Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Why Can’t I Stop Overeating?

A change in eating habits can be a positive experience; however, if we’re not careful the process can quickly devolve into toxic thinking. This is especially true for those of us who struggle with food and are looking for surefire weight loss solutions.
It usually begins with food labels. Now, we’re not talking about nutrition information in this case, rather the labels we apply to certain types of food such as kale versus cookies.

Labeling foods as "good" and "bad" is a guaranteed way to increase stress and create negative associations with eating. The second you label a food “bad”, you begin to think about it in a new light. You may develop a fear of the food or an obsession with it. The food will suddenly claim more of your emotional energy and you will spend more time thinking about it than you usually might. Worse, because it’s off limits, you’ll likely want it even more, and if you decide to give in and let yourself enjoy the ‘forbidden fruit’, your enjoyment will be short-lived and quickly replaced by guilt and feelings of failure.
When foods get labels and start having moral implications, it’s more difficult to make healthy choices and recover from perceived failures. Toxic diet beliefs come in many forms:

  • Elimination (ie. no more sugar, no more pasta)
  • Needing to excuse our choices to others
  • Equating body weight to health
  • Atoning with exercise
  • Cleanses & detoxes
  • Guilty pleasures
  • Earning food
  • Cheat days

Deprived Binge Eating

If you're trying to better your habits after bariatric surgery or you are on a restrictive diet to avoid the procedure, you're a likely candidate for binge eating. In many cases, binge eating is a biological response to food deprivation - whether you've deprived yourself physically by eliminating food or emotionally through toxic thinking.
The more you deprive yourself of your favorite foods, the stronger the urge for binging that food becomes; once the binge occurs, a new cycle begins and we immediately begin to set ourselves up again for subsequent failure.

At Bariatric Health & Wellness, we offer a wide range of foods, from complete meals to sweet and savory snacks. We know that in order for a long term strategy to be effective, people like yourself need easy and affordable access to foods they actually enjoy. That includes crunchy cheese bites, creamy chicken dishes and moist chocolate chip cookies, among many options. With foods designed to keep up with your caloric means while still meeting your tastebuds' demands, you'll be more likely to succeed and break the cycle of restriction and binge eating!

Emotional Binging or Just Emotional Eating?

It's been a long day at work or at home with the kids; it doesn't matter if you're stressed, annoyed or overwhelmed, there's a voice in the back of your head that lets you know some drive-through, a pint or a big batch of freshly baked Toll House cookies will set things right again.
While it's not uncommon or inherently bad to let food soothe us on occasion, making these choices on a regular basis ultimately leads to a calorie surplus that causes noticeable and long term weight gain. This is emotional eating, and everyone does it from time to time.

Emotional eating is characterized by:

  • Wanting more even after eating plenty
  • Experiencing a sudden urge to eat
  • Eating to feel better or safer
  • Craving very specific foods
  • Eating as a reward
  • Eating to excess

The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your triggers. What brought on the urge to comfort eat and toss aside all mindful eating practices in the first place? Get curious about your feelings and thoughts, allow yourself to sit in emotions and give yourself the space you deserve to think, learn and grow.

Establishing mindful eating habits is just one part of the healing process. Your journey will be long and there will be many bumps in the road. We encourage a well-rounded approach, and for many people, that includes seeking help for binge eating from a mental health professional. If you need help to heal and recover from BED, don’t be afraid to ask.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Keeping the Weight Off with Intuitive Eating Habits

The road to weight loss is paved with many potholes. From poor lifelong eating and exercise habits to toxic dieting culture, it's no wonder that a large percentage of people who take on the everyday challenges of meeting their goal weight end up regaining some if not all of the pounds back eventually.
When combating old habits such as emotional eating, over-eating, binge eating and a largely sedentary lifestyle, the tendency for many bariatric patients and dieters is to try and reverse the trend with a slew of rules and restrictions. And while calorie counting and logging food and exercise habits on a daily basis can be a great visual tool for moderation, accountability and goal-setting, ultimately when used as a standalone approach, these practices neglect several vital components for long-term sustainability.
Over time, subjected to daily stress and outside pressures, it becomes more and more difficult to follow restrictions and abide by all of the rules all of the time; below we'll talk about how our weight loss meal plans and how mindful eating habits play into that.

