Could behavioral therapy be your solution for long-term weight loss?

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Could behavioral therapy be your solution for long-term weight loss?

In a world of too many weight loss diets to throw a weight scale at, there are other alternatives to reaching a healthy body weight without drastic measures. Forget about cutting out food groups or starving yourself – bad ideas.  And forget about the typical mantra often thrown at you by doctors who state, “Eat less food and exercise more.” While this sage advice can be effective for weight loss, long-term the outcome is poor. We all agree that following a well-balanced healthy eating plan along with consistent exercise is key, but why can’t it be easier to do and to stick with it?  Why do so many go on a ‘diet’ and lose weight, only to fall off of it resulting in weight regain?

As a nation, we have an obesity problem. While we focus on food choices or the percentages of nutrients or timing of day we eat as the solutions to weight loss, maybe instead we should focus on how to make behavioral changes. Too bad that making changes to one’s lifestyle is hard work. If it was easy, we’d already have solved the obesity epidemic. You may know exactly what to do to make improvements in eating and exercise habits, but knowing how to get yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. Whenever each of us are faced with doing something different, even when you know it’s good for you, much of what determines success is how you think.

If the thoughts swirling in your head are locked onto negative thinking, it really doesn’t matter what your inner motivation may be to lose weight or what past traumatic childhood feeding experiences you may have had.  Addressing how you think about yourself, how you act, and how you respond to circumstances each and every day, can often be the determinant of true weight loss success.

This is where behavioral therapy might be your answer to successful, long-term weight loss once and for all. Behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for a wide range of problems, including weight loss. The focus is placed on making changes and sticking to them.

How does behavioral therapy help people lose weight and change lifestyle behavior?  It doesn’t happen overnight or in two weeks, but it can happen gradually overtime by certain strategies that make a significant difference:

·      Setting specific goals

Goal setting is nothing new and is often used for obtaining behavioral change for many situations. But in order for a goal to be met, it requires three parts:

1. Make it specific which increases likelihood of meeting the goal. For example, instead of saying, “I will walk more,” say “I will begin walking three times a week for 30 minutes each time.”

2. Keep goals realistic. Ambition is a good quality but being overly zealous, can backfire.  To say, “I’m going to run a marathon next month,” when you haven’t exercised for a year, is not recommended.  Instead set a goal you can meet such as training for the next six months to run in a marathon.

3. Have a good support system.  Everyone needs someone who believes in them, providing regular feedback and cheering them on when progress is made.

·      Regular self-monitoring

Self-monitoring can take many forms when it comes to weight loss – keeping a food journal of what you eat, an exercise log, or even writing down specific feelings you have when confronted with a challenging food situation. Instead of beating yourself up for not reaching a goal, notice what barriers you faced preventing you changing your behavior. Disregard negative self-judgment.  Rely more on problem solving when you get off track helping find better ways to maintain new behaviors.

·      Get feedback

Checking in with a health care provider regularly can give you feedback on your diet or exercise routine.  This can be a big boost providing motivation and heeding suggestions on adjusting your behavior.  This same outside feedback can help keep your expectations ambitious but realistic.

·      Believe in yourself

A pessimistic attitude of failing does no one any good for successfully reaching their goals. If you’re belief is “I can’t,” instead of “I can,” you will struggle to ever be the person you want to be. That’s why setting small, achievable goals can be an excellent start to improving your belief in yourself.  An achievable goal of eating a oatmeal with fruit for breakfast twice a week can build confidence to set more ambitious goals. It also helps to surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people who believe in you.

When you adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors, they must be practice and made a priority in order to last a lifetime. While it’s good to stock your kitchen with healthy foods and go out for daily walks, to make those behaviors sustainable, ultimately depends on your mindset. Having backup plans in place when inevitable barriers arise, keeping a positive outlook, avoiding negative self-talk and surrounding yourself with people cheering you on, are crucial to keeping you on the right path for a lifetime.