Finding It Hard To Lose Weight? Habits Have an Emotional Payoff

One thing that most people trying to lose weight should realize that their current weight — their current lifestyle — are all products of their habits. The interesting thing about habits is that we think we’re conscious about them, but unfortunately most people really aren’t very conscious about the things that are going on in their lives. In many cases, the only notice, the most obvious things that are happening around you. Now, in terms of, like your internal processes, how you react to things, how you respond, the emotions that you associate with said certain mental images; these are all pretty much automatic.

In many cases, people aren’t really even aware of them. And this is precisely why many Americans are grappling with weight loss, with weight issues. They feel that their lives when it comes to eating and activity — physical activity levels — are pretty much said in stone. They think that’s how they respond to food is pretty much who they are. A lot of overweight people say, “Well, that’s just who I am.” You choose who you are.

Seriously, when you choose your habits and you choose your lifestyle, you can get totally different results. The reality that meditation, psychological research and sociological analysis as produced over the years again and again, is that people create their own reality that seriously. When we choose our thoughts and how we process external stimuli, we can change our external reality. Unfortunately, most people would rather like to believe that they are just helpless passengers in their lives and they’re just taking this automated trip and they are in a car called “their life.” If you feel this way, you don’t feel like you have much control of your life.

It would not be surprising that you’re having weight issues. It would not be surprising that weight loss is almost impossible. The good news is that it wants you become aware of the power of habits. A whole new world opens up to you, not only can you be able to lose weight, but you also feel better about yourself. Moreover, you will be able to take control over many different aspects of your life.

There’s no magic in this; there’s no magic pill and expensive supplement you have to buy. It all boils down to one thing and one thing alone: “consciousness.” As long as you are aware and as long as your consciousness is sharpened, there’s just so many things you can do. Remember, your mind is probably the most powerful organism in the universe. Learn how to tap the power of your mind through a proper understanding of the power of habits.

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Habits Are Very Hard To Shape

The reason habits are very hard to shape is because of the fact that people are lazy; people are very scared of change. If you feel that certain things happen in the certain progression, it’s very hard to get off that chain and try something else. This is true when it comes to personal finance. This is definitely true when it comes to personal nutrition and try to lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you weigh the way you weigh because of your habits. If you want to change the way you look and how you feel because of how you look, you only need to change your habits. Sure, this is easier said than done, but the truth has to be said. Your physical shape is a reflection of your habits.

With that said, habits are very hard to shaped because, as mentioned above, people think that they are helpless. People think that there’s really nothing they can do because there’s this almost automatic linkage between mental impulses, a personal action and of course, of weight gain and physical appearance. There is an iron chain connection between all these different items in this sequence. You can break the sequence; you can break the chain. It all begins by focusing on the part of the chain that you can control the most. Which part is this? Your thoughts.

Habits Are Composed Of Physical Patterns and Emotional Triggers

The main reason why habits seem that they are said in stones is because when a certain emotional trigger, when we perceive certain external stimuli by habit, we respond in emotional terms. These emotional triggers then trigger a secondary wave of physical action. For example, when somebody calls you “fat”, you can either get mad and hit the gym, you can run around a block, or you can just go straight to your fridge and eat.

If you feel bad about yourself or feel somewhat depressed, you can choose to workout, read a book, or order some fried chicken. Habits are the interplay between physical actions and emotional triggers. You have to be aware of how they are linked for you to eventually control this linkage.

The Secret to Changing Habits Is To Change Emotional Payoffs

Have you ever realized when you get worried or anxious that you attempt to overeat? The reason you overeat is because there is some emotional payoff, there’s some “calming effect” when you eat. The problem with dealing with emotional triggers this way is it leads to your packing on more pounds. When you look at the mirror and you’re bigger, you feel sadder. When you feel sad, you want to eat more because it calms you. When you eat more, you get even bigger. You see how this works. It can be a downward spiral.

The secret to changing habits, then is to change the emotional payoff that you get. Instead of a feeling calmed when you eat that ice cream, focus on feeling panicked. Focus on the fact that for every extra calorie that you eat due to chocolate candy bars, ice cream, fried chicken, or burgers, it all goes to your waistline. When you do this, you change the emotional payoff. Instead of you feeling calm and reassured, you feel panicked, pain, shame, and embarrassment.

