Psychology of Weight Loss: Dealing With Triggers
Have you ever felt like you are not hungry at all, but then the moment you walk into the movie theatre and smell that popcorn, you simply had to have some? Of course you did! It’s normal. It’s a very common and normal response to a very potent stimulus: The smell and sounds of popcorn. And what’s a little popcorn going to hurt?
Well, “a little” popcorn might not hurt that much. But most of us eat at least several hundred calories worth of popcorn when we go the movies. And because of The Multiplier Effect, an extra few hundred calories multiplied out over the course of a year adds up to extra unwanted pounds.
For example, let’s say you had buttered popcorn three times a month. Over the course of a year, that may very well be an extra 12,000 calories. That’s about four extra pounds you just added to your waistline every single year. And this is just one example!
Now imagine all of the other triggers that occur in your life. Think of your favorite restaurants, donut shops, coffee houses, meeting places, the smells, the billboards, the sounds, and the invitations from friends. Think of that Doughnut and coffee that have been a habit for eight years at the office or the big toasted bagel that is available when you walk into the building. The list is long and for most of us, these daily triggers are very hard to resist.
How to change.
So the first step is to recognize that you are responding to certain triggers or stimuli. This is known at the stimulus-response phenomenon. The stimulus is out there (i.e., popcorn smell in the movie theatre) and we respond (“Yes, I will have butter on my popcorn, thank you very much”). The first step of changing is recognizing the pattern.
Okay. So now you’ve recognized it. So what do you do about it?
What you do is you go into battle mentality. You see and become aware of all the stimuli before they approach you. Then you put your battle plan into motion. Battle plans to avoid the same old weight gaining stimulus response phenomenon can take many forms. For example, you can
- “Avoid the stimulus altogether”
- Make a substitution as your response.
- Have a smaller portion.
- You can blunt the stimulus.
Try some of these next time you face down your tempting stimulus. Need an example? Well, next time you head into the movie theatre, plan ahead of time and know that you are going to face the delicious smell of freshly popped popcorn and that it is going to tempt you into having some. Decide ahead of time what you are going to do about it. If you must have popcorn, then pop your own at home. Use one of those smaller bags that is lower in calories. Bring it with you. (It’s also a lot cheaper!) Or, try substituting. Think of a sugar-free soft drink, a low calorie protein-based pretzel snack, chewing gum. You could even avoid the stimulus altogether if it is really a potent one for you, and start watching the movies at home on your DVD player.
Remember, you can’t turn off all the stimuli in the world. You can’t make them stop popping popcorn at the movie theatre. You can’t close down your favorite bakery, but you can be prepared and you can take action. You can take a different route. You can substitute a healthier response. Remember, your mission is to lose weight, become healthier and liver a better life.