Behavioral Weight Loss Tips

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How can I avoid overeating?

Techniques to Avoid Overeating

There are many strategies you can employ to take control of your eating behaviors. Below you'll find a list of tips that may be beneficial to you. If one strategy doesn't work that is fine just move on the next one. The more techniques you have at your disposal the greater your chances of success.

  • Plan meals and snacks in advance. Having an eating schedule prevents impulsive eating.
  • Focus on your food by eliminating all other activities while eating. Don't read, watch T.V., or talk on the phone.
  • Eat slowly. Savor every bite of food. Notice the flavor and texture—really taste you food.
  • Eat in one place in your home. This area of the house, such as your dining table, should only be used for eating. The idea is that you associate this location with eating and nothing else.
  • Don't clean your plate. Don't feel obligated to clean your plate when dining. Eat until you're almost full because it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to send signals to your brain that you're full.
  • Eat on smaller plates with smaller utensils. Downsizing your potions by using a smaller plates and utensils gives an illusion of eating more food.

How do I avoid food triggers?

Control You Environment

One way to avoid food triggers is by controlling your environment. This means making an effort to minimize your contact with food at home, work, and in the car. The more time you are exposed to food the greater your chances are of binging or snacking when you may not be hungry in the first place. Limiting the number of high risk situations will make it easier for you to lose weight. Here are several ideas to help decrease your exposure to food.


  • Have family members avoid eating problem foods in front of you.
  • Serve meals from on the stove. Placing serving dishes on the table can be too tempting to take a second or third helping. At least you will have to consciously think before going after seconds.
  • Remove all problem foods from the house. If you must keep these foods around either store them in container you can't see through or a designated cabinet so you'll know that this area is off limits.
  • Prepare and eat one portion of food at a time. Cooking too much food may prompt you to overeat.
  • After you finish your last bite don't go back for seconds for five minutes.
  • After meals, clean up promptly and have another family member put up the dirty dishes.
  • Store leftovers immediately after each meal.
  • Leave the table when you are done eating


  • Avoid break rooms where co-workers have left high calorie foods.
  • Keep healthy snack options at your desk.
  • Bring your lunch each day to keep from going out.
  • If you do go out to lunch with co-workers eat an extra side order of vegetables instead of higher calorie food items. (i.e. salad and vegetable medley instead of mashed potatoes with gravy and macaroni and cheese)

How do I set realistic goals?

Setting Realistic Goals

You probably start losing weight with some predetermined goal weight in mind. Whether you intend to lose 20, 40, or even 50 pounds you must determine if your goal is even realistic. Goals are important because they give us direction and a way to measure progress. Most people, however, set their goals way too high so when they do make progress it seems almost insignificant. Realize that your goals must be attainable. Don't set yourself up for failure by establishing unrealistic goals.

As part of the goal setting process you should develop long and short term objectives. Long term objectives can be achieved by reaching your short term goals. For example, let's say you have been very inactive and set a goal of exercising five times per week. Going from being totally inactive to five days of exercise is unrealistic. To successfully accomplish your objective, first set an initial, more realistic, short term goal of walking two days per week. Once you feel comfortable with this level of exercise progress to three or four days per week. It may take several weeks or months to get to your target exercise level so be patient. Using this goal setting technique increases your odds of achieving success.

Why is record keeping important?

Record Keeping is Important

Record keeping is an essential ingredient for weight loss success. You can learn a lot of things from your records. The more detailed your records are the better. Keep track of what you eat, how much activity you get each day, and weekly weight. It may seem tedious and time consuming but record keeping does facilitate weight loss. Most successful weight losers cite self-monitoring as one major reason for their success. Self-monitoring will help you in several ways.

Increased awareness of current habits

  • Keeping records increases awareness of your eating and exercise patterns. Once patterns become clear you can work on changing these habits. For instance, you believe you are eating 1,500 calories per day only to find that after self-monitoring it turns out you are actually consumed 2,200. Based on this information you can work on controlling calories. Another poor eating behavior caught through record keeping is inappropriate meal timing. Maybe you eat most of your calories in the evening. Recording when you eat your meals will make this pattern more noticeable.
Improved Adherence

  • You are more likely to make positive behavior choices because you are accountable to your records. This is one reason many don't keep records; they would rather forget how much they've eaten and how little they are exercising. Just knowing that you are writing everything down helps avoid overeating or skipping workouts.
Track progress

  • Self-monitoring is an important way to track progress towards your eating and exercise goals. It allows you to see how far you have come especially during a lapse. You can look back at your records and stay positive.
Problem solving

  • Self-monitoring can provide insightful information to help overcome issues related to eating and exercise. Your records can be used to break through a plateau or assist you in avoiding high risk situations.

How do I deal with weight loss plateaus?

Handling Weight Loss Plateaus

If you've attempted weight loss in the past you are probably familiar with the weight loss plateau. This is the time when your weight loss stops or you remain stagnant. It can be very frustrating. You may have to work through several plateaus before reaching your final goal. Unfortunately, there is no magic potion that will restart your weight loss. Overcoming a plateau may require tweaking of your diet or physical activity in order for weight loss to continue.

