Okay, bear with me on this, as parts of what I am going to ‘discuss’ seem bloody obvious but I am sure you will still think, ‘yeah, right, as if that would work!’. I think some of it, or the understanding of it, is going to help my Slimming World journey; making it a little easier hopefully.
You will roll your eyes when I tell you that I started yet another course this week…yes, my thirst for knowledge is as endless as my crisp-eating ability. This time though, rather than being about wise Philosophers, it is all about behavioural economics which, together with the closely related field of behavioral finance, couples scientific research on the psychology of decision making with economic theory to better understand what motivates investors, employees, and consumers. So far, I have looked at how our emotions – rather than our rational mind – lead us to make decisions and that most of us have no idea that this is the case. It is really interesting and the majority of lectures are presented by Dan Ariely – who is such an engaging chap; I am loving this course!
As losing weight is my main focus at the moment, I am always trying to improve my knowledge of the psychology behind this, and how life as a loser can be made that little bit easier. So imagine my delight, whilst I was watching these lectures, to hear this expert in behaviour talking about things that I had done, or decisions that I had made, which when put into context for me have affected my weight historically. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were ‘lightbulb’ moments, but they certainly put a wry smile on my face and had me literally nodding in agreement. I will just focus on the areas of the lectures which I think are pertinent to my weight loss…as this is supposed to be a weight loss blog, but I often get sidetracked!
The first piece of behaviour he discussed which had me nodding was something know as ‘self-herding’. Dan discussed the fact that people don’t know what they want very often and that figuring out our preferences is in fact very hard. He gave an example about buying coffee from Dunkin Donuts and doing this day in, day out, until one day you couldn’t buy from Dunkin Donuts for some reason. So you go to Starbucks, but are outraged at the price, yet you want coffee, so you buy coffee and you enjoy the coffee and you head off and go about your business. The next time you approach Starbucks you go back in again and buy coffee from them, regardless of the fact that you were initially outraged at the price they charge. Why do you do that? Well, you ask yourself certain questions, such as “What have I done before? What I did before must have been a good decision, after all I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t a great decision, let me repeat it.” It is far easier to consult our memory than it is to consult our preferences. And what this means is that if we have done something in the past – regardless of whether we liked it or not – we are likely to do it again in the future; we are creatures of habit.
From a business perspective this is good; to the extent that if you can get people to behave one way there’s a good likelihood that people will keep on doing that later. If you can remind people how they behaved, there’s a good chance that they will keep on behaving that way. Think for one moment about reward cards and the associated promotions that come with them. If you have a Tesco Clubcard, they monitor your purchases and will send you associated promotions for the purchases you have made, so that you keep going back and doing it again. Just as how when you buy a book from Amazon, they will also ‘recommend’ similar reads…which resonate with you as you like these types of books, and so are more likely to buy them – whether you want to or not to a certain extent!
What does this mean for me and my weight loss journey then? Well, it partly helps to explain why I made so many poor decisions in the past. Why I kept returning to McDonalds, why I kept eating multipacks of crisps. Consciously I knew that this wasn’t a good thing to do, but subconsciously I was self-herding and repeating patterns of behaviour that were known to me regardless of how that behaviour made me feel. This meant that I was strengthening my habit over and over again; self-herding if you like, until such a time that I was willing to become cognisant of this and to change my behaviour. How was this achieved? Through the use of food and mood diaries, through taking pictures of what I was eating, calculating the calories in the food I was consuming, looking at myself in the mirror and properly seeing what I had become! Deep stuff really. But when people at the Eating Disorders clinic kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault, I used to laugh at their ludicrousness; of course it was my fault…I was the one eating the food after all. But this self-herding behaviour was at play, and perhaps part of what I was doing was not my fault in the unconscious sense.
Gavan Fitzsimons was next to lecture and he talked about some really interesting stuff surrounding something called ‘backlash’. Quite simply, this is when we have a negative, or adverse, reaction to something which we are being told to do. So in slimming terms for example, you will be told to count your syns, to weigh your healthy extras, to write a food diary, to exercise, to eat healthily – and you will hear these messages time and time again. After a while, and unconsciously, we begin to backlash. We will do the exact opposite of what we are supposed to do. We will instead binge on unhealthy food, we will sit on the sofa and veg out, we will do all of the things that we know we shouldn’t be doing…yet we don’t know why we do it! No solution was given as to how to overcome this though; I am hoping that just being aware of backlash will be enough to help me get over it. I used to hear people telling me what to do all of the time, and I would just want to rebel, even though I knew what they were saying was perfectly logical…yet I thought my response wasn’t logical. It turns out that it was perhaps more logical than I thought!
The final piece of information discussed, that I think is going to be of help on my Slimming World journey, was that of ‘aspirational products’. According to Gavan, people in Western society can be exposed to between 15,000 and 20,000 brands per day. I couldn’t quite believe it, but then I paused for a moment to recall my day and all of the things I had noticed. For example, I had eaten a banana with a ‘Geest’ label on it, had eaten a ‘HiFi’ bar, had drunk from my ‘Buxton’ water bottle, had blown my nose using a ‘Kleenex’ tissue, and had stepped outside and looked at my steering wheel which has a ‘Land Rover’ badge in the middle of it. This was all within the space of five measly minutes. I then drove past a ‘McDonalds’ and a ‘KFC’ and a ‘Pizza Hut’, a ‘Volvo’, ‘Suzuki’ and ‘Honda’ dealership within seconds of each other and then arrived at ‘Asda’ which had thousands of branded products inside. So this incredible level of brand exposure is actually more plausible than you think it is!
