Boosting Weight Loss with Mental Imagery

Mental imagery has been found to boost weight loss proving that losing weight begins with what we imagine it will look and feel like.

Weight Loss Requires Change

When it comes to weight loss, it seems there is no shortage of programs. And while they may vary in what types, amounts, and frequency of foods they incorporate, there is one thing they can all agree on – losing weight requires changing behavior.

However, just how to change behavior has been a long and troubled problem – a problem that Dr. Linda Solbrig from the School of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh took a different approach to.

A Different Approach

Recruiting 141 participants, Solbrig allocated some of them to a Functional Imagery Training (FIT) group and some to a Motivational Interviewing (MI) group.

While MI is a technique that sees a counselor support someone to develop, highlight and verbalize their need or motivation for change, and their reasons for wanting to change, FIT goes one step further as it makes use of multisensory imagery to explore these changes by teaching clients how to elicit and practice motivational imagery themselves. Everyday behaviors are used to cue imagery practice until it becomes a cognitive habit.

In Solbrig’s study, the maximum contact time was four hours of individual consultation, and neither group received any additional dietary advice or information.

The Results?

After six months people who used the FIT intervention lost an average of 4.11kg, compared with an average of 0.74kg among the MI group, and after 12 months – six months after the intervention had finished – the FIT group continued to lose weight, with an average of 6.44kg lost compared with 0.67kg in the MI group (Solbrig et al., 2018)

“It’s fantastic that people lost significantly more weight on this intervention, as, unlike most studies, it provided no diet/physical activity advice or education. People were completely free in their choices and supported in what they wanted to do, not what a regimen prescribed” (Solbrig, 2018).

Dr Solbrig explained, “Most people agree that in order to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more, but in many cases, people simply aren’t motivated enough to heed this advice – however much they might agree with it. So FIT comes in with the key aim of encouraging someone to come up with their own imagery of what change might look and feel like to them, how it might be achieved and kept up, even when challenges arise” (Solbrig, 2018).

She continues, “We started with taking people through an exercise about a lemon. We asked them to imagine seeing it, touching it, juicing it, drinking the juice and juice accidently squirting in their eye, to emphasize how emotional and tight to our physical sensations imagery is. From there we are able to encourage them to fully imagine and embrace their own goals. Not just ‘imagine how good it would be to lose weight’ but, for example, ‘what would losing weight enable you to do that you can’t do now? What would that look / sound / smell like?’, and encourage them to use all of their senses” (Solbrig, 2018).

“FIT is based on two decades of research showing that mental imagery is more strongly emotionally charged than other types of thought. It uses imagery to strengthen people’s motivation and confidence to achieve their goals, and teaches people how to do this for themselves, so they can stay motivated even when faced with challenges. We were very excited to see that our intervention achieved exactly what we had hoped for and that it helped our participants achieve their goals and most importantly to maintain them” (Andrade, 2018).

What we can learn from studies like this is that losing weight begins with what we imagine it will look and feel like.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss.

While obesity is arguably the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

Beyond Calories & Exercise: Eliminating Self-Defeating Behaviors is a 5-hour online continuing education (CE) course that “walks” readers through the process of replacing their self-defeating weight issues with healthy, positive, and productive life-style behaviors. It moves beyond the “burn more calories than you consume” concept to encompass the emotional aspects of eating and of gaining and losing weight. Through 16 included exercises, you will learn how to identify your self-defeating behaviors (SDBs), analyze and understand them, and then replace them with life-giving actions that lead to permanent behavioral change. Course #50-10 | 2013 | 49 pages | 35 posttest questions

Why Diets Fail: The Myth of Willpower is a 1-hour audio continuing education (CE) course that explains why diets fail and provides strategies for what does work. Clinicians continue to recommend diets to their patients, even though diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss. In this course, Dr. Mann will describe the evidence on why diets don’t work in the long term, give the biological reasons why diets fail, explain why willpower is not the problem, and then give strategies for healthy eating that do not require dieting or willpower.

