Some psychology basics
OK I’m no therapist so get off of my couch! But I do almost have a master’s degree in psychology so here are some basics of human behavior. In psychology, punishment and reward are key for your behavior change. If you are doing something that you hate, it feels like a punishment to you. Continuing to do it will be something you dread and eventually stop doing because you dislike it so much. In order to make a change, you need to reinforce your behavior by either rewarding yourself or making the behavior a pleasant experience so that you will want to keep doing it.
Find your bliss! Learning to love exercise
In order for your weight loss plan to work, you need to find what works for you.
“How do I find out what will work for me for weight loss?” you’re asking. Know yourself is the answer! Do you like green beans? If not, then eating them for 3 weeks to lose 10 lbs will never work for you. Do you like running? If not, then strapping on your running shoes is the furthest thing from your mind.
A self-survey for best weight loss practices
Get out some paper and a pen (or your nearest electronic device notepad) and take a moment to answer the following questions.
Of all the exercise activities you have tried in your life, what did you like most?
Which exercise did you like least?
What were your favorite and least favorite PE activities in school?
Do you like any sports?
What music gets you energized?
How long have you stuck with your previous attempts to lose weight?
How much time do you honestly have to commit to exercise in a day?
What type of environment do you most enjoy being in?
Would you like being with a workout partner or do you prefer to be alone?
Do you like sweating?
Do you like consistency or variety?
I could keep going, but you get the point.
Now use that information to build your own reward system for your workout program. Make your exercise regimen a rewarding experience with your favorite music, favorite activities, favorite friend, favorite environment, the appropriate amount of time for you, etc., etc. For me this was listening to Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter,” being alone, doing activity that doesn’t involve a lot of sweating or pounding of my joints, doing it for maybe 30-45 minutes so I don’t lose interest, keeping a variety of activities in my workout routine and working out at home so it’s convenient.
You can apply this technique to your diet too but it is more difficult since food is by nature a reward for us. A better technique for food is to not deny your cravings and give in to them. Just a little. For me, I love bread. If I had to follow a diet that said I could never have bread, I know at the start that I’m going to fail. I’ll crave it and binge on Olive Garden breadsticks one day and hate myself. But if I tell myself that I can have 2 breadsticks as long as I stick to one bowl of soup and endless salad AND workout that day, then I can feel satisfied by having eaten what I crave and not having overdone it.
Making these kinds of “bargains” with yourself with “if then” rules are also helpful. For example, “If I finish this 45 minute workout, I can have 2 Dove dark chocolate squares.” I’ll have more on diet psychological techniques in future posts, including a visualization tip to help prevent setbacks and pitfalls around the holidays and workplace potlucks. Thank you for reading and good luck to you in your quest for a healthier you. Here’s hoping you’ll soon be able to write your own weight loss success story for women just like yourself!