How exactly does this help my Slimming World quest then? Well apparently, if I were to surround myself with aspirational products – products or brands that I wish to become a successful user of – then I am more likely to succeed. At a basic level this is obvious. A house full of Cadburys products does not a successful slimmer make; whereas a house full of Ryvita products is more likely to produce slimming success! But if you take this a stage further and look at my motivation board – which has pictures of happy, healthy and active people, undertaking sporting activities that I wish to be able to undertake one day – it could have a strong impact on my weight loss. If I immerse and surround myself in images of the things that I want – a healthy body – then this is more likely to happen. If I surround myself with likeminded friends, then I am more likely to keep my behaviour in check. If I have a lounge full of gym equipment rather than full of squishy beanbags, then I am more likely to be active. And if I have a full fruit bowl rather than a full crisp cupboard, then I am more likely to eat healthily.
What this has done is to reinforce yet again that my belief in the importance of the link between psychology and weight loss is far more powerful than some people think it is. We all know that consuming less calories than we use will result in a weight loss, and if successful slimming was that simple then the UK wouldn’t have such a problem with obesity. Understanding the psychological aspects behind slimming – particularly in individual cases – is, to me, far more important than quick fix offerings such as weight loss pills and surgery. If you cannot address and understand why you do the things you do, what hope do you have of losing weight and sustaining that weight loss long-term? For some, a simple diet is all that is needed, but for many more the issue of weight is far deeper.
Anyway, enough of the deep and meaningful…let’s take a look at today’s usuals…
Today was rather nice; I woke up before the alarm and so had a leisurely morning getting ready to see the horses. It was still bloody freezing outside though and we kept getting little snow storms, so my other half told me to stay in the car again as I still haven’t found my wellies…even the dog didn’t venture out of the car as it was that cold! Something seemed to be giving the horses cause for concern – or rather cause to act like pillocks and prance around with their tails in the air, snorting. I couldn’t work out what it was, and they soon settled, so we left them to eat their hay and headed off to Asda. This weekend is causing some concern, as Asda is closed tomorrow…what will I do without my daily shopping fix? And my other half is heading off for a day trip to London on Monday with my sister and my brother in law – he is best friends with my chap as they grew up together – so we had to stock up today. It was quite strange planning my meals for Monday in the carpark of the local Asda, as I like to choose what I fancy each day, and resent having to plan ahead! Anyway, it was either that or go hungry so I chose the path of least resistance and reluctantly gave him my little shopping list. He came out loaded up with giant Smarties cookies and giant Yorkie buttons for himself…and I ended up with a sweet potato and some peppers, amongst other healthy things! I won’t stop him eating what he wants to though as I don’t think that it’s fair. I have to learn to change my habits for life without enforcing my regime upon him; it can be tough at times but you just have to man up really…temptation is everywhere and if you give in it just a puts you further away from your goal. I keep reminding myself of this each time I want to ram the cookies down his throat…or mine for that matter! Once the shopping had been completed it was then home for another cupboard clean and sort – our spice cupboard is full of duplicate items and I wanted to combine and downsize – and the rest of the afternoon was spent watching lectures about Sigmund Freud. Sky seems to have broken – well, we haven’t got Sky anymore but paid for the viewing card to get all channels but Sky ones practically, but it’s not working. I am convinced it’s a Sky conspiracy designed to get us to ring up and re-subscribe…but I am managing to watch a few programmes on the laptop and TV Catch Up…ha, Sky, you won’t get me back yet – unless you send me loads of M&S vouchers!
Breakfast: Banana and Porridge with cinnamon and Alpro almond milk (7 syns).
Lunch: Vegetable soup.
Dinner: Quorn lamb kebabs, salad and sweet potato chips with halloumi and pittas (2 x HEB and 2 x HEA).
Snacks: Two packets of Snack a Jacks (9 syns) and two Scan Bran with low fat soft cheese (7 syns). Although I forgot the eat a packet of the Snack a Jacks…so only 4.5 syns there!
Finally – I was able to nail a decent breakfast! The porridge sachet was 5 syns and the amount of milk used cost me 2 syns…and it was tasty and filling, so I am hoping that this helps with the weight loss. Lunch was another soup courtesy of the Super 6 Aldi veggie promo…it had two grated carrots, a grated parsnip, grated potato, two thinly sliced leeks, two finely chopped onions, a grated broccoli stalk, garlic, black pepper and two herb stock pots. The reason I had to grate everything was due to the fact that our hand blender broke a few weeks ago and it hasn’t yet been replaced…grating might be a faff but I like to think of it as extra Body Magic! Dinner was lovely – homemade kebabs using the Quorn Lamb style strips which are syn free, along with some fried veggies, salad, pittas (2 x HEB), halloumi (2 x HEA) and sweet potato chips. So 18.5 syns today…I am not convinced this is going to work for me, but I have been trying to spend these syns on healthier items such as the scan bran and the porridge; I will see how the results this coming week turn out! I trust my consultant and I trust the Slimming World plan and it makes sense that a bigger person needs more calories…it’s just that I don’t want to be a bigger person anymore. But, like I said, I will give it a go and see if the results are there.
Exercise: 15 minutes Boxercise, 15 minutes Dancercise, 15 minutes Sit-ups – 45 minutes in total.
So my five days a week target has been hit for the Gold award, second week running, with another two days left in my exercise week. I am planning on exercising on both of these days too. It feels good to be doing something each day, and even though it isn’t Olympic standard, or even average Joe standard yet, it is better than nothing!
I hope Saturday has been good to you, and I hope will power sticks with my fellow healthy wannabes throughout Easter Sunday too,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx
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