Diets are focused on outcomes: the number on the scale, the pant size, the blood test results. Setting and meeting goals are useful and effective strategies when it comes to weight loss, however, focusing on these solely is a 2-dimensional approach.
In fact, let's scrap the word "diet" right now and replace it simply with "eating". Seeing food as food, not assigning it a moral value, and not focusing all of your emotional efforts on restriction will be the first step in reestablishing food normalcy and learning to love and respect your body no matter how close you are to your goals.

Bettering Habits Post-Bariatric Surgery

Are you thinking about food all of the time? Do you worry about the foods you just ate? Do you use terms such as "can/can't", "should/shouldn't" or "good/bad" to describe what goes into your mouth?
Conventional diet culture will have us believe that food and exercise are rewards and punishments; that we "deserve" ice cream because we bought kale; that we should ignore our body's natural signals. If this is you, you’re dieting.

As part of a well-rounded approach that considers the whole person, we should all be practicing mindful eating instead. Mindful eating is designed to supplement calorie counting and exercise with effective behavioral changes that are sustainable over the long term, and targets behaviors to elicit natural changes that don't rely on unhealthy practices. As a mindful eater, you will learn to accept your mistakes graciously and move past them quickly; there will be times when you'll forget to or simply not want to eat mindfully and being able to consider this part of the learning process will be critical to success.

At its most basic, mindful eating involves:

  • Learning to distinguish between hunger and emotion
  • Forgiving "failures" and actively coping with guilt
  • Not assigning food good or bad values
  • Allowing foods to be pleasurable
  • Appreciating a myriad of foods
  • Eating for you

Here are a few basic tips to help you get started:

  • Avoid eating while engaging in other activities such as preparing dinner, watching TV or browsing Instagram
  • Eliminate the stress of grocery shopping with ready meals and weight loss plans
  • Use plates and utensils, avoid eating with hands or out of the container
  • Plan ahead, whether for a busy week, extended travel or the holidays
  • Eat when you're hungry instead of ignoring hunger cues
  • Make sure you have access to foods you like eating
  • Organize and care for your kitchen
  • Use smaller plates and bowls
  • Don't skip snacks
  • Don't under-eat
  • Eat a variety
  • Eat slowly

Mindful eating isn't easy. Even equipped with the knowledge, eating consciously takes patience, practice and persistence. That's particularly true if you have a longstanding poor relationship with food and have a tendency to lose control around certain foods. That said, everyone is a candidate for mindful eating and there's never a bad time to start or an effort too small.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Everything You Need to Know About the Protein-Sparing Modified Fast Diet

Appropriately once called the Last Chance Diet, this fasting strategy was developed in the 1970s as an alternative to traditional fasting. Unlike indiscriminate calorie restriction, PSMF is designed to prevent muscle wasting by using a very targeted approach to protein consumption and fat/carb restriction. This spares the dieter many associated health risks, including the loss of lean tissue mass that’s caused by protein and nutrient deficiencies during other fasts.

Is PSMF for Me?

PSMF is a temporary diet designed specifically for those with a BMI of 40 or more. It aims to help those who need to shed significant pounds in order to kick-start their weight loss journey, and is ideal for patients who have recently had bariatric surgery or for those who are interested in opting out of surgery with a less invasive approach. It is not recommended for people who are looking to lose a few quick pounds; ample fat storage is required for this diet to be safe as well as effective.

How Do I Get On a PSMF Diet?

Before starting any extreme approach to weight loss, it is strongly recommended that you consult your primary care provider for a physical exam that will assess your overall health. PSMF generally aims at a target calorie goal of 1,000 or lower, which is not advisable for certain patients.

If you are located in the Birmingham area here in Alabama, we strongly encourage you to come in for a free consultation! As a patient here at the clinic, you’ll start off with a proper physical examination, an EKG and routine lab work. You’ll also complete an in-depth orientation class where you’ll learn how to work the program, and receive a starter bag with two weeks’ worth of samples of our most popular meal replacements.
For information about how to start our medically supervised weight loss program located in Birmingham, AL click here.

