Behavioral Psychology Tips for Effective Weight Loss

Kilo Fit

Kilo Fit

Jun 01, 2020 — 5 mins read

Research shows that after a diet, almost everyone usually gains more than half of the weight back within two years. By five years, they have gained more than 80% of the weight back, if not all of it. Besides, many individuals often end up gaining even more weight, especially after taking on a restrictive diet.

It poses a frustrating dilemma. You might be convinced you're headed down the road toward effective weight loss, but then you can't sustain it. What's going on? In this article, we dive into short-term weight loss versus long-term weight loss, and how, ultimately, changing your habits is the most effective means toward sustainable weight loss.

Short-Term Weight Loss VS Long-Term Weight Loss

Short-term weight loss means you lose weight, but then put it all back on again. You might be caught in a vicious cycle. The cycle might go something like this: You try a fad or restrictive diet. You lose weight. You stop to diet and gain all the weight back. Soon, you're onto the next diet. The same cycle occurs.

Yet, sustainable and effective weight loss doesn't usually stem from a diet that you do for a few weeks or a few months. When it comes down to it, long-term weight loss depends on permanent behavioral change. 

Researchers indicate that various behaviors, such as strategies related to dietary impulse control, information seeking, and self-monitoring, can help with weight loss and management. In other words, it comes down to the habits you have built over your lifetime that determine whether or not you lose weight and sustain it. Luckily, your habits can be changed.

Behavioral Psychology for Weight Loss

Behavioral psychology is the link between your thoughts and your behavior. In part, it looks at how habits are formed, as well as how they can be changed. 

How does this apply to weight loss? For permanent and sustainable weight loss to happen, you need to notice your habits and start building better ones.

The first step is to identify your habits and understand them. A habit follows the same path. It starts with a cue, followed by a routine, then a reward. 


For instance, perhaps you have formed a bad habit of getting a muffin at the coffee shop on your way to work in the morning. You don't necessarily need the cupcake since you have already had breakfast. Yet, every time you walk by the shop on your way to work, you get one. The cue would be walking by the coffee shop, with the routine of buying the muffin. The reward is then eating the delicious and fresh pastry on your way to work. 

How do you break this? Often, it starts with breaking the cue. To determine it, you need to ask: Why are you buying a muffin at the coffee shop? You discover that it's because you walk by it in the morning, and it makes your morning a little brighter. Instead, what if you walked a different route to work, and maybe made your breakfast a bit more interesting to brighten up your morning? This changes your cue, which improves your routine. In other words, it stops this habit from happening.

Once you understand your cue, routine, then reward pathway, you can begin to change it. For instance, perhaps you tend to indulge in unhealthy snacks late in the evening. Determine why you do this. Then, cut that cue, which will inevitably stop the routine. The next step is to find a different reward. When you think of eating unhealthy snacks in the evening because you are bored, perhaps going for an evening walk may provide more of what you need. You likely will feel better after the walk - maybe even forming a brand new and healthier habit.

When it comes down to it, always have a plan. If there is a particular behavior you want to stop, plan ways to prevent it, or find an alternative reward. 

Another typical example is eating out for lunch as opposed to bringing your premade meals to work. Plan ahead. If making lunches during the week is tough, prepare them on the weekend. It all starts with identifying these behaviors, then breaking them. Eventually, you will rid yourself of your bad habits, while stacking on new ones.

Aim For A Flow State

Your environment and surroundings impact your behavior. If you optimize your environment to support healthy habits, you will build these habits with little effort. You will also be more likely to sustain these habits.

For instance, if you leave notes reminding you to do something, whether that be go to the gym or take the laundry out of the dryer, you will likely remember to do it. Or if you surround yourself with other individuals who want to lose weight or become healthier, you may be more likely to succeed. Studies show that a person is more likely to adhere to an exercise program and be more motivated in a group setting. 

This further sets you up for a flow state, which allows to turn healthy habits into an exciting routine. You do them because it is what you love to do. 

To access this flow state, you might start by simply being more mindful. Ask yourself why you do things the way you do. Identify the cue and the trigger. It's becoming more aware of what you are doing rather than mindlessly or passively moving through your day.

In his research, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a psychologist, uncovered that flow state is associated with overall well-being, health, and satisfaction with life. It is further linked to higher productivity, motivation, and loyalty. 

By accessing this state through the recognition and development of habits and by being more mindful, you can achieve the life you want - and that includes sustainable and effective weight loss. 

When you transform your habits, you change your life. And at first, it will require a high amount of effort. Eventually, it will become as effortless as brushing your teeth before bed or checking your mail each week. 

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