One of the things I learned in my weight maintenance journeys has been the value of additive, vs subtractive behaviors. And what I mean is that instead of telling myself what I can’t have, I tell myself what I must have, and I set goals that I want to meet.
When I first started losing weight (on my own) I focused heavily, and spent many hours each day thinking about, the things I could no longer have, and it became obsessive and unhealthy. My whole day was spent avoiding foods and staying in so I wouldn’t accidentally eat them.
But, when I joined a program and started the maintenance portion of the show I realized that they only told me what goals I needed to meet – I’d set weekly and daily goals for servings of fruits and vegetables, number of meal replacements, and number of calories I needed to burn through exercise. My goal was 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies each day, 3-4 meal replacements (shakes, portion-controlled entrees, bars) and minimum of 300 calories burned each day. I found myself becoming a stickler for meeting my minimums, and if I could exceed these I patted myself on the back for a job well done. And what I didn’t realize was happening in my little game every day for several years was that I was building habits that ingrained themselves in my psyche.
Every day I played a new game of trying to meet my minimums of healthy habits, and after several months I realized they’d totally tricked me – they never told me NOT to eat any particular food, I just found I couldn’t fit it in, it wasn’t in my plan.
And now when I pass through my day I feel what I can best describe as mental sandpaper – an emotional friction – if I don’t eat all the fruits and veggies I’m conditioned to eat. If I don’t get some exercise in I feel physically bad, edgy. If I eat a giant meal without giving a thought to the size of the portion my brain gets uncomfortable. And I think that’s what is meant by behavioral conditioning.
I love it as a strategy! It’s exactly what I needed – making it a game, and focusing completely on what I should do, instead of what I shouldn’t. Give it a try, if you’re curious. Set yourself some fruits/veggie goals for this week, and some exercise minimums. See if you don’t have a fantastic, positive weight management week!