According to behavioral psychologists, successful weight loss isn’t just the result of choosing to exercise more and filling your grocery basket with more fruits and vegetables. It’s about attaining a much larger understanding of your daily habits and behaviors—as well as your environment—and knowing how these factors come together to influence the choices you’re making for the sake of your health. The popular weight-loss app Noom, for instance, is entirely built on the process of applying a behavioral psychology to your daily life. It asks you to log your food in-take and weigh yourself daily, and ultimately strives to be an organizing framework from which you can set goals and achieve them.
If you’d like to apply a more behavioral approach to your own weight loss, consider the tips that follow from Claire Madigan, Ph.D., a senior research associate at the School of Sport, Exercise, and Health Sciences at Loughborough University in the UK, who recently contributed an article to CNN on the subject—as well as other psychologists. So read on, and if you are looking to buy more produce for the sake of your waistline, know that These Fruits Drive the Most Weight Loss of All, According to Science.
“Many weight loss programs start by asking people to set a goal,” writes Madigan. “And research indeed shows that creating this ‘intention’ actually motivates you to change your behavior. One study found that frequent goal setting means that you’re more likely to implement changes, which ultimately means you’re more likely to lose weight.” For more great tips to help you lose weight, be sure to see 11 Weight Loss Hacks Proven to Work, Say Experts.
Some weight-loss experts will advise you to not weigh yourself. Madigan isn’t one of them. “Measuring your weight and what you eat— known as ‘self-monitoring’—is one of the most effective strategies from the field of behavioral psychology for weight loss,” she writes. “It’s also included in most weight management programs. Self-monitoring works by making you more aware of what you’re eating and drinking, and what is happening to your weight. In turn, this can help you avoid overeating indulgent, unhealthy foods.”
Ideally, she says, you should weight yourself at minimum once per week. Though according to a 2013 study published in the journal Obesity, you’d be wise to weight yourself every day.
Here’s a great tip that is rooted in behavioral understanding: Don’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach. Research has shown it inhibits your ability to make smart choices about what you wish to eat. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that even short-term fasts can lead people to make more unhealthy food choices, picking a higher quantity of high-calorie foods. Want to ensure you buy healthy foods? Fill up before you shop.
You should let your friends and family know of your goals and keep them apprised of your progress for reasons of accountability, says Madigan.
“Research has shown that people who attend weight loss programs with aa friend or family member are more likely to stick with it and lose more weight,” she writes. “There appears to be no particular person that’s better for motivation—the important thing is that supporters are engaged.”
As two notable researchers—one a kinesiologist, the other a psychologist—recently wrote in The Washington Post, upwards of 40% of “regular exercisers” prefer to work out in group classes, and there are tons of reasons why you should consider joining them. “Exercising in groups may have particularly beneficial benefits,” write L. Allison Philips, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, and Jacob Meyer, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology, both at Iowa State University.
You’ll find exercise more fun, you’ll perceive exercise in a better light, and you’ll ultimately raise your chances of achieving weight loss goals. And if you need a few great workout recs, consider these ones right here: