illustrates our need to trick ourselves into new habits. Remember metacognition? We need to think about our thinking to keep ourselves in check. When we change our habits, we must become the Wizard of OZ and unnoticeably make minor modifications behind our unconscious “back."

We need to insert a new routine, keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward.

For example:

You lose your focus at work every day at 3 p.m. You usually have stared at your computer screen for the last two hours and the words are starting to look like alphabet soup.

At that point, you get up and walk to the office kitchen where you indulge in the morning’s leftover donuts (even though you’re not hungry). You’ve done this for two years, and now you’re ten pounds heavier. In the wake of New Year’s Eve, you are ready to shake off the weight. Despite your best efforts, your 3 p.m. walk to the kitchen doesn’t change.

In this example, you need to break down the formula for your donut-to-mouth habit:

3 p.m. + Go to the kitchen and grab the donut that will make you overweight = Break from work

(Cue) + (Routine) = (Reward)

Take notice that the real reward is the break from work, not stuffing yourself because you’re hungry (since you just ate lunch two hours ago).

In our example, we need to change the routine of going to the kitchen as our first step. You can decide to work through your 3 p.m. break, but you and I both know that you would stare at the clock for an hour thinking about that donut.

Keep your break. Instead of eating, though, visit a colleague and discuss the latest episode of your favorite show or that football game. Sit in another part of the office and read a magazine. Do whatever you want—besides eating—to give yourself the real reward: a break from your tedious work.

Repeat this sequence until you don’t notice anymore. At first, it will be a fight with your subconscious to go the kitchen. You must resist. Remind yourself that you’re not hungry and that you just want a break. Find something else to do.

Although the results may vary, don’t be discouraged. Your self-talk will override your old, bad habits eventually. As you unravel these habits, you will create new ones by introducing new approaches to life.

Reflection Section: Answer these questions to begin your journey!

1.) Awareness: Describe a habit you want to change. How does this habit affect you? What are the benefits of changing this habit? What are the obstacles to changing this habit?

2.) Acceptance: Can you accept that you’re not perfect and that it will take time, effort, and patience to change this habit?

3.) Adaptation: How will you change the present routine to achieve your goal? Break down your habit into the following parts (use the donut example as a reference).

· Cue:

· Routine:

· Reward:

******Check out my new self-improvement book Redefine Yourself: The Simple Guide to Happiness on Amazon!!!!!!

Article Credit:
The Secret to Losing Weight
Habits and their connection to your weight loss.
Self Improvement book by author and personal trainer in Chicago, Michael Moody

Self Improvement book by author and personal trainer in Chicago, Michael Moody