What does behavior modification for weight loss mean?

Behavior modification is an important tool for those wishing to lose weight. The concept of modifying one's behavior in an effort to lose weight has evolved over time. Today it is a discipline that can be pursued independently or in conjunction with other treatment methods. The long-term success of surgery for obesity depends very much on how diligently someone is able to follow the new diet and exercise routine – it is a new lifestyle that one has to get used to.

Introspection and gradual change

Modifying behavior requires small changes in perspective that are realistic. Chose goals that may seem very easy at first and concentrate on positive reward. Do not create goals that are over zealous and use failure as your motivating force.

It has to be kept in mind that obesity is a chronic condition with every chance of relapse if someone does not adhere to a modified behavior routine. Behavior modification programs when taken as stand-alone therapies can result in significant weight loss over time. They offer the advantage of less risk as compared to surgery, or when surgery is chosen, a vital program to achieve long term weight-loss success.

What are the various aspects of behavior modification for weight loss?

A behavior modification program for losing weight can be broken down into components. Adherence to the procedures established for each component will help you successfully meet your weight loss targets. The importance of a behavior-modification program.

Self-monitoring or keeping track of your lifestyle habits is the basis of developing a behavior modification program. You have to observe and record your thoughts, actions, successes, and failures as you attempt to overcome issues that have led to weight gain

The issues can be psychological too. Often, individuals overeat to compensate for a perceived shortcoming in life. Binge eating can be a psychological response that makes a person "feel good". Regular monitoring over a period of time will establish patterns of events that can throw light on factors which hold you back from working towards losing weight. For instance, monitoring and observation may yield the fact that a person overeats when he skips breakfast, for another individual tracking may tell about his weakness for particular food items that add calories to his bulk, yet another subject may find that he is finding it difficult to maintain an exercise routine.

It is an established fact that mere monitoring of our thoughts and actions as we try to eat wisely leads to a reduction in the number of calories consumed. In other words, we contribute to our weight loss by simply staying aware of how we are going about it. The noted down observations are scrutinized by a therapist and a weight loss program is developed with the help of information that you come up with.

Stimulus Control

Once you have the information to work with, you move on to the next step - stimulus control. You have to modify or eliminate those cues or routines that lead you to stray from the path of healthy eating. These cues or signals vary with the person. Very importantly, it has been noted that obese individuals are more susceptible to yielding to environmental cues such as the aroma of food, appetizing layout of dishes, and food-related routines such as an ice cream after lunch. Because controlling the environment around us is very difficult, obese individuals have to make an effort and learn to resist and ignore environmental stimuli. Non-obese individuals respond to internal hunger cues. The body reacts to these cues by stimulating appetite and initiating an insulin shift which can lead to overeating. One of the best ways to deal with temptations is to forge a routine.

Why a Routine can Help

Eat at a fixed time and place, have an exercise routine, and maybe try and stay away from places that make you reach out to your wallet, for example fast food joints and the snacks section at the grocery stores. Walk to work once or twice a week instead of driving to your office. Train yourself to eat only when hungry, this is tied in to the point of maintaining an eating schedule. Eat smaller portions. Basically, the temptations for us to consume more than required calories are all around us. The trick is to be aware of such environmental factors and try to overcome them.

Replacing rewards with something other than food

Once you start modifying behavior to lose weight, you have to work toward strengthening the positive changes so that they become routine. This is often done through rewarding yourself if you accomplish a behavior modification task. Of course, it is better if it is a non-food reward. Every small behavior modification has to be reinforced; it can be something as simple as shifting from cream coffee to black coffee or a major behavioral change such as cutting down on red meat in the weekly eating pattern or shifting to lean meat. The idea of accentuating the positives through rewards falls under contingency management. The rewards can be both external and internal, feeling good about having achieved a behavioral modification target is an intangible internal reward. It helps you focus even more strongly on the ultimate goal and also keep negative thoughts at bay. Your successes are automatic rebuttal of any cynicism that you may come across. Tangible rewards can mean buying a good book, a day entirely to yourself; occasionally you can treat yourself too. Tangible rewards as these should be immediate and linked to specific target achievements. They serve an important purpose; they keep you motivated till such time when only internal rewards will suffice – when the thought of scripting a job well done will be its own reward.

Find something to enjoy with exercise

Exercise may seem like a stressful chore at the beginning. After you get over the initial stress of starting to go to the gym, try to find simple pleasure in the protected time you have with yourself.

One effective way to meet behavioral management objectives is to interact with people that have goals similar to yours. Track one another's progress and incent each other toward achieving weight loss objectives. Another aspect to consider is the rate at which you initiate changes and the extent of change. Your approach to behavioral modification has to be such that you minimize the chances of slipping back to your old eating ways. An optimum approach in terms of intensity and time-bound targets will vary from person to person. Eating behaviors that are gradually and firmly modified are more likely to become regular habits and give real long-term benefits. Depriving oneself of food and dieting may result in short-term weight loss but the danger of compensatory eating and a lapse in discipline always looms. In the same vein, exercise too should be introduced gradually so that the subject can get used to it mentally and physically. A gradual easing into an exercise routine will also enable you to build a routine and keep aside time for it. If the changes in behavior parameters are rushed then there is a chance that proper acclimating to the new routine may not take place.

After the behavior modification program

Long term behavior modification therapy programs are common. At the end of your program you will continue to function according to your recently acquired habits. Consider keeping in touch with your erstwhile therapy session mates. Remain alert to those situations and scenarios that can cause a relapse to your earlier habits. You have to learn to be mentally prepared to cope with temptations on your own. Be aware of the high-risk situations; for example you may be at your most vulnerable at a birthday party where there is a chance that you may give into the appetizing food and peer pressure to enjoy. If cracks appear in your resolve and the floodgates open, you can end up taking a step back. Keep in touch your progress as well as any difficulties that you may come across.

Continue setting realistic weight loss targets and work toward them. Peer influence plays an important role. Look up to people that have already trodden this path successfully and can give you practical advice on how to continuously effect improvements in your behavior so that you lose weight and your quality of life improves as well.

Making changes with sincerity

Behavioral modification to effect weight loss and counter obesity should be undertaken with sincerity. The benefits go beyond just a loss of weight. You improve your overall health and well-being. Improvements in blood pressure, sleep apnea, and cholesterol levels happen. Research suggests that behavior modification programs may give better results in not only achieving weight loss but also sustaining it.

Medical Condition: 
Morbid Obesity
Medical Procedure: 
Bariatric Surgery
Speciality Classification: 
Psychiatric
Medical Entity Classification: 
Behavioral Disciplines and Activities
MeSH Identifier: 
F04
National Library of Medicine: 
MeSH
Medical Audience: 
Patient