Most people who diet will regain 50 percent of the lost weight in the first year after losing it. Much of the rest will regain it in the following three years.
Most people inherently know that keeping a healthy weight boils down to three things: eating healthy, eating less, and being active. But actually doing that can be tough.
We make more than 200 food decisions a day, and most of these appear to be automatic or habitual, which means we unconsciously eat without reflection, deliberation or any sense of awareness of what or how much food we select and consume. So often habitual behaviours override our best intentions.
A 2018 study found that the key to staying a healthy weight is to reinforce healthy habits.
Imagine each time a person goes home in the evening, they eat a snack. When they first eat the snack, a mental link is formed between the context (getting home) and their response to that context (eating a snack). Every time they subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens, to the point that getting home prompts them to eat a snack automatically. This is how a habit forms.
Our research found weight-loss interventions that are founded on habit-change, (forming new habits or breaking old habits) may be effective at helping people lose weight and keep it off.
We recruited 75 volunteers from the community (aged 18-75) with excess weight or obesity and randomised them into three groups. One program promoted breaking old habits, one promoted forming new habits, and one group was a control (no intervention).
The habit-breaking group was sent a text message with a different task to perform every day. These tasks were focused on breaking usual routines and included things such as “drive a different way to work today”, “listen to a new genre of music” or “write a short story”.
The habit-forming group was asked to follow a program that focused on forming habits centred around healthy lifestyle changes. The group was encouraged to incorporate ten healthy tips into their daily routine, so they became second-nature.
If you start to snack each day when you get home from work, you’ll form a habit that requires you to do so in that context every day.
Unlike usual weight-loss programs, these interventions did not prescribe specific diet plans or exercise regimes, they simply aimed to change small daily habits.
After 12 weeks, the habit-forming and habit-breaking participants had lost an average of 3.1kg. More importantly, after 12 months of no intervention and no contact, they had lost another 2.1kg on average.
Some 67 percent of participants reduced their total body weight by over 5 percent, decreasing their overall risk for developing type two diabetes and heart disease. As well as losing weight, most participants also increased their fruit and vegetable intake and improved their mental health.
Habit-based interventions have the potential to change how we think about weight management and, importantly, how we behave.
Published By: Bellaland | The Conversation | Gina Cleo
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