At this point you have logged your meals for at least one week and discovered what antecedents trigger your behaviors. Now, it’s time to make a plan for changing your behaviors. We’ll start with 3 categories: distractions, replacement behaviors, and intermittent reinforcement.
This may seem petty to some people, but finding positive ways to distract yourself when faced with those triggering antecedents can help you learn how to avoid acting out certain behaviors all together. When choosing a distractor make sure it’s something reasonable, easily accessible, and something you won’t be embarrassed to do in public. For example, let’s say the behavior I want to change is my road rage. For distractions, I could play calming music in my car during high traffic hours, keep a stress ball handy, or have a “happy place” to rely on in those situations which trigger my road rage. Take a look at the notes you’ve been making so far. Start brainstorming and write down a list of possible distractors you can use to help offset the temptation to react that comes along with your antecedents.
Behavior change can be very difficult, especially when it comes to food. Most of us have been developing less than healthy habits for years. When you begin transitioning into a healthy lifestyle, it’s important that you not only find ways to distract yourself, but also pick positive behaviors to replace the negative actions that are yielding unwanted consequences. Continuing with the road rage example, if cursing is a behavior I want to change, I can start by replacing the curse words with funny terms. Simply replacing your choice words with “corn dog” is a good start. Just think if I was driving down the road yelling, “You son of a corn dog!” First, it sounds stupid. Second, it’s going to get old. Eventually, it won’t even be worth yelling because, well…corn dog. When it comes to healthy eating find positive things you can do to replace your negative behaviors. Maybe it’s switching up what snacks you eat or starting a new project (like a vision board) when you’re bored instead of eating mindlessly just because there’s nothing else to do. Find something positive to add to your life, and the negative behaviors will start to fizz out.
First things first, reinforcement should be used sparingly. We call this intermittent reinforcement. Think about it. If you reward yourself EVERY time you do something good, what’s going to happen? Eventually the reward won’t mean much and it will no longer serve its purpose of helping you change your behaviors. From personal experience, I was raised feeling like every celebration in life should be accompanied with great food. There’s nothing wrong with that, BUT don’t choose food/snacks/alcohol as your reward for “good” behavior. You need to think of something that’s not centered around food. For example, to start out I could put $1 in a jar every time I remembered to say corn dog instead of cursing. In contrast, I could make a tally mark on a sticky note in my car every time I curse instead of using my replacement word. At the end of the week if I have less than 10 tally marks, then I would reward myself. Over time, I would need to up the ante and reduce the frequency of the reinforcement.
NOTE TO SELF
By creating a plan for challenge #3, you will automatically become more conscious of your behaviors. That in itself will lead you to removing the unwanted behaviors faster. Working the plan you create only increases your chance for success. Remember that behavior change takes dedication. You can’t half ass the work and expect great results. You will also need to be patient with yourself. A lifestyle change won’t happen over night, but each small victory puts you one step closer to your goals.
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