Weight Control by Behavior Modification

Jan 20, 2012

The first and most important step in beginning any weight-control program is to see your doctor.  If your doctor says it is all right, then you may start.

You must "really want" to lose weight in order to be successful.

You must accept the fact that there is no shortcut to successful weight control.  Fad diets are dangerous; they do not change lifetime eating habits so the weight will come right back on.  Diet is a poor way to think of weight control because the word denotes a short term activity.

You should lose no more than an average of one or two pounds a week.  After all, you didn't gain it that fast to begin with.

You must establish a healthy way of eating that will help keep the pounds off - i.e. you must change from your old way of eating and learn new ways of eating to stay with the rest of your life.  It could be just a change in how much you eat.

You may just need to change your snacking habits.  Keep in mind that it takes 3500 calories to gain or loose a pound of fat. 

Behavior modification can help you control your eating habits.  This involves taking a close look into your behavior and finding the trouble spots and then learning to change those trouble spots. 

Good or bad eating habits follow a pattern and you must know your own pattern and understand why it was developed in the first place.  Start by keeping a diary for at least a week.  Eat as you usually do and record EVERYTHING you eat.  Write down what you ate, how much, the time, where you were, who was with you and your feelings or mood at that moment.  When the week is over, get someone to go over your diary with you and help spot your problem times and foods. 

Now you can decide how you can deal with problem areas.  Some behavior techniques that may help:

  • Eat only at the table
  • Don't do anything else while eating, such as watching TV or reading.  Separate eating from other activities.
  • If you think you are hungry between meals, drink water and wait 5 minutes before you eat.  You may decide you weren't hungry, or take a ten minute brisk walk.
  • Train yourself to take small bites and concentrate on chewing slowly.  Put your fork down between bites, and count to 15 before you pick it up again.
  • Don't let yourself  be pressured into eating just to be sociable - refuse politely.

Exercise is as important as cutting down on food.  Keep an activity diary.

  • Walk short distances instead of riding
  • Walk upstairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator.
  • Develop a regular exercise program to burn extra calories.  Exercise firms muscles and keeps the cardiovascular system healthier, relieves tension, depression and depresses appetite.
  • Try to exercise 30 minutes a day.  The bigger we are, the more energy is expended.  Exercise by brisk walking, jogging, bike riding, dancing, tennis.  (180-300 calories expended = 3500 calories burned in 12-20 days = 1 pound of weight loss.)
  • Eating less calories and increasing activity to burn more calories will make weight loss faster than just cutting down on food or just exercising.

Reward yourself for your achievements.  Make short-term goals.  Cut down on TV watching as it can act as a trigger when you watch food ads.

One of the most important things to remember is don't be hard on yourself if you go on an eating binge.  Just be careful the next few days.

It takes time to establish new habits.  The change will be gradual, but if you are persistent, you'll find yourself following the new pattern without even thinking about it.

Live one day at a time and be proud of each accomplishment.  Be sure you are doing things that you enjoy doing.  Learn new activities that are interesting and challenging to you.  Remember, you are being good to yourself.  After all, you deserve to be a healthy, happy person.

Information provided by the Chaves Co. Cooperative Extension Office, Roswell, NM