Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Steps For Weight Loss

Steps For Weight Loss by Cathy Wilson

You have to finish an important project in two hours, so you head to the vending machine for a high-calorie treat. You're stuck in traffic with an important meeting merely minutes away, and you start biting your nails. You know you should get to bed and get some sleep, but you can't seem to pull yourself away from the television. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If so, you are in the throes of stress relieving bad habits.

Habits are reoccurring, probably unconscious patterns of behavior. Everyone has habits. Positive habits provide structure, stability, and security. Good habits include healthy eating, exercising, journaling, or talking with a friend can relieve stress. Negative habits can be self-destructive, and have a negative pull on our self-esteem and self-worth. Bad habits often include stress eating to calm or alleviate stress

Unfortunately bad habits serve a purpose in our lives. They are unhealthy coping strategies that have an immediate payoff. The short-term payoff includes alleviation of stress, calm our nerves, and provide a distraction or escape from a bothersome situation or feelings. The long-term impacts are weight gain, unattractive nails, and fatigue. When the long-term impacts interfere with your life, you need to change your habit. You need to find healthy coping strategies that provide the short-term payoff you need.

Your awareness and desire to change a life interrupting habit can be immediate. You make the decision that you are tired of a certain habit or behavior and you are committed to its replacement. Alternatively, you may have the desire to change a bad habit and need a step-by-step plan. If either of these happen to you, it's time to move forward with your habit replacement.

Step 1: Name it! Define the habit. Before you can make any change, you must identify for yourself the reason for the habit. What is the payoff to you with the habit? Bad habits usually serve a hidden purpose we don't recognize. They can serve as a buffer for uncomfortable emotions or even calm anxiety.

Step 2: Commit! Make a full commitment to changing this habit. Arm yourself with inspiration to sustain motivation. Motivation has levels. Prepare for those days when motivation is low and you're tempted to resort back to the bad habit. Whatever motivates and inspires you, make a fall-back plan to use those tools when you need a jolt of extra motivation in breaking the bad habit.

Step 3: Set short-term and long-term goals. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to lose 50 pounds? Break your goal of losing 50 pounds into small increments that are reasonable to accomplish. You don't want to become overwhelmed. You aren't going to lose 50 pounds in a mere two months.

Step 4: Identify and eliminate your triggers. Does a particular food post a problem for you? When you hit the door from work, do you ahead straight for the kitchen to reach for that comfort food to calm you from your day? If so, don't have that trigger food in your house. Have healthy snack alternatives readily available for you. Alternatively, grab the family and take a walk to connect after you come home. When quitting a bad habit, set up your surroundings to support you.

Step 5: Get support. Ask for support from your family and friends that are important to you. Changing a bad habit is more successful if you have a support system in place. If you want to lose weight, a very effective means of support is to hire a weight loss coach. A weight loss coach can provide support and customize a program to assist you in changing your habits to support your goals.

Step 6: If you give up a bad habit that has provided you with a payoff, you need to replace it with a positive one. A good habit, like eating differently to lose weight, exercising or using relaxation techniques, can help you manage stress in a healthy way. If you want to cut back on eating late at night, replace it with a hobby such as word puzzles or counted cross-stitching to busy your hands. Replacing a bad habit with a new, positive habit is important to maximize your success. Before you know it, the bad habit will no longer appeal to you and the positive habit will be second nature and natural.

Step 7: Give yourself rewards. When you achieve a weight loss of 5 pounds, reward yourself. For 10 pounds, buy a magazine subscription that will support your new habit. For a larger weight loss of 20 pounds, reward yourself with a new outfit or pair of smaller jeans. You definitely deserve one as you keep to your goals and replacing a bad habit with a new, positive one. Remember to have your reward reflect your goal. For losing weight, reward yourself with non-food rewards.

Step 8: Accept plateaus. Recognize that plateaus are part of the process. Motivation is high as you start to change a habit. When a plateau occurs and nothing seems to happen. You might even want to return to the payoffs provided by the bad habit. However, plateaus are our way of adjusting and becoming accustomed to the new, positive habit. Your process will continue steadily with possible plateaus of adjustment. During a plateau, you can become discouraged and want to quit because you're not making the progress you want. If you expect this as a part of the transition, you'll be prepared to stay with your goal.

Step 9: Give credit to yourself for your decision to change a bad habit. Be kind to yourself. Having a bad habit isn't a judgment about you as a person. It means that you've created a bad habit that isn't working for you any longer. It is reflective that you're now aware of your desire to have a better, more fulfilled life and happier by relacing the bad habit. Acknowledge your own personal growth.

Bad habits such as compulsive overeating have payoffs. Recognize how a bad habit limits your life. Follow these steps to ditch a bad habit and step up to habits that allow you to reach your weight loss and maintain your weight loss goal.

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