Look at your diet to see if you can cut calories further. Be aware that cutting calories below 1,000 per day is unsafe and isn't recommended unless you are medically supervised. The problem is that achieving adequate nutrition is difficult when consuming fewer than 1,000 calories. Another option to spark weight loss during a plateau is increasing your physical activity. Try challenging yourself once a week with an extra mile or a couple of hills to shake up your routine. It will make a difference. As you fight through your plateaus keep reminding yourself of the wonderful progress you have already made. Don't give up, even though you may not be where you want right now. By staying positive you can work through plateaus and continue your weight loss progress.

Why is readiness important for weight loss?

Readiness for Weight Loss

How motivated are you for weight loss? Are you truly ready to make a permanent lifestyle change? Readiness is an extremely important consideration before initiating a weight loss attempt. Your chances of success are greatly reduced if you are only mildly interested in losing weight.

As you think about readiness, remember that it is actually easier to lose weight than it is to keep it off. You should be in this for the long term. Carefully examine the sacrifices you will have to make to succeed. Ask yourself if you are ready to devote the time and energy required over the weeks, months and years to come.

Other readiness factors that should be considered are your attitude towards physical activity and your current support system. It is important that you are willing to not only change your eating habits, but also become more active. Having a support network to provide the healthy environment for weight loss will be beneficial. Ultimately it is up to you. If you are highly motivated to make a permanent lifestyle change, then your chances of success are good.

What's the difference between lapse and relapse?

Lapse Doesn't Have to Mean Relapse

The lifestyle changes necessary to achieve weight loss can be difficult. You are faced with many daily decisions that affect weight. Don't expect to be perfect all of the time. Try as you might, there will be slip ups every now and then and you are going to fall off the “diet or exercise wagon”. The guilty feelings you have when you lapse do not have to cause a total relapse. Only a string of lapses actually lead to relapse.

Relapse is where you fall back to your original unhealthy behaviors. You shouldn't see your weight loss efforts as an “all or none” proposition. This type of thinking causes you to give up after only a few mistakes. Your lapse is just a minor bump in the road, something that is easily overcome. More important than the lapse is your reaction to it. Maintain control, honestly assess your feeling about your lapse, and realize that it will not seriously affect your weight loss momentum. While you are trying to make healthy behavior choices, if lapses occur stay positive and get back on track right away.

How do I prevent negative self-talk

Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is very common for those trying to lose weight. Negative thoughts can greatly affect your ability to make successful lifestyle changes. Statements like, "I can't control my eating" or "I hate to exercise" can ruin your ability to make progress. Having frequent negative thoughts can actually trigger overeating or cause you to be less active. Identify times when you commonly engage in negative self-talk. Think about what you say to yourself and how it affects your weight loss progress. Stop the vicious cycle of self-defeat by increasing your positive thoughts.

Try this: Make a list of all the negative things you say to yourself. Next to these statements, write some positive affirmations to counter your self-defeating thoughts. The more positive statements you can come up with the better. Put these positive self-messages into practice anytime you catch yourself having negative thoughts. Immediately replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Be patient, with time you can wipe out your negative thoughts and continue with your healthy lifestyle.

What is a behavioral goal?

Behavioral Weight Loss Goals

Losing weight is all about changing your behavior. To successfully lose weight, you must substitute your current habits of poor eating and sedentary lifestyle with a more healthy lifestyle. When you are trying to lose weight, focus on behavioral goals, not outcome goals. If you set a goal of losing 20 lbs., it won't happen unless you first change your behavior.You can’t control how much weight you will lose each week, but you can control your behavior! Set a few goals related to your eating and exercise habits behavior that are keeping you from losing weight (such as spending too much time watching television). You will be amazed at how much progress can be made by consistently achieving your behavioral goals. You may be setting yourself up for failure by saying, “I’m going to lose 3 lbs. this week." Instead, concentrate on behaviors such as increasing physical activity, eating less junk food and dining out less.

What are some ways to stay motivated?

How to Stay Motivated

As you are probably aware, motivation is one of the most difficult issues to contend with during weight loss. Most people are highly motivated in the beginning but have trouble maintaining motivation over the long term. The best way to stay motivated is to recognize all that you have accomplished so far. Think about the positive lifestyle changes you've made and give yourself credit for them. Try not to lose the momentum you have gained since you began your lifestyle makeover. It is also helpful to look at other benefits you've received besides weight loss. Do you feel better about yourself, have more energy, or maybe a decrease in blood pressure?

Another way of keep yourself motivated is to create visible signs of your progress. For instance, if you enjoy numbers you could post a weight graph or body measurements in areas around the house. Usually the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator door is the most popular locations for posting data. You can also record activity milestones by logging your exercise mileage towards a particular vacation spot. You might even consider taking an actual vacation to this location when you reach this exercise goal. By providing a visible record of your accomplishment not only helps you stay motivated but allows others to congratulate you for the progress you've made.

The final way to maintain motivation is to change up your eating and exercise routine.

  • Are you tired of eating the same foods? Why not try a new recipe or a food that you haven't eaten before.
  • Don't go to the gym and do the same workouts every day. Take a new class, get a personal trainer, or change up your strength training routine in some fashion.
  • Get involved in a friendly competition. Challenges could range from cooking a particular healthy dish to who can do the most push ups. You could even write a $5 check every week. If you lose weight, you keep the money. If you don't lose weight, then the money goes to charity.
It's amazing how much harder you will push yourself when you have an incentive.

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Jerry Mayo
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