Welcome to Day 4 Supporting you to Stick to Your Weight-Loss Plan, so you can reach your goal weight, once and for all. We have been learning strategies and tips from life and weight coaching to support you in sticking to your plan. If you are a yo-yo dieter, like I used to be, you have lots of experience (habits) of making little quits on yourself. After the age of 50 you also have lots of attitude about anyone telling you what to do! I know how that is. Many of my clients, especially strong women in their 60s, recoil at being told what to do. My job is not to tell you what to do. I gave that up long ago!
Over these 14 days I want to support your brain in becoming aware that you have many non-helpful habits and because they are repeated over and over, they keep you from succeeding in reaching your weight loss goals. This is the purpose of the FB Live 14 Day Series (5:30pm Pacific)
Day 1 we created a plan; Day 2 we formulated our WHY and on Day 3 we talked about creating habits and goals.
Day 4, I want to go a little deeper into habits. Habit formation is the process by which a behavior, through regular repetition, becomes automatic or habitual. As a 60 year old, you have practiced your habits thousands and thousands of times.
We also know from recent researchers that the average time for men and women to form a new habit by reaching automaticity with a new behavior (habit) was 66 days with a range of 18–254 days.
At any age, the process of forming and changing a habit is the same.
According to Charles Duhigg, every habit is like a loop that includes a cue, routine and reward. An example of a habit loop is you get home from work, you start dinner (cue), go to the pantry (routine) grab a handful of nuts (reward).
The key to changing habits is to identify your cue and modify your routine and reward.
Take the Longer View
If we take a longer view of a habit, we can think of it as a series of cues starting early on in the habit loop or cycle.
There are studies on addiction where the cues are identified very early on in the process. There is the physical withdrawal from the drug as the start of the cycle. Each thought that brings the addict closer to the reward produces a bit of dopamine (the reward neuro-transmitter).
In terms of habit loop of a heroin addict, the cues and bits of reward driven by thoughts alone add up and take place before the final reward is received by taking the drug. So you can say for the brain of an addict there is the cue1 (behavior/reward), cue2 (behavior/reward), cue3 (behavior/reward), cue4 (behavior/reward), behavior, big reward.
So you have a conscious cue – desire for snack or a cookie or physical withdrawal from sugar, you open your pantry, you eat a cookie, followed by regrets and disappointment.
What if the loop started earlier in the day when you had an uncomfortable conversation with your co-worker and you were irritated and filed it in your brain? What if you were thinking how hard it is to stick to your plan before you pulled out your lunch that day? “I am tired of working on this project.”, “I want something new in my life.”, “I’m tired.”, “I hate cooking, maybe I’ll have a treat tonight.”[reward] “Treat will taste great.” [reward] “It will be fun.” [reward]
We have 50,000 thoughts each day, if 1,000 of those thoughts are actually part of our loop, we have to be conscious of those thoughts to change the habit!
Get in the car and think of the snack [reward], approaching the house (reward), getting out of the car (reward), getting closer to your snack (reward) that you are holding off on. Eat the snack (big reward).
Breaking the Habit with New Cues
Create a protocol, a plan or a series of practices, for creating new cues to change your habit.
What if we think of the whole cycle or loop as starting 4 hours before the first conscious cue, and ends at the negative consequences. Of course, the negative consequence is competing with the dopamine hits that occur all along the touch points of the habit cycle, but if you use your pre-frontal cortex, your CEO and create a plan, scientists tell us we can hijack our brain and stop the habit.
Here is a 4 Step process to breaking an unwanted habit:
Step 1. Imagine the habit cycle starting 4 hours before the behavior and reward and extend it to include the negative consequences. In the case above, the cycle starts when you are having a difficult conversation with your co-workers and ends after you have gone off plan and feel crappy about yourself.
Step 2. The question to ask yourself is: What is the reward achieving? What are you getting from this reward? Is it satiety of hunger, distraction from boredom, fleeing from sticking to your weight loss plan? Wanting to avoid a phone call with your friend or sister? Needing time to de-stress?
Step 3. Experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of five categories:
1. Location 2. Time 3. Emotion 4. Environment 5. Activity just prior to the urge
To become aware of the cues to your unwanted habit, set a timer every hour starting 4 hours prior to when you usually have the habitual craving and answer the following questions:
Where are you? What time is it? What’s your emotional state? Who else is around? What action preceded the urge? What reward are you seeking?
Step 4 – Create protocol
Once you can identify the full cycle of your habit, it’s time to create a new habit. Remember right now when you see a cue, you will do a routine so that you get a reward.
You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue (reward), and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving. And the easiest way to do this, according to study after study, is to have a plan. Aren’t we lucky, we started this 14 day support to reach your weight loss goals by sticking with a plan?
Create a Plan for the reward you are actually seeking. Is it hunger, de-stressing, boredom, or creating a solution to a personal problem?
Create a list of 10 things you can do to anticipate the reward you are seeking and work backward to 4 hours prior to the time you usually act out the habit.
If you usually snack in front of the TV at 9pm – create the protocol from 5pm to 10pm
If you usually snack while cooking dinner at 6pm – create the protocol from 3pm to 7pm
If you are seeking more support:
If you want to talk about protocol ideas, set up a free 30-minute session. I have several spots available next week if you grab one now.