Weight Loss and Cognitive Awareness Techniques
When it comes to health and weight loss, there is an old expression that says “you are what you eat,” however current psychological research indicates that it may be more of “you are what you think.”
Part of taking a “holistic” approach to health and wellness means understanding what it means to treat the “whole person.” That means we need to develop scientifically sound methods not only involving diet, exercise, and physiology — but also for behavior modification.
The use of cognitive behavioral therapies that encourage self-monitoring, self-motivation and awareness practices such as more “mindful eating,” can and do make a big difference in the success or failure of a diet program.
Ask a dozen people what has been their greatest challenges or disappointments with diet or weight loss programs, and they will probably say, “Keeping the weight off.”
That is because most such programs only focus on the physical changes needed for quick weight loss. Keeping the weight off and living a healthier lifestyle for the long term, involves significant behavior modification.
Such behavioral changes can be hard, but not impossible. Psychologists employ something known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, to help with many problems that can benefit from behavioral changes.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy focuses on changing how you think about yourself, about the world around you, and how you react to it. CBT also focuses on making changes and sticking to them.
Adopting the strategies and techniques of CBT can be a powerful tool for successful and long term weight loss.
Behavioral Strategies that can Improve Weight Loss
- Goal Setting – One of the keys to a more “cognitive” approach to weight loss is understanding how to set specific and realistic goals. A CBT style goal is not “I want to lose weight,” or even “I want to lose 20 pounds.” Cognitive goals, are measurable and trackable, such as “I want to eat fruit instead of ice cream or cake for dessert.”
- Now, you have a specific goal that you can track in a journal each time you make that behavioral change.
- Self-Monitoring – Another cornerstone of CBT is self-monitoring. Basically, self-monitoring is you taking charge of observing and recording the target behaviors that will help you attain your goals.
- These can be detailed journals of caloric intake, exercises done, miles walked, etc. New technologies such as the Fitbit and various other apps and devices, have taken the concept of self-monitoring to a whole new level.
- Feedback and Reinforcement – While self-monitoring is great, long term behavioral changes can best be accomplished with additional positive reinforcement from outside sources. This is not only where the value of a lifestyle coach comes into play.
- Friends, and relatives can also provide the feedback to help keep you on track. Facebook, and other Social Media apps can prove invaluable in building a community of supporters!
- Incentives – Similar to positive feedback, actual “incentives” have been proven to help motivate people to make the kinds of long term behavioral changes that can help them get in shape and stay in shape.
- Examples of such incentives are: companies that provide free gym memberships to employees who lose weight, or weight loss programs that offer gift cards, even cash incentives for reaching targeted goals.
- Meditation and Mindfulness – Mindfulness comes from Eastern practices that make you more aware of yourself, your body, and the world around you. In recent years mindfulness has become increasingly a part of western fitness and weight loss practices.
- For example, mindful eating. You probably have heard of the “Mind-Body connection.” There is a growing body of evidence for a “mind gut connection.”
- Harvard University researchers have suggested that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with many of the problems associated with overeating, especially those related to stress and making more healthy food choices. When specifically applied to eating, mindfulness means taki
ng notice, and using all of your senses when eating. Take the time to explore and enjoy the color, smell, flavor, and even the texture of your food.
- In mindful eating you need to savor every bite, chew more slowly, and eliminate any distraction like watching TV or reading, or driving – while eating. Mindful eating also means getting “in touch” with your feelings about food, and learning to deal with pressure and anxiety about food and weight.
Mind Your Own Fitness
What it all comes down to is this — making the kinds of changes that will lead to an overall healthier lifestyle means more than replacing the foods in your fridge. You need to also change the way you think about food, fitness and health.
Only then will you be able to change your mindset into one that is focused on the long-term, and not just weight loss!
For cognitive awareness techniques contact Heather Holder, Lifestyle and Nutrition Coach.