A psychologist recommended strategy for developing habits that help with weight management.

Conquering Cognitions

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If you have experienced undesired weight gain in the last two years, you are not alone.

COVID-19 has disrupted our routines (gym closures, stay-at-home orders) and added tremendous stress to our lives which has been hard on our waistlines.

In March 2021, a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 42% of adults in the United States reported weight gain secondary to the pandemic. The average amount gained was 29 pounds (the median amount was 15 pounds).

The combination of decreased activity and increased snacking has tipped the scale in the wrong direction for many of us.

Small changes with big results

My daily step count was significantly reduced when I started working from home in March 2020. Although I was still exercising every day, I was no longer walking to and from the front desk or running upstairs for meetings.

In total, these seemingly small episodes of activity added up to a whopping 3000 daily steps. My body noticed this decreased movement!

The good news is that small changes in activity can also be used in our favor.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, recommends the "2-minute rule” — add a physical activity that takes less than 2 minutes to complete. When you pair it with an existing routine (habit stacking), you increase your chance of success.

For example:

  • After you go to the bathroom, do five push-ups.
  • Perform lunges as you walk to the kitchen.
  • When a meeting ends, do twenty jumping jacks.

Break the snack habit

When many of us transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, we spent more time near our kitchen, and this presented plenty of opportunities to snack, creating some bad habits.

I frequently stopped to grab an Oreo cookie from the pantry while walking from my bedroom office to the downstairs printer. I would do this several times a day with little thought. Before I knew it, I had eaten the whole package, and created a habit I needed to break.

The key to disrupting a habit is consciously thinking about the action.

To prevent myself from grabbing an Oreo every time I walked by the pantry, I moved the cookies. I no longer stored them in the easy-to-access pantry and instead kept them in the garage refrigerator.

This small change stopped me from automatically grabbing a cookie every time I walked by the pantry which was about ten times a day.

If I have to stop and think about where the Oreos are, this pause gives me time to decide if I really want one.

Another option is placing desired treats on a top shelf that requires getting a stool. Make sure you keep the stool in another room, and as you are retrieving it, you have time to think about your behavior.

A multi-step process makes the behavior more intentional and less automatic, thus disrupting a habit.

If you have developed a few habits that have added unwelcome numbers to your scale, consider these simple changes. A few interruptions to your snacking behavior, plus a little added activity, might be just what you need to tip the scale in your favor.

This article is for educational purposes only, not as a substitute for therapy or other medical treatment. I am a psychologist, but I am not your psychologist. Please know that there are medical professionals in your local area to help you with your specific situation when needed.

Please follow me for more articles on healthy living, self-care, and personal growth. This article was originally published on Medium.

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Clinical psychologist turned writer | PsyD | Outdoor enthusiast | Museum lover | We are stronger together | ConqueringCognitions.com - healthy cognitions can conquer almost anything

Colorado Springs, CO
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