As a Dietitian, the #1 question I still receive in casual conversations is: “how can I lose weight?”. This question makes me want to teleport out of the encounter, not because I do not want to answer it, but because it is almost always the wrong question to ask.
If you have ever discussed weight loss with others, you will quickly realize that most of them have actually had success losing weight when they tried. Losing weight is easy with the right resources and advice (excluding those who have a screwed metabolism, more on that later). Chances are if you want to lose weight you might feel like you don’t need a Dietitian, Nutritionist, Doctor, Personal Trainer or whoever declares themselves the masters of weight loss, and chances are you are right! Thanks to the internet, there are no secrets to weight loss anymore.
If you think back to the same discussions you had with people who lost weight, you will also realize that most of them have gained the weight they lost back, if not more. SUDDENLY, the problem isn’t how to lose weight anymore. The new problem becomes HOW to keep that weight off for good.
Enter behavioural change. I apologize for redirecting your focus and bursting your bubble but the problem was never losing weight, it has always been the behaviours that dictate our lifestyle. Instead of focusing on “how can we lose weight” we shifted our focus to “how can we develop long lasting behaviours that keep our body & mind healthy”.
There are tons of effective strategies we use with our clients to create behaviours that become a part of who they are. When we integrate essential healthy behaviours into our lifestyle, we are highly unlikely to ever gain the weight we lost. It would not be possible to discuss all the strategies we researched and developed in one or even 100 blog posts. However, I will share one of my favourite strategies that chances are you will not have heard anywhere else:
Anchoring is the act of attaching a very specific act/ritual (usually a healthy one) to our lifestyle. It is meant to bring us back to center (or point zero) every time we lose sight of our goals or relapse to an unhealthy lifestyle. For anchoring to succeed, we HAVE to make sure that we always carry on that specific act/ritual. The moment we stop doing that act/ritual, we lose the anchor and the effect is gone. Anchoring is meant to exist forever unless replaced with another healthy anchor. There are levels of anchoring (basic, effective & very effective). This is a flow sheet of how anchoring works:
Figure 1: How anchoring works to keep our healthy lifestyle going
Examples of healthy anchoring includes:
- 2 cups of water in the morning before breakfast (basic anchor)
- Vegetables with lunch (effective anchor)
- Very healthy breakfast: oatmeal, chia seeds, fruits & a small omelette (very effective anchor)
Anchoring becomes useful & VERY effective when we relapse into an unhealthy lifestyle and so is really meant to save us. It gives us a starting point to focus on and allows us to remember our healthy lifestyle. It almost acts as a seed that will sprout in negative conditions and offers us hope & a positive focal point.
Caution: You have to make sure the anchor you choose is one that is healthy and suits your lifestyle. For example selecting a healthy breakfast as an anchor point when you have a history of missing breakfast is a mistake.
I hope you found this post useful, comment below on your anchors and we will be happy to offer feedback!
Mohamed Rezk, RD
Mohamed is a Registered Dietitian, the founder of RNC and a Toronto-based educator who, through behavioural analysis & change, strives to help people discover those small, daily changes that can lead to optimal health results, happiness and a fully balanced lifestyle.