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6 Behavioural Truth Based On Science To Help Lose Weight

Between figuring out what foods to eat and how many calories to burn, trying to lose weight can feel like it's all about the physical, but actually,

6 Behavioural Truth Based On Science To Help Lose Weight

Between figuring out what foods to eat and how many calories to burn, trying to lose weight can feel like it's all about the physical, but actually, your brain can play a bigger role than you might think. ZeroPoint foods, like fruits and vegetables, are foods that form the basis of a healthy eating pattern.

According to Allison Grupski, Ph.D., director of behavior improvement approaches and coaching at WW (formerly Weight Watchers), it all comes down to how you think, and something called the action-intention divide, which is a fancy term for the discrepancy between what people want to do and what they actually end up doing.

"What we do is impacted by all kinds of factors — how we feel, thoughts going through our minds, past experiences, habits we've developed, and the environment around us, just to name a few," says Grupski.

Behavioral science seeks to understand these factors and can be used to help people do more in terms of living a healthy life than they really want to do. So while learning which foods and workouts are important for you, understanding a few different principles of behavioral science can help you tackle your weight-loss goals and the obstacles that keep you from hitting them.

Principle 1: Self-Efficacy

While embarking on a weight-loss journey is simply part of the struggle to believe you can meet your goals. "Self-efficacy is the confidence or belief that we have in our capacity to fulfill a specific task," says Grupski. "We are more likely to take action when we believe we will succeed, and when our self-efficacy is higher we are more likely to continue pushing forward, even in the midst of setbacks."

Instead of lofty, long-term goals, creating small, achievable goals can help keep you motivated (think: "eat extra veggies every night this week" instead of "losing 40 pounds this year").

And don't forget to cheer for your mates who are also achieving their goals (like you can do through the WW Connect app). "When we see people we can relate to in order to succeed, this increases our belief that we too can," says Grupski. "WW leverages the power of culture and member-to-member relations, giving participants opportunities to learn from each other's achievements along the way and to be motivated by them."

Principle 2: The Breach of Abstinence Effect

It sounds serious, but if you're trying to lose weight, there's a good chance you're familiar with this concept — which is the name for feeling like you've failed when you're not perfectly following your plan and then just giving up entirely.

Find a system that works for you to prevent throwing in the towel. WW members, for example, have some number of SmartPoints per day (based on which plan they are on), but they also have a total number of SmartPoints per week. This way they can rely on a bank of additional SmartPoints that provide a buffer if they eat more SmartPoints than they have budgeted for at a meal or over the course of a day, Grupski says.

"Additionally, having ZeroPoint foods (learn all about ZeroPoint foods here) means members are never in a position where there's nothing they can consume without going over or above their budget." Every myWW plan has various levels of flexibility (and different numbers of ZeroPoint foods), so members can select a tailored plan that best suits them.

The Breach of Abstinence Effect

Principle 3: The Ostrich Effects

While celebrating your successes is important, it is also important not to bury your head in the sand (hence the name of this principle) when you are not sure if you have hit your goals.

"The effect of ostrich refers to human tendencies to bury our heads in the sand [as ostriches do] in order to avoid information or experiences that we expect will cause us discomfort," says Grupski. "We prefer to avoid weighing ourselves, for example, because we 'don't want to learn,' particularly if we think our weight has risen. Furthermore, research has shown that weighing ourselves frequently is a significant activity when it comes to weight loss and weight retention, so WW programming seeks to reduce the impact of the ostrich effect."

In WW, the act of measuring yourself rather than the actual amount is all about that. By weighing yourself regularly (WW encourages weekly weigh-ins rather than daily), you'll get more in tune with your body and normalize ups and downs every day.

Principle 4: Fuel Vs Friction

"Friction is something that makes a behavior less likely to happen (you're tired, you're surrounded by enticing foods, the behavior involves a lot of complicated steps)," says Grupski. "Fuel is everything that increases the likelihood that it will happen (feeling energized, knowing how to do it, the behavior is inherently pleasurable)."

A few ways to remove friction are to set your workout clothes out the night before or keep processed food out of your home. The WW app is a crucial tool for WW participants to both decrease pressure and improves power. On the friction front, the app has tools like a barcode scanner that quickly tells you the point value of food — thus reducing friction — and you don't even need to measure or track foods from ZeroPoints. On the fuel front, users can score wellness rewards in-app as well as healthy-living content to fuel them with all the knowledge they need to succeed.

Principle 5: Scarcity Effect

"When we try to rigidly restrict certain foods from our diets or say that they are 'off-limits,' we may develop a feeling of deprivation that can backfire, making us more likely to eventually overdo it on those foods," says Grupski. Simply put, if you label things as off-limits, you're going to want more.

Instead of labeling certain food groups as "good" or "bad," try to adopt an attitude of anything in moderation. "It is one of the ideas behind the approach to the WW that all the foods suit," says Grupski. "WW encourages members to treat all foods in a healthy manner, allowing room to fit into favorite foods and avoiding approaches to elimination."

That means with WW, every meal is on the menu and you can also have limitless amounts of ZeroPoint foods (although consistency is of course the ultimate goal), meaning members don't have to think about not having foods to choose from when they still feel like eating.

Principle 6: Carrying Out Self-Compassion

Finally, it's crucial how you speak to yourself about your weight loss journey. "Simply practicing self-compassion means talking to ourselves the way we speak to people we care for," says Grupski.

Given that people tend to focus on the negative, WW is flipping the script by encouraging you to highlight things that are going well. "It is crucial because being trapped in self-defeating thoughts (i.e. what I've done 'wrong') hampers development and growth," says Grupski. According to Grupski, self-compassion is encouraged by the WW Coaches as well as the tools within the app (like meditation guides).

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