Dr. Mann is uniquely qualified to provide the real truth about dieting, eating, obesity, and self-control. She is a widely cited expert whose research has been funded by the NIH, USDA, and NASA, and is published in dozens of scholarly journals. She does not run a diet clinic or test diets and she has never taken a penny from commercial diet companies, or sat on their boards of directors, or endorsed one of their products. Because of this, her livelihood, research funding, and reputation are not dependent on her reporting that diets work or that obesity is unhealthy. This sets her apart from nearly all diet and obesity researchers and allows her to speak the truth about these topics, which she does with abandon. Course #11-07 | 2017 | 10 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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Emotional Overeating

By Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT @pdresources.org

emotional overatingWe all overeat at times, but when it becomes a pattern and it happens in connection with characteristic emotions, it’s called emotional overeating. Emotional overeating is also different from simply eating more calories than you expend because it mimics an addiction. There is a trigger (usually an identifiable feeling, or set of feelings), a feeling of lack of control over one’s behavior (also seen as the inability to inhibit the impulse), and feelings of guilt and shame about the behavior.

Often the emotional overeater, like an addict, knows that the behavior is causing harm to his/her life, and yet is unable to stop. The emotional overeater’s life can also begin to narrow, much like the addict’s, as social connections are let go of, previously enjoyed hobbies and personal pursuits fall by the wayside, and the primary source of relief becomes the addictive behavior.

Yet the difference is that we can’t simply stop eating the way an addict can use abstinence as a treatment goal. Similarly, emotional overeating is not a behavior that responds to simply being told to stop, because the emotions that underlie the behavior remain.

In fact, being told to stop typically increases the feelings of shame that an emotional overeater already struggles with – often making the behavior even worse. This reality is evidenced by the astounding number of people who struggle with emotional overeating as well as the collective conclusion by the majority of experts in the field that the role of emotions in obesity and weight loss treatment approaches is consistently being overlooked.

What is needed is a different approach. Those who treat obesity, weight loss, and emotional overeating need to look beyond the behavior to understand the emotions that drive it. They need to see emotional overeating not as a lack of willpower, an indication of a character flaw, or an inadequacy, but rather a cry for help. They need to understand the psychological and social obstacles that accompany emotional overeating as well as the patterns that drive it. And then, they need to help their clients unravel their identity from that of a person who is not good enough, and whose behavior is shameful, and begin to build a sense of self that supports healthy eating patterns, distinguishes physical hunger from emotional hunger, and finds ways to meet unmet emotional needs in fulfilling ways.

Click here to learn more.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Emotional Overeating: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that disusses the causes of emotional eating and provides cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Course #40-26 | 2011 | 44 pages | 30 posttest questions

Nutrition and Addiction: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines addiction from a nutritional perspective. Drug addiction is an alarming problem in America, and one that is not receiving the treatment it needs. Compounding the problem is that addiction often leads to nutritional deficiencies, which predisposes the addict to a host of related health complications. Treatment recovery programs that also offer nutritional education have been found to significantly improve three-month sobriety success rates. The first section of this course will take a look at the etiology of addiction, related neurochemical factors and physiological components. The second section will focus on the nutrient deficiencies associated with addiction, along with the resultant effects on mood, cognition and behavior. The last section – the clinician’s toolbox – will give you, the clinician, targeted nutritional interventions and exercises that you can use with your clients to not just improve their recovery rates, but their overall mental health and wellbeing. Course #21-14 | 2017 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions

