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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the skills you need to keep the weight off forever!

Habits and Your Weight

Understanding and addressing your eating-related habits are essential for successful weight loss maintenance.

What is a habit?

Habits are essentially actions that are:

– performed frequently and automatically
– learned or acquired, and difficult to stop
– behavioral (external) or mental (internal)
– performed at specific points in time, in response to internal and/or environmental triggers

Examples of internal and external eating triggers:

– environmental cues (particular places or events like vacations or family gatherings)
– physical cravings
– thoughts and feelings (example: anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, disappointment)
– particular relationships or interpersonal interactions

For many people, unconscious (or mindless) eating is a habit established over time. Mindfulness is a skill that can be developed. Mindfulness means the ability to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and actions – in the present moment – without judging or criticizing yourself or your experience.

We overeat because of Mindlessness:

– Mindlessness of our habits and of the environmental triggers of eating
– Mindlessness of the movements or mechanics of eating
– Mindlessness of sensations of fullness
– Mindlessness of emotional eating

Changing habits for Successful Weight Loss Maintenance

– Habit awareness – writing a description of a habit (like buying a high-calorie breakfast from the office vending machine every morning), along with its consequences, advantages and disadvantages – helps us become more mindful of our habits.

– Develop competing responses – one of the most important steps in changing habits is to specify an alternative behavior that you will engage in when you have the urge to engage in the habit, or when you anticipate being in an environment which triggers the unhealthy habit (example: holding a glass of water at a party, instead of indulging in high-calorie appetizers)

– Develop new, healthy habits for high-risk situations (example: taking a relaxing bubble bath when stressed at the end of the day, instead of reaching for an alcoholic beverage or a piece of cake)

– Develop mindfulness practices – these can include:

a. Avoidance of any activity other than eating, while eating
b. Becoming more aware of the appearance, aromas, tastes and textures of foods
c. Eating with your non-dominant hand
d. Doing a relaxation exercise, like deep breathing, before eating

In order to change an entrenched habit, you may need to address it one small piece at a time. So if unhealthy eating is a habit, start slowly by changing one small part of it. In addition, it’s best to decide what you’re going to do, instead of focusing on what you’re not going to do. For example, if you decide to try giving up your mid-afternoon pick-me-up candy bar, think about what you’re going to eat (or do) instead, to give your energy a boost. Some examples might be: drink a glass of water (we often misinterpret thirst as hunger); stretch; take a break; take a walk; eat a piece of fruit…

Please comment on this post by sharing your habit-change strategies.

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, bot coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” – Mark Twain
“You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life’.” – Wayne Dyer

With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.