Redirecting Emotional Payoff versus Change in Emotional Payoff

There are many different ways to deal with negative habits that we have established and picked up throughout the years. Emotional eating is one such negative habit. One way to deal with that is to basically change the emotional payoff. When you hit that quart of ice cream, instead of feeling calm, soothed and reassured, you feel guilty and ashamed because you know those calories are going to end up in your thighs. That approach changes emotional payoffs.

The other approach would be to redirect emotional triggers. Instead of a feeling that when you’re stressed you need to hit the fridge to eat, you replace that with feeling in control, feeling that you can choose how you respond. In many cases, simply giving yourself the time and the space to choose your emotional response goes a long way with you questioning your habits. The moment you are able to successfully question your habits is the moment you will start making progress regarding breaking that habit. You’ll be surprised as to how many people feel that their habits are all automatic; that they are slaves to their habitual patterns. This is not true. We learned our habits and we can unlearn our habits.

The Right Habits

Obviously, if you’re reading this blog post, you probably already know what the right habits are. If you are struggling with a few extra pounds, you know exactly what the right habits are. But just to be safe, let me break it down too. The right habits that you should be establishing with your emotional triggers should be focused on lowering your calorie intake. The less calories you eat every single day, the higher the likelihood you will lose weight. Why? Your body will compensate for those lost calories by burning your stored fat.

The other approach would be to increase the calories that you burn every single day. Normally, people exercise, they walk around and move around, to increase the rate at which their body burns calories. This is the classic weight loss equation: Eat less, move around more. If you do both of these, the pace in which you burn calories increases.

The pace in which you lose weight increases.

The Right Habits Lead To Better Emotions

The good news is that if you adopt the right habits, you feel better about yourself. You feel more victorious. You feel that you’re in more control over your life. The main reason most many Americans feel bad about the state of their lives is because they feel that they’re not really in control; this leads to a higher level of frustration, depression and anxiety. This is no surprise that the number one prescribed medication in the United States for the past few decades had been anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, or anti-hypertensive. Bad news.

The good news is that by adopting the right habits, you can have better emotional payoffs. This leads to a feeling that you’re in control of your life. This can create an upward spiral where you engage in positive habits to get the emotional payoff, which then encourages you to engage in more physical habits. At the end of the day, you look better; feel better about yourself; and you’re healthy on overall.

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  1. When I was in high school, I had a friend who had a bad trigger. Anytime someone called her fat or made fun of her body in any way, she would start throwing up her food. She was bulimic for over a year from all this. She ended up losing weight but today, she has so many health issues, it is scary. I just wanted to share that because that is a very WRONG habit to form!

  2. I can certainly identify with that feeling of being a helpless passenger in your own life. You end up just watching everything happen around you, being carried along by the tide and never really feeling able to influence anything. The worst of it is that it is so self-fulfilling; because you feel helpless, you behave helplessly and that seems to confirm the theory.

    Consciousness is easy to say and less easy to do, but the advice on redirecting and changing triggers is really helpful because it gives us something concrete to focus on doing rather than simply telling us “quit whining and change those bad habits”, which is what a lot of advice seems to boil down to.

  3. I guess my bad habit is that I have a gym membership that I have not used in months. I get a membership and say I’m going to make the effort yet I never can stick to it. I am again trying to commit to going at least twice a week. I need the gym for my energy.

  4. Great article and so true!!!! I was able to relate my own personal habits to my own emotional triggers that I have encountered in my own life. I am now 41 years old and I, myself have been on the emotional roller coaster on self destruction by what I put in my mouth and as a result I went from a very fit 20 year old who was a Fitness Competitor to an overweight 30 year old who couldn’t handle the emotional ups and downs of a full-time job, children and just everyday living. So,I would drink 2 to 3 20 Mountain Dew drinks a day in addition to the other bad foods that were just pushing me deeper and deeper into a hole. I finally woke up at the age of 37 and stopped my madness. I am now 41, and happy to say, I have lost the 21 pounds that I gained in my 30’s and I have kept it off. I still have my ups and downs, but my effort to change was truly a mental effort and I strongly feel that if you are not mentally ready to to fulfill your healthy lifestyle, you won’t reach your goals. It’s all in the mental power that you give yourself.