Why Diets Fail: The Myth of Willpower is a 1-hour audio continuing education (CE) course that explains why diets fail and provides strategies for what does work. Clinicians continue to recommend diets to their patients, even though diets don’t lead to long-term weight loss. In this course, Dr. Mann will describe the evidence on why diets don’t work in the long term, give the biological reasons why diets fail, explain why willpower is not the problem, and then give strategies for healthy eating that do not require dieting or willpower. Dr. Mann is uniquely qualified to provide the real truth about dieting, eating, obesity, and self-control. She is a widely cited expert whose research has been funded by the NIH, USDA, and NASA, and is published in dozens of scholarly journals. She does not run a diet clinic or test diets and she has never taken a penny from commercial diet companies, or sat on their boards of directors, or endorsed one of their products. Because of this, her livelihood, research funding, and reputation are not dependent on her reporting that diets work or that obesity is unhealthy. This sets her apart from nearly all diet and obesity researchers and allows her to speak the truth about these topics, which she does with abandon. This audio course was recorded at the Annual Symposium of the Florida Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in July 2016. Course #11-07 | 2017 | 10 posttest questions

Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss. While obesity is arguably the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

Beyond Calories & Exercise: Eliminating Self-Defeating Behaviors is a 5-hour online continuing education (CE) course that “walks” readers through the process of replacing their self-defeating weight issues with healthy, positive, and productive life-style behaviors. It moves beyond the “burn more calories than you consume” concept to encompass the emotional aspects of eating and of gaining and losing weight. Through 16 included exercises, you will learn how to identify your self-defeating behaviors (SDBs), analyze and understand them, and then replace them with life-giving actions that lead to permanent behavioral change. Course #50-10 | 2013 | 49 pages | 35 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Hard Commitments for Weight Loss

Course excerpt from Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss

Hard Commitments for Weight LossHard commitments are the reason we don’t speed, steal from the store, or cheat on our taxes – because we’d rather not pay the fine. And hard commitments do shape behavior. Smokers smoke less when hit with a hefty tax on cigarettes. People do drive slower in school zones when the price of a speeding ticket is doubled. And if you have to blow into a breathalyzer to start your car – a very common DUI penalty – you are lot less likely to drive drunk.

So the question is: which commitment works better? Asking just this question, RAND Corporation tested both hard and soft commitments on participants’ savings behavior, and came to this conclusion:

“Hard commitment accounts may not appeal to impatient individuals, those who do not anticipate their own self-control problems, or to the poor for whom restrictions on scarce funds can be particularly painful. We test a new ‘soft’ commitment account that asks borrowers to think about their savings goals, how it would feel to achieve them, and make a pledge to work towards these goals (potentially increasing one’s intrinsic motivation), yet has no external restrictions on savings behavior. In a six-month randomized savings experiment we find that such soft commitments can significantly increase amounts saved on day one relative to either a hard commitment account (with external restrictions on withdrawals) or a traditional savings account. Additionally, the soft commitments significantly increased final savings balances relative to no form of commitment and were particularly effective for impatient individuals. However, despite the inherent illiquidity, the hard commitment account proved most effective in building savings balances amongst our participants at the end of six months” (Burke, et al., 2014).

Hard commitments may not appeal to those who don’t anticipate their own self-control problems. If there is anything we should know about weight loss, it is that it is precisely a problem that catches our self-control off guard. We simply don’t anticipate that the juicy burger will be that much harder to resist when it is right in front of us, or that going for a run will not feel as good when we are doing it versus when we think about doing it, or that the minute we start to doubt our ability to reach our weight loss goal we will convince ourselves that a bowl of ice cream after dinner won’t really matter much. And because we don’t anticipate the way our self-control will be affected, we probably also don’t anticipate just how much self-control we will need – or the type of commitment that motivates it.

An article titled, “Put Your Money Where Your Butt Is,” found similar conclusions. Smokers were offered the incentive to open a saving account with the express purpose of giving themselves an incentive to quit. Six months after opening the account, smokers were required to take a urine test for tobacco. If the test showed positive for tobacco – indicating that they had been unable to quit – smokers lost the balance in their savings account. While the contract was taken up by only 11 percent of the participants to which it was offered, those who did participate had significantly better smoking cessation rates than the control group, and the results held up in a twelve-month follow up (six months after participants were allowed to withdraw their money) (Gine, et al., 2010). In an annual review of commitment devices, which included examination of hard and soft commitments, researchers concluded, “We suggest that a hard commitment would decrease enrollment, but increase retention” (Bryan, Karlan, & Nelson, 2010).

