behaviour change goals weight loss

Successful Behavioral Strategies for Sustained Weight Loss

Gad Saad is an evolutionary psychologist And Professor of Marketing at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). He’s written over 75+ scientific papers as well as writing for psychology today, and publishing several books.

He writes on a broad range of evolutionary psychology disciplines including consumer behaviour, marketing, advertising, psychology, medicine, and economics.

Gad recently shared some of the behavioural strategies he used to help him lose a large amount of weight.

I’ve organised these into 4 simple recommendations

1. Chunk Down Goals Into Small Wins

Perseverance is probably the most important aspect of sustained weight loss.

Take one day at a time, and persevere. The small wins add up over time into big wins. 

Don’t overly focus on the total weight loss goal. Instead, break it down into small manageable chunks or goals.

This is less overwhelming, and helps to keep motivation higher over the long run.

2. Be Specific With Behaviours

Be specific when it comes to your behavioural weight loss strategies.

For example, just saying “I’m going to try and eat less” is too vague, and doesn’t give a consistent reliable measure.

Here are some examples of more specific behavioural strategies:

“I won’t eat more than X calories per meal / day”

“I won’t eat after 7pm”

“I will only eat 3 meals a day with no snacks”

“I won’t drink alcohol all week, but will allow myself 2 drinks on a Friday”

3. Create Feedback Mechanisms

Create feedback mechanisms by measuring and tracking regularly. E.g weighing / measuring daily or weekly.

Failing to regularly measure and track progress is metaphorically like an ostrich burying it’s head in the sand.

Weight gain usually occurs gradually over a long period of time, and without regular monitoring it’s easy to ignore it, and avoid taking action.

Weighing & measuring regularly is a mechanism to intercept this process, and auto correct at more regular intervals.

This recommendation is also one of Layne Norton’s 5 evidenced based habit and behavioural strategies to lose weight that I wrote about previously.

4. Work Around Obstacles

On the weight loss journey, there will be obstacles, such as  injuries, emergencies, distractions, work changes, holidays, parties, etc. 

Cultivate a mindset that expects obstacles and works around them. Don’t allow obstacles to become excuses.

For Example:

With a shoulder injury, walk instead.

Having to work late, do a small workout in front of the TV before bed.

At a party where there will be lots of cake. Eat a large healthy meal before going.

Read more articles on habits and behaviours

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The Rep Effect – How To Achieve Big Goals

The rep effect (rep is short for repetitions) is a body building principle that can be extremely useful when working towards difficult goals, and they don’t need to be fitness related either.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to use “the rep effect” principle not only to dominate the Body Building world, becoming one of the most successful body builders of all time, he also conquered two other extremely difficult domains.

Schwarzenegger went on to become one of the most successful and highly paid actors at that time. He then went on to become the Governor of California.

This is extremely difficult to do, as goes the saying “once lucky, twice good”. Therefore, three times really takes some skill.

One of Arnold’s success principles is the “rep effect”. He understood from body building that every rep moved him closer to his goals.

He calculated how many reps were required, the weight, frequency, diet etc to reach the size and shape he needed to be a professional body building contender.

He then broke this down into a plan, and framed everything as “a rep” / “a repetition” towards achieving his goals.  

This wasn’t just the literal reps of lifting, but the reps of everything. Every meal, every stretch, every pose, every show, every bit of studying. He visualised every bit of effort required as “a rep”, and understood, that each rep took him closer to his goals.

Arnold was well known for smiling during his brutal workouts. He often was quoted as putting this down to his reframing of the pain of every rep into a a postive step towards accomplishing his dreams.

Arnold used the same principle in acting. Every acting class, every audition, every film was a rep that bought him one step closer to achieving the goal.

And the same went for politics. Arnold worked out all of the steps, and saw every step as a rep until he reached office.

“The rep effect” principle can be a really good mindset to adopt when putting in effort to achieve any long term or difficult to reach goal.

For example:

With careers: Every CV, every interview, every bit of research, every bit of skill advancement is a rep.

For Financial Independence: Every payday is rep, every investment, every cut back is a rep

For Weight loss: Every 1lb loss is a rep, every healthy meal eaten, every fattening meal avoided, every workout, every rep within a workout

For stopping smoking: Every cigarette not smoked is a rep.

And so on….

Anything significant worth having, usually will take a lot of work. Staying focused on the end goal, breaking it down, and reframing the discomfort as reps that edge us closer can really help sustain the energy and motivation to accomplish it. It might even put a smile on our faces while we do it too.