Combine the Power of Habits, Routines and Rituals (HRRs) to Help you Lose Weight

During confinement due to the virus, the new “Freshmen 15” has become the “Quarantine-15”, meaning too many of us are gaining weight due to stress, boredom, and the proximity to the kitchen. 

In our previous article, we spoke of ways to satisfy our craving for (HRRs) to simplify our lives and help us achieve a sense of control. Avoiding weight gain and losing weight are no exceptions to the power of HRRs.

Meal Prepping and How to Make and Follow Negative Habits

Concerning habits, I consider myself a contrarian.  Too many “expert” articles will say you cannot form a “negative habit”, that is, they assert one cannot make it a habit to do “nothing”.  In particular, many will argue you can’t formulate a habit to quit smoking because there is no real cue and no immediate reward. But we aren’t 100% Pavlovian creatures.  

Avoiding vices and temptations in themselves provide the cue, and the reward would be the satisfaction of defeating them.  For example, every time you open the refrigerator and you see a cake, (the cue), internally you say “NO!” and the sense of control you feel becomes your reward.  Do this repeatedly (not necessarily on purpose) and you won’t need to depend on willpower as much, because a “negative habit” has solidified.  Let’s not stop at forming habits. We can also make routines to help reduce temptations.  

Let’s say your goal is to minimize your time in the kitchen to no more than 20 minutes per meal, so as to avoid over-eating. This goes against the idea that you can’t form “negative”, or “avoidance routines”. Don’t listen to the “experts” that say this can’t be done.  I know you’ll agree with me after I show you how. You can begin this by forming a routine meal plan with designated eating times. 

The time you use for your meal preparation doesn’t count. That is, you can spend 4 hours, or whatever it takes to prepare meals ahead of time (say, on Monday mornings), and freeze them for the rest of that week. This is actually becoming a trend.  But don’t trick yourself and snack here and there in those 4 hours just because you’re doing meal prep. Notice that this routine of making planned meals will actually strengthen and provide structure to your avoidance goal of minimizing mealtime to 20 minutes.

You will also need other routines to avoid the kitchen in the meantime. Remember, routines can be looked at as a combination of habits. 

  • Habit #1: to form could be, after your 20 min. breakfast, get up, and go to another room other than the kitchen.  A cue could be your smartphone timer, or the end of a radio or TV program if you time it right.
  • Habit #2: do whatever you want, but stay in that room until 10 AM. Take plenty of water, no snacks. This is the situation you’d normally face at work anyway. 
  • Habit #3: go outside at 10:15 for 10 minutes for a walk.  
  • Habit #4: answer your emails until 10:30…and so on. The idea is to fill the time up with purposeful activities, which will become habits until you have formed a morning routine(s) that doesn’t involve the kitchen.  Repeat the same after lunch until dinner.    

Tip for Losing Weight: Eat Perishables Now, Save Non-Perishables for Later

I become resentful when thinking that some could accuse a person of “hoarding” non-perishable food, say rice, because of the virus.  Of course, we have to think of our fellow shoppers and not buy every bag of rice in the store. But if the store says “limit 2 bags of rice” go for it. But for those intelligent enough to have saved some non-perishables, you can actually turn this into a weight-losing proposition by planning right.  You’ll want to eat more of your perishable water-rich foods, such as salads and fruits, and minimize using your harder to find perishables, such as pasta.

This list of HRR ideas to help beat stress and lose weight instead is by no means all-inclusive.  Several helpful tips including reducing media consumption, scratching off home projects you’ve put off for years off your list, taking online classes to learn a new language, starting a new career online– these are all great ideas.  

In other words, make lemonade with the lemons this virus has brought us all.

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