The takeaway is that what looks easy in weight loss is not. The easy option is to not put your money – or anything else – on the line. And yet what studies like the one above underscore is that when it comes to weight loss, we need all the leverage on ourselves that we can get.

Click here to learn more.

Behavioral Strategies for Weight LossBehavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss. While obesity is arguably the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion.

Professional Development Resources is approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

 

Taking Control of Self-Control

Course excerpt from Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss

Self-ControlPerhaps the most common weight loss theory is that in order to be successful at weight loss (and arguably at health) we have to control sugar. But we also know that having self-control depends on having enough blood glucose in our system to support our willpower. The question we should be asking then is: just how do we gain self-control when we are dieting (and keeping blood sugar levels low)?

In arguably one of the most self-control deprived group of people – kids with ADHD – researchers demonstrated that the answer may lie in strengthening our executive functions. In a two-year randomized controlled trial, the researchers studied 759 children in 29 Massachusetts schools, comparing the Tools of the Mind program – a research-based educational program that uses child-directed activities and structured make-believe play to increase self-regulation (a core component of executive functioning) – to other kindergarten children not participating in the program (Blair & Raver, 2014).

When compared with their peers in control classrooms, kindergartners in the Tools of the Minds classrooms were better at paying attention in the face of distractions, controlling impulses, had better working memory and processed information more efficiently. Even more compelling, the gains were highest in children who had been given a provisional diagnosis of ADHD.

A second study (Schmidt et al., 2014) found similar results. Using a self-regulation intervention that consisted of 20-30 minute sessions every week, researchers followed 276 children ages three to five enrolled in a federally funded Head Start program for at-risk youth for eight weeks. Children were randomly assigned to either a control group or the intervention program, which used movement and music-based games that increased in complexity over time and encouraged the children to practice self-regulation skills. The game required children to listen and remember instructions, pay attention to the adult leading the game and resist natural inclinations to stop or go, and was designed to be naturally progressive, with each successive game task becoming harder.

Researchers then compared children’s self-regulation and academic achievement before and after the intervention and found that children who had received the intervention scored significantly higher on two direct measures of self-regulation. And again who the intervention was most effective with were the children considered the highest risk for struggling in school – mainly due to self-control problems.

But perhaps the question we should be asking is: Does strengthening executive functioning work for adults? Here again, to answer this question, the best place to look is a group of adults commonly considered low in self-control – those with addiction problems.

While many studies have explored techniques such as assigning a quit date, using cognitive behavioral therapy, and warning smokers of the risks of continued smoking, one recent study (Tang et al., 2015) used neuroimaging to compare the brains of non-smokers to smokers. In the region of the brain associated with self-control (and executive functioning), the prefrontal cortex, the smokers showed dramatically less activity, suggesting than when it comes to the addictive behavior of smoking, self-control is decidedly absent. Questioning if self-control training could improve smokers success at quitting, researchers from Texas Tech University and University of Oregon recruited 60 undergraduate students (27 smokers and 33 non-smokers) to participate in an integrative mind-body program designed to improve self-control. The students were then split into two groups, one receiving the self-control training and the other receiving relaxation training.

After receiving 5 hours of 30 minute sessions over the course of two weeks, researchers then compared the students’ brain scans, self-report questionnaires, and objective measure of carbon monoxide on their smoking amounts and habits, before and after the intervention. The students who had received the self-control training reduced their smoking by a whopping 60 percent (as measured by the carbon dioxide percentage in their lungs). Even more fascinating was that when researchers compared the students self-reported intention to stop smoking to their actual reduction in usage, they found no correlation (Tang et al., 2015).