If you're not local, you can still set yourself up for optimal success using our Health & Wellness App. The app helps you track your progress by logging important information such as calories in vs. calories out, weight, activities, sleep, water intake and more. You'll be able to connect with a coach for personalized feedback, and integrate a variety of activity trackers and scales.

How Long Does the Diet Last?

Our PSMF program is a three-phase plan that's aimed not only at helping you reach your ideal weight, but also give you the skills and knowledge to maintain your target weight for years to come. During the program, you'll be introduced to new behaviors that encourage healthy habits, which will help you reach and maintain your desired weight.

Phase 1
The first phase of the PSMF program aims to get you within five pounds of your healthy target weight. This phase consists of calorie restriction with an emphasis on protein consumption, as well as increased water intake to flush the system, and supplementation to avoid adverse health effects.

Phase 2
During the realimentation phase of PSMF, you'll begin reintroducing some foods back into your diet. This is a gradual and careful process, designed to restore full digestive functions over the course of four weeks.
At the end of this phase, you will get an individualized meal plan that will let you know just how many calories you can consume each day to maintain your weight within five pounds. It focuses on including foods you already enjoy eating and making, as well as your favorite quick and easy meal replacements. This way, you’ll be able to continue your progress with the same kind of structure and consistency you're used to, making dieting after gastric sleeve surgery (or to prevent it) easier and more effective than ever before.

Phase 3
The final phase of the protein sparing modified fasting diet should be considered ongoing maintenance. It's easy to go back to old habits and slowly lose control over time, so in order to continue to keep the weight off, it'll be critical to receive continued counseling to improve your relationship with food, get the appropriate dietary recommendations and ask for help with exercise programs.

Is the Diet Easy?

Tackling this diet alone step for step can be extremely difficult because it requires the dieter to monitor his or her calorie total and calorie breakdown extremely carefully while staying especially vigilant about replenishing vitamins and electrolytes. Fasting is also mentally taxing, and many low-calorie foods out there lack the protein content needed to sustain PSMF. Additionally, it's common for dieters who are fasting to quickly get bored of the choices they find at the local grocery store and many find it increasingly difficult to pass up their high-calorie favorites again and again.

At Bariatric Health & Wellness, it’s our number one goal to help you succeed at protein sparing modified fasting. We offer a range of tasty high-protein, low-calorie foods, and all of our meal replacements are nutritionally interchangeable so there's never any counting, guessing or weighing involved. We've taken all the guesswork and frustration out of the equation, making our protocol extremely simple and easy to follow; you'll never need to calculate calories and you'll never need to pass up the cookie aisle again because your pantry will be well-stocked.

Does the Diet Work?

Absolutely. We've personally helped 30,000+ people shed over 150,000 pounds, and that's because the scientific data backs up the PSMF approach. In one study, patients lost an average of 46 pounds or 56 percent of their excess body fat. The study also tracked other factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipid numbers, all of which improved.

PSMF is a great follow-up for bariatric surgery, as well as a great alternative to surgery or medication. If you're ready to make a personal commitment to lifestyle changes, this program is for you.
Learn more now.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Vital Tips for Losing Weight & Actually Keeping It Off

Whether you're currently dreaming about, laying the plans for or already achieving weight loss, we salute you. There are many first steps to achieving your goals, and each part of the journey is significant. Improving your health is a full-body and mind experience, and a more well-rounded path will always lead you to a more well-rounded experience.
There's no doubt you already know how challenging weight loss can be. Many of us struggle for years before finding a solution that resonates with us deeply enough to create a lasting change, and this is partially due to the mindset we hold when we choose to change who we are. Fear-based proclamations such as "I'm afraid I won't see my kids grow up" or "I'll be embarrassed if I still look like this at my High School reunion" light fires that burn very hot but also very fast; they tend to give rise to exercise and/or food habits that are both lofty and difficult to sustain. These types of habits ultimately don't address underlying behaviors or inspire the right kinds of changes in the long run, leading us to concede to failure and possibly give up for good.

When it comes down to it, doing things you don't enjoy - even for a good cause - just isn't a sustainable practice. Whether it's fitting into a new dress or watching your kids get married that inspires you, if you feel like you're being robbed of something in the process, you're well on your way to burning out. Sure, you might spend a month faithfully meal prepping or hop on the treadmill a few times a week, but chances are very good that soon you'll lose interest and undo all your precious progress. This is a frustrating and disheartening experience, and many of us don't recover from it quickly or gracefully. "So", you might be asking yourself, "what's the secret?"

While there's no secret method to anything in life, you'll set yourself up for a much greater chance of success when you're motivations aren't driven by fear or negative self-talk. Instead, set positive and achievable goals for yourself and work toward them using methods you know you can actually sustain.

Setting goals for yourself is a great way to stay on track, but it's important to set the right kinds of goals for the right kinds of reasons. When setting goals, ensure they are:

Between media portrayals and our own propensity to try and outdo ourselves, it's easy to start setting goals that are simply not realistic for your age, lifestyle, body type or general needs. When setting goals, it's important to be realistic about who you are, what you need and what you're capable of achieving. Be realistic about what success will look like when you personally achieve it, because what's healthy for one person is not necessarily what's healthy for someone else.

If you set lofty goals for yourself, chances are you won't meet them. Repeatedly not meeting your goals can leave you feeling pessimistic and dejected. While we encourage you to challenge yourself, remember that if it's not fun, it's not working.

Being specific with each goal will allow you to visualize the steps you will take to achieve it. Visualization is a critical component of success as it allows you to see your accomplishments in your mind's eye. Instead of setting goals to exercise more or eat healthily, break down each goal into its components.

Each component of your goals should have measurable stepping stones. Try to avoid making your weight a central component of how you keep track of your progress. Instead, notice your energy level, your mood, how your clothes fit, how often you've recently chosen a healthier meal over an unhealthy one, how far you can walk without stopping etc.
Keep track of the milestones that are important to you in a journal or blog. Seeing how far you've come in changing your lifestyle habits will help you to stay motivated and on track.

It's important to set goals that mean something to you personally. Ask yourself what's most important to you, and then determine which goals you need to meet to get there. Tailor your strategy for a healthier life to meet your emotional goals, not just your physical ones. You're more likely to succeed when you build your new habits around positive intentions and mindful being.   

To help you stay on track, we offer a wide range of healthy but satisfying meal replacements and snack foods. Building new habits starts with small steps, so take a step in the right direction and switch from high-carb high-calorie foods to low-calorie alternatives that are filled with nutrients and protein to keep you fuller longer.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Science of Breaking Bad Food Habits

Change is hard. If you've ever tried to change a bad habit, you know firsthand just how difficult it can be to consistently make better choices without feeling like you're denying yourself the true pleasures in life.

Why are habits hard to break?
We're all hardwired to form habits. Habitual behaviors form very early on in order to make our lives easier, allow us to multi-task and save our mental energy for the bigger things. Without habits, every action would take deliberate thought and require your complete engagement, but thanks to our ability to form habits, we can all live productive lives.
Thousands of years ago, the habitual brain made it possible for us to survive, but today combined with the modern conveniences of the 21st century, this important life-saving adaptation can oftentimes do us more harm than good. Our propensity to prefer life on autopilot helps us to navigate our homes, use a computer, read a book and more; it's also what's responsible for our poor judgment when it comes to snacking. And marketing companies know this.
It’s important to recognize that the foods you know and love (and are addicted to) have undergone billions of dollars of research to exploit your predisposition toward habit formation; to determine which flavor combinations get you to eat more; what packaging will sell best; even where your favorite foods are located in the supermarket isn't an accident.
With both evolution and clever marketing giants both working against us, it's no wonder so many of us struggle to lose the weight and keep it off.

Identifying the Components of Habits
Many of the habits we have around food, exercise or other lifestyle behaviors are comprised of three distinct ingredients:

  • Cue
  • Behavior
  • Reward

To demonstrate, a habit surrounding food might look like this:
Cue: Hunger; however, it could also be boredom, stress, a certain time of day, the smell of food, hearing others talk about food, seeing a commercial and so on.
Behavior: eat food
Reward: Satiety, relaxation, comfort or nostalgia etc.

