The Psychology of Weight Loss
Understanding the reasons people eat, understanding why certain bad habits are formed and why they select certain foods can help us better understand and therefore offer better advice to the individual.
Putting a certain individual on a diet (low carb/keto/ high protein) no matter how good you think that diet is won’t make a difference if the diet does not take into account the behaviours of the individual.
Scientists estimate that up to 95% of our daily food decisions happen as a result of habit. The good news is anyone can train themselves to adopt new automatic behaviours around food.
If habit dictates most of our daily food intake how do I change this?
Motivation is what prompts and forces us to do something differently. If we repeat the action enough times, at some point it will become automatic and effortless. It becomes habit. Through repetition, when we repeat the same action in the same situation that action becomes unconscious over time.
For a habit to stick it needs to impart reward in our brain. The reward needs to be immediate and tangible. So when it comes to diet you need to find healthy foods you enjoy eating, if we are talking about exercise it needs to be exercise you enjoy doing. Routines that you enjoy repeating are more likely to stick. Giving someone the most restrictive diet full of foods they don’t enjoy won’t last. And remember we are trying to make this your LIFESTYLE not a crash diet.
Adding more rewards from more good nutrition or seeing results and feeling better will help the change feel more natural, because the decisions are based on values and enjoyment rather than restriction and punishment.
Chronic dieters (people who focus on restriction) fail to maintain results as they focus on restriction, they are forced to consciously ignore normal appetite and hunger cues. This leads to periods of over indulgence and guilt as they run out of will power and fall back into bad habits. Creating a diet which doesn’t force restriction but rather creating healthy habits will lead to better results over time.
Enjoyment of food is essential to long term weight loss.
But what about when im tired or stressed ? I might want to eat something bad.
Stress and exhaustion in our daily lives leads to mindless behaviour this is quite often associated with overeating and guilt. If your eating habits are healthy then even during periods of fatigue and stress your more likely to unconsciously default to positive eating habits rather than self-sabotage as many chronic dieters do. Lack of control doesn’t automatically mean indulgence, it’s the underlying routine that matters. If you go to the gym year round (habit) then even during periods of stress and fatigue you are still more likely to go to the gym to exercise.
Habits don’t require will power or thought. It is why if your habits are healthy you are more likely in times of fatigue and stress to keep to your healthy routine. People who force restriction have not addressed their bad habits and that’s why under times of stress (following a low carb diet for the first time) they are more likely to fall back onto bad habits.
How not to fail
New habits need to feel easy and not feel restrictive
It is best to work on just 2-3 new behaviours at a time and build from those. Too many at once and you may feel restricted and it will be hard to stick to them all.
Start with the easiest ones first. (e.g. drinking a glass of water first thing when you wake up)
On average it takes more than 2 months for new habits to become automatic so implement realistic goals and be patient.