What this study, and others that have replicated the results, should tell us is that when we want to change a behavior, what matters is not our intention to change, but the amount of self-control we have to actually execute the change.

And no place could this be more relevant than when trying to lose weight. In the first study ever to examine whether practicing acts of self-control during weight loss is linked to an increase in self-control and better weight loss outcomes, experts from the Miriam research team found that individuals with more willpower – or self-control – lost more weight, were more physically active, consumed fewer calories from fat, and had better attendance at weight loss group meetings. And when participants experienced an increase in self-control during a six-month behavioral weight loss treatment program, the effect was even more pronounced (Leahey et al., 2013).

Testing self-control through the use of an exercise where participants had to override aversive stimuli, such as cramping, pain, and discomfort, study lead author, Tricia Leahey explained that self-control, or willpower, is like building a muscle, “The more you ‘exercise’ it by eating a low fat diet, working out even when you don’t feel like it, and going to group meetings when you’d rather stay home, the more you’ll increase and strengthen your self-control ‘muscle’ and quite possibly lose more weight and improve your health” (Leahey, 2013).

Just how we exercise the self-control muscle, like the self-control test demonstrated, is by inhibiting impulses – especially those that threaten to derail our weight loss goals. But we may also have to inhibit who we hang around with. Self-control, it turns out, just might be contagious.

The takeaway is that self-control doesn’t just have to practiced, it has to be protected. That little trip to Starbucks that we mindlessly take with our friend known for her proclivity for venti size Frappuccino’s (which weigh in at a whopping six hundred calories and fifty grams of sugar) might go by unnoticed, but the next time we find ourselves at Starbucks, it might be us with the venti Frappuccino in our hands – and maybe one of those tasty lemon bars as well.

The more we exercise our self-control muscle – by practicing, witnessing, and surrounding ourselves with acts of self-control, such as overriding impulses – the better we get at self-control. The problem for most people, however, is that overriding impulses is a lot harder than it sounds. As we should know by now, our decisions – especially those that serve to benefit us in the long term – are plagued by a host of thought errors that don’t just make us more likely to choose the cookies over the carrot, but discount the impact it will have on our waistline, and exaggerate the pleasure of eating it.

Click here to learn more.

Behavioral Strategies for Weight LossBehavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss. While obesity is arguably the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Strengthening Self-Control for Weight-Loss

Course excerpt from Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss

Strengthening self-control for weight lossNow recognized as the most pressing health concern, weight gain in the United States impacts every part of our health – from increased rates of disease to greater incidence of mental health problems such as depression and addiction. In accordance, the weight loss industry has grown monumentally, branching into all areas of our lives. We now have weight pills, diets, low calorie foods, small quantity packaging, stimulant drinks and metabolic diet programs – just to name a few.

Yet the problem of not getting ourselves to do things, as behavioral economists know, is what underlies how we make decisions. Not just about weight loss, but about many things we should be doing – from saving money, to spending more time with our family, to contributing to charity. And understanding how we think about weight loss is at the core of how we actually go about making the daily decision to leave the donuts in the box.

When we want to change a behavior, what matters is not our intention to change, but the amount of self-control we have to actually execute the change. Our self-control – like any other muscle – can be strengthened. Let’s look at some ways we can do this:

  1. Use strategies that increase attention to the benefit of an activity throughout the duration of the activity. Running always looks better to us before we do it than when we are actually doing it. In order to be successful then, we are going to need to find ways to remind ourselves of the benefit of running while we are running. For example, we can use text reminders about the specific health benefits designed to be delivered during our run. We can also do this with statistics, reminding ourselves of other desirable outcomes – such as increased intelligence, emotional regulation, creativity, or optimism – linked to running. Or we can use in-run reminders delivered to us by our supporters. Like being cheered for along the course of a marathon, having a close friend or family member send us some virtual cheering might just make us want to run a few more miles.
  2. Reduce exposure to tempting options. It’s in our very nature to exaggerate the temptation costs of avoiding alluring options. If for no other reason than this, we should make every effort to avoid exposure to them. Having someone else order off the menu for us while we avoid looking at it, avoiding the grocery store and instead using a preset online shopping order can go a long way toward making sure the tasty muffins don’t end up in our shopping cart, or on our plate.
  3. Ensure that the long term goals are as certain as possible. As we know, the more uncertain our long term goals are, the more likely we will be to discount the risk in giving in to our impulses. And this effect is exaggerated when we depend highly on that long term goal. For this reason, whatever long term goals we choose, we should be certain we can get there.
  4. Incorporate mastery. We know that in order to continue doing something, we have to have an interest in it. And interest is highly linked to mastery. To incorporate mastery then, we should focus on learning goals, such as being able to shoot a free throw shot in proper form, learning the correct biomechanics of running, or learning how to ride a horse.
  5. Avoid performance goals. Performance goals, as we know, are linked to higher performance, but not continued involvement. If we want to change behavior, and cultivate continued involvement, we should make every effort to avoid performance goals.
  6. Minimize hot states. We know that when in hot states we are prone to errors in judgement and impulsive decisions. Minimizing hot states, and, at the very least, separating them from the self-control decisions we need to make, might not just help us steer clear of some nasty fights with our spouse, but also ensure that our waistlines don’t pay the price for them.
  7. Develop strategies to combat procrastination. Because chronic procrastination weakens executive function and lowers mood, we should make every effort to minimize it. We can do this through preset commitments. Giving $1000 to our neighbor to keep unless we follow through on our required tasks (thereby avoiding procrastination), quite likely will spur our motivation – and keep that $1000 in our pocket. On the other hand, we can also limit our exposure to more pleasurable (and deceptively distracting) options. Disconnecting, moving, or giving away the television, not surprisingly, might just help us get our work done – instead of watching the latest sitcoms.
  8. Find ways to replenish self-control. Self-control is a limited resource, and the more we use it without replenishing it, the less of it we have. In order to replenish self-control we have to allow ourselves areas of our lives we can have free choice. For example, if we have spent all day restricting our impulse to go on Facebook, yet we’d like to be able to convince ourselves to go to the gym after work, by first giving ourselves one half hour to do whatever – such as calling a friend, going on a walk, or taking a nap – we’d like, we are much more likely to make it to the gym.
  9. Minimize contact with self-control drains. Self-control is influenced by several factors, but one of the most insidious ways self-control can be derailed is through hanging out with the wrong people. When we see those around us giving in to impulses, suddenly we find a host of reasons why we should also. Not only do we not want to miss out on what we see someone else getting (it’s never fun to watch someone enjoy a delicious brownie right in front of us), but those justifications become that much easier (it’s always much easier to find reasons to do something someone else is already doing). So one of the best things we can do for our self-control is to protect it from the things (and people) that drain it. When we notice who around us doesn’t exhibit the level of self-control we desire and minimize our contact with them, suddenly the power to control impulses becomes that much easier.

Behavioral Strategies for Weight LossBehavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss.

While obesity is arguable the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

CE Credit: 2 Hours

Target Audience: Psychologists | Counselors | Social Workers | Occupational Therapists | Marriage & Family Therapists | Nutritionists & Dietitians

Learning Level: Intermediate

Course Type: Online
Professional Development ResourcesProfessional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. Our purpose is to provide high quality online continuing education (CE) courses on topics relevant to members of the healthcare professions we serve. We strive to keep our carbon footprint small by being completely paperless, allowing telecommuting, recycling, using energy-efficient lights and powering off electronics when not in use. We provide online CE courses to allow our colleagues to earn credits from the comfort of their own home or office so we can all be as green as possible (no paper, no shipping or handling, no travel expenses, etc.). Sustainability isn’t part of our work – it’s a guiding influence for all of our work.
We are approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within one week of completion).

 

What’s Wrong with the Game of Weight Loss?

By Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT, Author of Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss

Behavioral Strategies for Weight LossWeight loss is a game we keep playing the same way – even when we are not winning. We continue to diet, purchase gym memberships, go on crash diets, and buy weight loss supplements. In fact, the weight loss industry has outgrown inflation rates, all the while remaining unaffected by economic downturns. By all accounts, weight loss matters to us – an awful lot. Yet what we fail to consider is that when it comes to weight loss, there is a lot more that we don’t know than we do. For example, while we may know that eating fewer donuts will help us lose weight, we fail to consider that thinking about eating fewer donuts now is not the same as actually turning down the donut your co-worker offers you next Friday. Just what influences those decisions and why we may not always make the choices we intend to make – even when we know they are good for us – is what this course is all about.

Limited Resources, Fading Benefits, and Tempting Options

The number one resolution of 2015 was to lose weight. Yet losing weight, for most of us, is like playing the lottery – the odds are not very good. In fact, it’s estimated that only 8 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.

It’s not so much that we can’t lose weight; it’s that, like keeping a resolution, we can’t keep it off. For this reason, the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) determines the difference between weight that is lost unsuccessfully – meaning it is lost and regained – and that which is lost successfully as a three year deal. If we can keep at least thirty pounds off for three years, we can consider ourselves successful.

If not, we have some interest to pay. Studies show that the majority of dieters will actually gain back more than they originally lost. Yet for those who work with dieters this isn’t surprising. The problem, as Diane Robinson, PhD, a neuropsychologist and Program Director of Integrative Medicine at Orlando Health, notes is that, “Most people focus almost entirely on the physical aspects of weight loss, like diet and exercise. But there is an emotional component to food that the vast majority of people simply overlook and it can quickly sabotage their efforts.”

What we ignore is that while weight loss is regulated by what we eat – those choices are regulated by something much larger, and more powerful. For example, consider the emotional attachment we have to certain foods. From the time we are young, we are conditioned to have preferences for certain foods, and food marketing to children has dramatically increased in recent years. In response to this dramatic increase, in 2008 Congress called for a Federal Trade Commission review of marketing food to children and adolescents. In that report, experts found not only that the total of dollars spent on food marketing to children 0-12 and adolescents was well over the previous figure of 1.6 billion, but that more than half of all television advertising dollars were directed toward children. Ranking second only to television advertising was money spent on toys included in kids’ foods (which also includes restaurant foods) – which came in at a whopping $427 million. And even more surprising, if you add the dollars restaurants spend on child directed marketing to the toys they include with the child’s meals, that figure jumps to $520 million – more than twice the amount of child directed marketing in any other category. As Robinson explains, “If we’re aware of it or not, we are conditioned to use food not only for nourishment, but also for comfort. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, as long as we acknowledge it and deal with it appropriately.”

Click here to learn more.

Behavioral Strategies for Weight LossBehavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss. While obesity is arguable the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For therapists and counselors who work with those who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do therapists get their clients to use this information? Packed with exercises therapists can use with their clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide therapists with the tools they need to help their clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss – New 2-Hour Online CE Course

From PDResources

While obesity is arguable the largest health problem our nation faces today, it is not a problem that is exclusive to those who suffer weight gain. For those of us who work with clients who wish to lose weight, there is ample information about diet and exercise; however, one very large problem remains. How do we get our clients to use this information?

Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss

Behavioral Strategies for Weight Loss is a new online course that exposes the many thought errors that confound the problem of weight loss and demonstrates how when we use behavioral strategies – known as commitment devices – we change the game of weight loss. Packed with exercises you can use with your clients to increase self-control, resist impulses, improve decision making and harness accountability, this course will not just provide you with the tools you need to help your clients change the way they think about weight loss, but ultimately, the outcome they arrive at. Course #21-13 | 2016 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

CE Credit: 2 Hours
Learning Level: Intermediate
Price: $29

Professional Development Resources is approved to offer continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the OhioCounselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).