Sometimes we feel guilty or disgusted after we eat, but those are secondary feelings; the initial reward still exists. Furthermore, because our brains are so much more complex than a three-step system, it’s often times very difficult to differentiate reward from addiction, particularly when you pepper in clever marketing and early wiring that can occur in childhood or when you're exposed to trauma. All of these combined elements make breaking old habits challenging.

How To Break Bad Food Habits

When we think about changing our habits, it's easy to quickly become overwhelmed or discouraged. That's because when most of us think about change, we first envision the end result. When we recognize just how different the end feels from where we currently are, we imagine that it could only be through an enormous effort that such a pivot could occur. But the truth is, change is about the little things; you don't have to reinvent yourself to see change, you just have to change some of the small things you do (and think about) daily. This is where your habits are made and re-made.

One critical component of this process is to remain positive about yourself and the process. If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk or you find yourself entertaining the idea of food restriction for punishment or food rewards for behaviors you’d like to see more of, stop. These are not healthy or sustainable mindsets.
Use what you know about habits to learn how to engage in better behaviors that you can still feel good about. For example, if you know you tend to use food after you encounter a stressful situation, be mindful of this fact. Since you likely won’t be able to avoid stress for the rest of your life, begin to explore other tactics for stress relief. You don’t need to completely turn your life upside down for this; while practicing yoga, taking a run or simply enjoying a cup of tea may be very calming for some people, these stress-relieving techniques may be too far outside of the scope of what you’re used to. While they’re great long-term goals to keep in mind, if they’re too big of a leap, you’ll ultimately not get the same reward from them and feel like you’re denying yourself. This will only lead you to mental and emotional fatigue - the opposite of what we’re shooting for.

Using Diet Food to Change Habits

Later on down the road, you might find that when you’re bored, you find that bird watching is very exciting and rewarding; you might find relief from stress in yoga; you may begin to associate snack-o-clock with a time when you automatically reach for an apple instead of the cookies. But today, you’re likely in a place where these are long-term goals. So rather than finding a whole new activity that brings you relaxation, comfort or excitement, let’s simply find a better food that offers the same rewards.
This is where many people have trouble because it's very difficult to find adequate replacements for the sweet and salty snacks you crave. We already know that a stick of celery will simply never be a comparison for Cheez-Its, but it can be equally difficult to find a specialty diet food replacement that really hits the spot.

Bariatric Chocolate Chip Cookies
At Bariatric Direct, we specialize in foods that look, feel and taste like the snacks and comfort meals you're used to. Our foods are designed to address your cravings so that when you eat them, you're satisfied and not looking for more. Replacing a tasty snack with its most similar alternative is a great way to slowly move away from your old habits while losing weight and gaining confidence! With high-protein and low-calorie options, you'll ultimately consume less without having to expend a ton of additional mental energy on food preparation. That means you can focus your efforts on conjunctive weight loss tactics such as exercising more, diving deeper into that self-help book you've been wanting to crack open and simply staying positive.

Check out our additional tips for breaking habits and weight loss in our recent New Years blog.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Benefits of the Bariatric Weight Loss App & Tracker

There's nothing like seeing progress unfolding. The first time it became more natural to reach for a healthy snack instead of an unhealthy one, another pound off the scale or a finished workout are all incomparable feelings fueled by your own achievements.
As you're ramping up your weight loss journey, you'll benefit from incorporating a few valuable tools into your everyday life. Among these might be a food journal or calorie counting app, a step counter or fitness tracker, a scale that can calculate some essential metrics including BMI, and any other management apps or methods that'll help you stay on track, motivated and accountable.

The Bariatric Health & Wellness app features a set of integrated tools designed with you in mind. The app works in conjunction with a range of trackers and scales to help you keep score of your progress by monitoring your food and water intake, exercise and weight loss.

Benefits of a Fitness Tracker

There's nothing like having an accountabilibuddy by your side; working together with a close friend provides motivation when you need it most and offers feedback in real time. However, busy lives and demanding schedules make it difficult to coordinate workouts and jam sessions among friends, which can lead to slowed progress and stagnation. Eventually without proper accountability, you'll stop meeting your goals and take more and more shortcuts through your exercise routines and meal planning.
A tracker takes many of the benefits of having a friend right by your side and makes them accessible at any time, anywhere.  The Bariatric Health & Wellness tracker is designed to help you increase your physical activity, record your steps and active time, and achieve the results you're looking for.