  5. I wish I had read this article years ago! I only recently started my weight loss journey and it’s so true that the biggest reason I’m more successful now than in previous attempts is the change in my thinking. I had to change my daily snacking habit and resist the urge to munch when I’m nervous or bored. The weird thing is that now that I’ve refocused, I don’t seem to get nervous or bored at all.

  6. I am overweight, i know this but it is extremely hard to get off this excess weight. The diet part of it i have tried but i realize that it takes a lot in one’s pocket to go down this road as i have come to realize that unhealthy food is cheaper. I bought myself an elliptical but only goes there when i am extremely stressed out. I am happy that i have become a part of this community as I am getting useful tips as to how to battle the bulge.

  7. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight ever since I got over my emotional barrier and just started doing it. I agree that there is definitely a huge emotional payoff. I frequently just tell myself “ok, I’ll do this exercise this many times, no matter what”. Now, I feel more confident, and my friends are reacting positively.

  8. I can identify so strongly with this blog, triggers for me are more habit then emotional and I find I am constantly challenged to stop going for the knee jerk reactions. I try very hard to retrain my worst weight gain habits, instead of grabbing that doughnut I neat nuts.

    It took awhile to get used to pre- measuring out foods and skipping the fast stuff but it is worth it. I have dropped close to 67 lbs!

  9. The presence of proper habits really made a difference in my weight loss journey. I started to lose pounds when I started cutting off toxic people. I had managed to surround myself with people and situations that made me feel like I would never get my dream life or dream body. When I decided not to engage with them any longer, I realised I could write a new narrative for my life. Instead of pointless gossip sessions, I started going to the gym. All the extra time in the evenings meant I could make healthier lunch options. By pursuing emotional health, I also got closer to my fitness goals.

  10. This is absolutely true, there’s no doubt in my mind that my weight (when it was too high) was all about my lifestyle habits. I used to eat when I was bored, and it’s just a habit that I got into to give me something to do. In all fairness, it worked and passed the time, but also made me fat. Now that I am slimmer I can sit back and appreciate just how much of a negative impact my choices and habits were having on my health and weight, so I am very glad that I have managed to change my habits, as my life is much better now thanks to it.

  11. I have to say that I noticed that I eat less when I am truly happy, but when I am just feeling normal I would eat more. It is also true for me that I make the wrong choices. For me it is difficult to stick to my “You know, I am going to exercise now, rather than to eat that pack of chips while watching a movie” because it is what I enjoy doing. Yet I have noticed that if I rather watch a program where people do active things, I want to be active. It’s a good way to get yourself “in the mood” for exercise instead of eating.

  12. This is so true. Whenever I do something, I see to it my entire being is ready.. not just mental, emotional or physical alone but all of them should all be in harmony. A balanced well-being makes me work more efficient and effectively in everything I do.

  13. Certainly, our emotions have an effect on our habits and by extension, weight loss and fitness. I know that when I am feeling good about myself I cannot wait to get out of the house and be active. The feeling after physical activity, likewise makes me feel good and so I want to repeat it.

  14. Habits and triggers are extremely difficult to shape and/or overcome. I don’t believe I am someone with many “triggers” where weight management is concerned, but I am a very habitual person. This has worked in my favor many time, as my weight and health have always been an issue for me. When I am committed to healthy living and proper weight management, I can lose what ever amount of weight I set my mind to lose. The issue lies in my susceptibility to poor habits as well. The poor habits I am referring to are excessive social eating, eating late at night, and skipping breakfast. This poor habits are able to keep me spiraling for a while before I am able to get back on track.

  15. I understand the afraid to change part because for me I don’t like the attention that comes with having a healthy looking body. I’m not an attention seeker so when I notice more people paying attention to “how good” I look I slack off from my workout even though I’m only a teen. I’m having a bad time breaking this habit because at this age, this is when most people pay attention to physical features rather than internal features.

  16. I think the key to this article is being conscious about the choices we are making in life. Many of us go through life on auto-pilot falling back on what we learned, good or bad, as children. If we were taught bad habits, we may not be able to recognize them as being bad unless we are shown the harm they are doing to us and given a better alternative. It really is about awakening our attention to something we hardly give any attention to in our busy lives – our habitual behaviors.