What’s really making you fat
The number one strategy that comes to most people’s minds when they’re trying to lose weight as a result of being overweight or obese is to go on a diet.
There are plenty of diet options around. Low-fat, low-carb, paleo, keto and the list goes on. Following one of these diets may induce weight-loss for the period of time that the diet plan is rigidly followed. However, once the diet plan is abandoned, the weight starts to creep up again, and numerous studies show that practically all the weight is regained eventually. This is not necessarily the dieter’s fault, and the cause is largely a physiological adaptation to caloric restriction that includes metabolic slow down, hormonal changes and increases in appetite-stimulating hormones.
However, anther major reason for this weight-regain is the resumption of ‘flawed’ eating habits or lack of physical activity that led to weight-gain in the first place. ‘Flawed’ eating habits don’t usually mean disastrous eating habits. Many people consider their diet to be fairly healthy, at least when considering the type of food consumed during the main meals. Weight-gain is often a result of what is consumed between meals, after the meals or in addition to meals. Therefore, to rectify such issues, it’s not necessarily the main meals themselves that need modification. Instead, the focus needs to be directed towards the habitual consumption of excessive snacks, nibbles, calorific beverages and the uncontrolled number of visits to the fridge when at home. Such habits may be driven by other underlying problems, such as emotional eating, stress, not finding enough time to prepare meals, cravings or boredom.
A survey by a leading international nutrition coaching company recently summarised the main nutritional challenges that people face in their daily lives. The list is shown in figure 1. Practically all challenges listed are a consequence of lifestyle related or habitual food consumption. Not ‘diet’ related per se.
Figure 1: Main nutritional challenges Source: www.precisionnutrition.com
Focus on your behaviour
None of the nutritional challenges listed are related to a specific dietary type, such as a high-carb diet, which is being demonised at the moment. These nutritional challenges are behavioural in nature, and the behaviours are driven by environment, external influence, emotion and lack of planning or awareness.
So how can these issues be addressed?
A number of frameworks have been developed to address behaviour change interventions. These frame works are not limited to nutritional behaviour change, but can be applied to a wide variety of scenarios, such as in business, population based behaviour and in psychology.
Understanding the behaviour
Defining the problem in behavioural terms is the first step towards resolution. What is the problem you are trying to solve? What behaviours are you trying to change and in what way? What will it take to bring about the desired change? When applied to emotional eating the question would be what triggers an emotional eating episode? Is it a telling off from your boss? Is it an argument with your partner? Is it the misbehaviour of your children? This is an important realisation, and the heightened awareness about the triggers that led to this behaviour allow the person concerned to understand their reaction and consciously evaluate their behaviour, rather than just acting instinctively.
What type of intervention options are likely to bring about the desired change? After identifying the trigger to a certain behaviour, would talking to a colleague or family member help to ease the tension? If the emotional eating involves the consumption of sweets, would the removal of such items from the person’s immediate surroundings be possible to reduce the temptation?
Once these options are evaluated, which specific intervention can effectively be implemented to give the highest possibility of success? This intervention has to be clearly defined, and be specific in nature.
Changing one habit at a time
Implementing behaviour change tactics requires mindfulness, and trying to change too many behaviours at once usually leads to overload and failure. Learning a new behaviour requires lots of repetition, and the newly acquired behaviour change needs to go on autopilot for it to really become a new behaviour that is followed long-term. Due to this, behaviour change should be tackled one habit at a time and be repeated until it does no longer require a conscious reminder to be performed.
Knowledge alone does not bring about change. After all we all know that smoking is bad for us, yet there are numerous people who still choose to smoke. Behaviour change can only occur if a specific change in behaviour is practiced repeatedly and consistently. Only action can create change and only repetition can create habit.
Want to learn real behaviour change and rewire your brain and your relationship to food?
Then follow our 12-month Behaviour Change Programme, provided by Precision Nutrition, and coached by Richard Geres MSc, Registered Nutritionist and Precision Nutrition Level 2 certified coach.