Count Steps & Active Time

New research shows that developing an active lifestyle is paramount to your health. Regular physical activity improves circulation, flexibility and strength, and promotes a healthier weight. People who can maintain a healthy weight and waist circumference significantly reduce their risks for a variety of debilitating illnesses including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and several types of cancer.
To keep with the American Heart Association's recommendation, you'll need to complete at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. That may sound like a lot, but it breaks down to just 30 minutes per day, five times a week, and a fitness tracker will help you to reach and maintain that goal. Whether you're into walking, gardening, swimming, dancing, hiking or yoga, every step and activity counts toward meeting your goal.

Get Results

A tracker that integrates with an app makes recording valuable data seamless. Having your daily exercise data on hand ensures you have access to all of your progress, since day one of your journey. Dive into granular data week over week or get a broader overview by checking your calorie deficits month over month or even year over year. You'll be able to take pride in knowing you've reached your goals, and find reassurance in easy-to-understand visual data that breaks down steps, movement and calories burned.
The Bariatric Health & Wellness app works in real-time so you'll never have to track your movement separately or enter it manually. In combination with the weight loss scale, which additionally records your weight, BMI and your lean body mass in real time, you'll be able to get the most complete and well-rounded picture of your daily progress.

Patients who use the app report improved motivation & continue their weight loss program longer and that's no surprise. With so many integrated features including access to a coach when you need that additional boost of motivation, it's easier to stay on track longer and replace old habits with better, healthier ones.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

3 Absolutely Essential Tips for 2020 Weight Loss

Welcome to January 2020. "New Year New You", as the popular saying goes, and this year is no different. In fact, because we're now entering the start of a new decade, you may be more determined than ever before to meet your goals by the end of this year. We're here to help.
Whether this is the first year truly you've been inspired to change or you've been on this path before, we know that the road to success can be a bumpy one. Because this is all new, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed, discouraged or burned out and give up on the idea of being a new you. To set yourself up for success, follow these three essentials for weight loss in 2020.

Start Anytime

OK, so the new year is a great time to get into the mentality of starting something new, but there's absolutely never a wrong time to start. You can start in March, you can start in the middle of a month, you can start on a Wednesday and you can start at 6pm, if you're so inspired. Waiting to start can feel like you're ramping up toward success, but the truth is, if you wait to start you're only limiting the number of opportunities you're allowing yourself. Additionally, when you wait to get started, the pressure you've put on yourself to succeed is oftentimes too much, so when you fail - and we all fail sometimes - it can be very hard to gain the momentum you'll need to get started again.
Instead of thinking of your weight loss journey as having a starting and an ending point, get into the habit of seeing the individual moments of your life as opportunities. Forget what you're doing on Monday, instead pay attention to your morning routine, your everyday, your evenings and your bedtime habits. By noticing and appreciating the segments that make up your daily life, you'll find that even if your morning didn't pan out as planned, you'll still have the mental energy to tackle the rest of the day without feeling like you've failed.

Be Positive

Many of our attempts to change are cultivated in a very negative headspace; we don't like the way we look, we hate the way we feel and we regret letting it get this far. While it's only human to let pessimism get the best of us at times, we promise it'll be to your greatest benefit to cut out the negative self-talk once and for all.
While negative emotions can feel like a great kickstarter, living every day in anger or regret simply isn't healthy or sustainable. When we let negative emotions dictate our choices, we end up with knee-jerk reactions that'll help us alleviate our anxiety as quickly as possible. What we don't get are sustainable changes.
You may initially find it hard to shift your focus from negative to positive, and that's OK. Here are some tips:

  • Practice gratitude
  • Be compassionate
  • Set intentions
  • Be curious
  • Push the bad out with the good

Practicing gratitude will let you reflect upon your life positively. It'll provide you with sustainable strength to tackle your day, rather than simply kicking your survival gear into overdrive. Each morning, try to think of two or three things you can be truly grateful for. Marinade in these for 15-20 minutes, giving attention to the feeling itself without any negative commentary or judgment.

