Behavior Modification: Getting Rid of Those Bad, Bad Habits

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Behavior Modification: Getting Rid of Those Bad, Bad Habits

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According to Wikipedia

Behavior modification is the traditional term for the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to increase or decrease the frequency of behaviors, such as altering an individual’s behaviors and reactions to stimuli through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of behavior through its extinction, punishment and/or satiation.

If you were able to get through that description without glazing over – well done!

Behavior modification: It’s facing that moment of diet truth when deciding whether to eat an entire bag of cookies or take a walk. It’s being able to say “no” to dessert even though your entire being says: “I want it.” It’s taking a walk on your lunch hour or getting up early to go to the gym. It’s working hard to change old bad habits into new good ones.

Basically, behavior modification is the secret to losing weight. It’s changing the behaviors that made you overweight in the first place.

As I so often write, I’m no expert in dieting – or behavior modification, but here are some steps I have taken that seem to have worked. Change your behavior by changing your thinking from the moment you start your new diet.


Commit to your diet with your whole mind and body. There’s no “maybe” on dieting – you’re either in or you’re wasting your time.

Set realistic weight loss goals. Sure, we all want to be size 2 skinny, but really????

Think long term. Approach a diet plan as your new eating pattern – for life.

Your home environment

Don’t have bad and tempting foods in your home. If the cookies or chips are there, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Celery is boring. Get used to it!

Shut down your kitchen (and the urge to snack) by 7:00 PM. Okay, maybe 7:30.

Purge those high calorie snacks out of your house. Throw them away, give them away, stomp on them! Whatever gets them out of your sight – and mouth.

Your work environment

Do not eat at your desk. It’s unneeded calories and unprofessional. Plus, there’s nothing worse than food on your keyboard.

Do not encourage or support the office candy dish.

Start walking on your lunch hour, opt for the stairs over the elevator. Bottom line, get off your bottom!

Grocery Shopping:

Do not shop when hungry or tired or you will suffer impulse buying consequences.

Shop from a list. Just because ice cream is on sale, you do not need it.

If shopping makes you hungry, buy fruit (not a candy bar) for the ride home. Read nutritional labels; check for calories and sodium (and yucky chemical additives)

Home meal times:

Slow down when you eat. You heard me: SLOW DOWN. Since I tend to wolf down my food and then look for seconds, this is a tough one. If you’re the first one finished at the table, you eat too fast!

Take small bites. Shoveling huge portions of food into your gaping mouth is not a pretty sight and is lousy for your digestion.

Assuming you’re not alone at meals, talk. If you are alone, read a book or the newspaper.

Always try and cook your own meals from scratch (versus prepackaged). That way you know exactly what ingredients are used.

Do not eat half the meal as you’re cooking it. Amazing how a taste of this and that can empty the serving dish before it reaches the table. And yes – tastes do have calories.

Do not eat your meal at the stove or kitchen counter. Sit down!

Do not eat watching television. Okay, I have to admit I sometimes watch TV while eating.

Use smaller dishes. My dinner dishes are the size of salad plates (designed that way). Surprising how quickly they appear full – but with half the calories. Know that a meal without dessert is NOT a tragedy.

Restaurant eating

Don’t eat from the bread basket – ever! Even if it’s home made focaccia bread. Sorry.

Ask for a take-home box at the start of the meal. And use it.

Don’t drink too much alcohol, if any. Sorry again.

Order a la carte. You don’t need all the sides, unless they are steamed vegetables. Get double veggies in place of high carbs.

Order plain food, no heavy sauces. I always ask for “bald” fish – no bread crumbs or butter.

Ask for salad dressing on the side. You should know this one by heart!!

Going to a party:

Do not arrive hungry. If need be, eat something light before the meal. That does not mean cheese and crackers!

Bring a dish that is low in calories that you can eat. It’s common sense to contribute something you can eat.

Alert the hostess that you are dieting (thus not insulting her if you don’t eat).

Always opt for the small portion (no, you don’t want the oversized baked potato)

Don’t mindlessly eat from a snack dish while chatting with another guest.

Help out. Get off the sofa and lend a hand with serving or clean up.

Behavior modification takes time. Old habits die hard. The more you set aside those bad habits, the better dieter you will be.