Save the Behavior Modification for AFTER Your Diet

Myth:  A Good Diet Must Include Behavior Modification Or You Will Put All the Weight Back On

Here is how the logic goes for this boneheaded statement. If you need to lose weight, then obviously you have an eating pattern that is causing weight gain. A diet provides an artificial eating pattern, telling you when to eat your grapefruit and dry toast. This artificial eating pattern will result in weight loss, but if you go back to your old ways after you lose the weight, you will put the weight back on.

That’s all fine, but there is no reason to start your behavior modification campaign during the diet. In fact, that is the worst possible time to do so. Any diet is by definition an artificial situation. Let’s say you decide the follow the Slim Fast plan – three shakes a day and a sensible dinner. How much behavior modification can you accomplish while following this plan? Well, you could learn to put the shake down after every swallow, savoring each one. You could learn that blending your drinks with a little crushed ice makes them more like a milk shake, but that too much ice makes them watery. You might even learn that a 72-ounce steak does not qualify as a “sensible dinner” even if you skip the garlic toast.

Will any of this have much application when you go off your Slim Fast regimen? The far better approach is get on a diet that will allow you to lose the weight as fast as possible, and plan your behavior modification for after the diet when you are back to eating real food.

Behavior modification can wait until AFTER you are thin!The best known diet centers – Jenny Craig and NutriSystem – both claim their success comes at least in part from the behavior modification they teach. Jenny Craig calls the plan “a comprehensive approach to Food, Body and Mind.” I have no beef with these two reduced-calorie diet plans, beyond the fact that the plans are too much work and the weight loss is far too slow. I’ve tried both plans over the years. Don’t for a second think that these plans offer any practical behavior modification. While on the diet, you look at the chart, see what you are supposed to eat next, pull out the proper boxes and prepare the food. True, you are eating smaller portions and are probably eating a much more balanced diet, but that is only because you are eating what you are given. If anything, the lesson you learn from Jenny Craig and NutriSystem is, “eat everything that is put in front of you.”  Not a behavior modification you want to adopt.

Forget the myth that a diet should include behavior modification. Indeed, it is far better to save the modification until after the diet. If you have any dieting experience, then you know that food starts to taste really good when you are depriving yourself. After five days of consuming nothing but green tea, a saltine cracker dipped in pasta sauce tastes like ambrosia. Thus, after a diet it is actually far easier to modify your eating habits since you’ll gladly accept any type of real food. Your old, unmodified self may have fallen into the ritual of ordering a large double-cheese, double-pepperoni, stuffed crust pizza every Friday, but the post-diet you will be very happy with the prospect of chowing down on something far less caloric.

Whether you elect to follow The Morris Plan or some other diet, get rid of the all-or-none mentality.  Use a transition diet when you end the rapid loss diet, and save your behavior modification for when you go back to unrestricted foods.

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August 16, 2008Permalink Leave a comment

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