If you have negative thoughts, whether while you're practicing gratitude or at any other point throughout the day, remember to be compassionate with yourself. We're all only human, and much of our daily drive originates deep within our genes; you are not "too [this]" or "not enough of [that]".

Setting intentions is a powerful tool because it allows us to visualize our success. Visualization has been used for decades by some of the most successful athletes alive because your brain can't tell the difference between something you vividly imagine and something you actually did or saw.

We all have bad habits, and many of us have been taught to believe that in order to break a habit, we must give it up for [insert the magical number of days here]. But the truth us, whether you quit smoking for 30 days or for six months, there's simply no proven timeline for when you're no longer susceptible to falling back into old habits.
Habits are the automatic things we do every day. Our habits are our brain's way of expending the least amount of energy and still get stuff done; the way you park your car, the shampoo you like and the foods you eat when you're bored, sad or hungry are all based on habits. Why do we establish certain habits but not others?
Habits are based on just a couple of things: a trigger or cue and the reward. The cue occurs before you engage in a habit. The reward is WHY you engage in the habit.

Getting curious about what triggers you to get into the habit loop is a great place to start when you're trying to break established habits. Start by writing down the event or thought or emotion that cued you to want a certain food or lose interest in going to the gym. Next, make a note of the habit you engaged in once the cue occurred. Finally, write down the reward you got from engaging in the habit.

Your journal entry might look something like this:

gym feels too overwhelming --> stayed home, watched TV and snacked instead --> felt much less anxious

The secret to changing patterns like this isn't to try and power through or to beat yourself up and subsequently canceling your Netflix membership. These are negative feedback patterns and your brain is going to do whatever it can to avoid them. That's why after 30 days of forcing yourself into the gym or limiting yourself to two hours of TV per week, you get burned out and scrap the whole mission.

The secret to changing your bad habits is to replace them with good habits. The second part of that secret is that you don't have to replace all the bad, you just have to start by pushing some of the stuff you don't want out with some of the stuff you do.

Because your triggers and subconscious cues are difficult to change (maybe someday, but don't start there), you need to learn how to establish new habits that still yield the same rewards. In the example above, the reward was that you felt much less anxious. Feeling less anxious is a "must" in this scenario, so anything we do once we're triggered by "gym feels too overwhelming" still has to lead us there.

Therefore, a new and much more sustainable habit change could be:

gym feels too overwhelming --> stayed home and watched TV while using resistance bands --> felt much less anxious

gym feels too overwhelming --> stayed home and planned a healthy dinner while talking to a friend --> felt much less anxious

gym feels too overwhelming --> went for a walk around the block listening to my favorite podcast --> felt much less anxious

gym feels too overwhelming --> stayed home and read a book I've been wanting to start, then took a nap with the cat --> felt much less anxious

By pushing out the bad habit of snacking while watching TV (and then ultimately feeling guilty) with a new habit that gives us a very similar reward, you'll be able to create new sustainable patterns that look much more like the life you want and less of the life you're looking to leave behind.

Take Baby Steps

  • Do you want to lose 75 pounds?
  • Do you wish you could run a marathon?
  • Ready to buy that size 8 bikini?

These are all admirable and realistic long-term goals, however, it's enormous goal-setting such as this that'll lead to a fast and ungraceful burnout by month three of your fantastic voyage.
There is no doubt that you are strong, willful and dedicated, and we understand just how important it is for you to prove that to your friends, your family and yourself. But ask yourself: What's the advice I'd give to my best friend in this situation? Or: How would I approach this if my current self could speak to my younger self right now? Chances are, you'd be much quicker to advocate small and realistic goals because you know that these are worth noticing, celebrating and striving for.

For the sake of your own success, both immediate and longterm, it'll be important to take those goals and break them into smaller attainable pieces. If your goal is to lose weight, consider all of the ways you might be able to measure that. Weight loss can be measured by marks on the scale, but also in how far you can easily walk, in how lose your shirts are getting or by the comments you're getting from others. Consider that any weight lost is a step in the right direction and that given a long enough timeline, your new habits will take you to that 75-pound mark.

There's no achievement too small when it comes to changing your life. Give yourself the credit you deserve, set realistic goals, be positive in your endeavors and feel free to start or start over at any time.
With time, patience and practice, you can achieve anything.