Home LIFESTYLE Tom Muha: Gained weight during quarantine? Try these strategies for healthier habits.

Tom Muha: Gained weight during quarantine? Try these strategies for healthier habits.

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Tom Muha
The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

Nov. 15—A recent WebMD poll showed that adults in the United States have gained an average of 8 pounds since the beginning of the pandemic. With so many other feel-good activities unavailable, it’s hard to give up comfort foods.

In “Switch,” Chip and Dan Heath describe three strategies for motivating you to make healthier choices:

Be clear about your outcome.

Create good feelings to generate energy for working hard.

Pay attention to the present actions that you need to be taking.

To create a crystal-clear outcome, it’s essential to think in terms of specific behaviors. The Heaths describe studies of people who were involved in change efforts, breaking them into the top third who were most successful, the middle third who had average results and the bottom third who had the poorest outcomes.

The top performers set detailed behavioral goals 89% of the time versus only 33% for the bottom group. To illustrate this point, think about the difference between telling yourself “I’m going to lose weight” versus “I’m going to walk 30 minutes five days per week in order to lose 1 pound per week over the next 10 weeks.”

Having developed a precise picture of the behaviors you’ll need to exhibit in order to accomplish a change, determine how to actually implement the new behaviors that you want to adopt. The best way to do this is to look for what the Heaths referred to as “bright spots.”

Who could be your model for successful weight loss? Find out what helped them maintain diet and exercise routines. Perhaps you’ve learned some effective strategies from your own past efforts. What enabled you to stick to a healthy diet and exercise regimen when you’ve been successful at losing weight? Put this information together to create your plan that you believe will work best to achieve positive results.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of the behaviors that you want to introduce into your life, determine why it’s worth making the effort to do so. How will you feel when you’ve lost weight? How can you remind yourself of those positive emotions to help motivate yourself? Anticipating rewards can be a powerful incentive to take action. For example, imagine the good feelings that will come when you’re better at playing golf or tennis because you improved your level of physical fitness.

It’s true that when you have your health you have everything. Perhaps you’ve seen someone suffering from debilitating effects of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or depression. Resolve to avoid the consequences of continuing to make bad choices. Develop your determination to enjoy the benefits associated with healthy habits.

Tap into the power of positive emotions. Talk to yourself the way a best friend would. What would he or she say to encourage you to get started? Imagine how they’d react when they observed your weight loss: “You look terrific!” What would it feel like to receive that compliment? How great would it be to walk through a room wearing some wonderful clothing and sense someone’s head-turning? Remind yourself every day that it will be wonderful to feel more attractive.

At this point, you’ve constructed specific behavioral goals and you’ve imagined having great feelings. But you may still be hesitant. You know that establishing new habits means confronting several setbacks when you’re first getting started.

People procrastinate when they have a fear of failing. You’ll cripple your motivation if you focus on how badly you’ll feel when you fail during the trial and error phase.

To overcome your anxiety, it’s essential to pay attention to taking very small steps that have a high probability of succeeding. Consider employing the 1% solution. If you change 1% of your behavior every day for the next year, your healthy habits will be 37 times stronger. This significant success rate comes as a result of compounding, which means tomorrow your skills will improve 1% of 2%, etc. Tell yourself that you are capable of mastering new behaviors if you break them down into bite-size pieces.

Finally, make your new behaviors a daily ritual. If you do the same thing at the same time most days, it will become a habit that’s hard to break.

Start now by writing down your plan:

— The crystal-clear picture of my life when I’ve lost weight is….

— The great feelings I’ll experience when I’ve achieved my goal are….

— I’ll focus my attention on losing weight by improving my efforts 1% every day, starting with….

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