Weight Loss
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Lasting Weight Loss: Positive Reinforcement

Lesson 8

Lasting Weight Loss: Recognize and Seek Positive Reinforcement

 Weight loss is one thing, but lasting weight loss is another. A lot of those popular diets and fads can lead to weight loss but it seldom lasts long. Sustainable, long-term weight loss required dedication and lots of time. 

As a result, the resources that you need to achieve lasting are not only educational resources, workout gear, and good food. 

While goals and a smart eating plan are needed, without psychological resources the chances of success fall drastically. One of these psychological resources is positive reinforcement. It can be a powerful tool if you know where it is and how to use it.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

There is a lot of misconception about positive and negative reinforcement. Most people think that positive reinforcement means that if you do something good you get something good – reward. Similarly, they believe that “negative reinforcement” means that you do something good or something bad happens to you – punishment. That’s not exactly the case.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement are both forms of what is called “operant conditioning.” Operant conditioning was developed in the early twentieth century by psychologists B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov. In operant conditioning, the individual comes to draw relationships between behaviors and apparent consequences.

  • Positive reinforcement means that when an individual does something encouraged, they receive something that they want. 
  • Negative reinforcement means that when someone does something not encouraged, they no longer get something that they don’t want.

How Reinforcement Is Used

Positive and negative reinforcement are most often used to train pets, but they’re also used by parents, employers, corrections officers, and teachers to encourage specific behavior in the people that they are variously responsible for. 

In the example of parents, positive reinforcement might be giving a child rewards for getting good grades while negative reinforcement might mean not requiring them to do chores at home if they get a job outside of the house.

In weight loss, positive reinforcement goes a long way to keeping you motivated and focused on your goals. When the payoffs are positive, people tend to continue that behavior. 

Can You Practice Positive Reinforcement Yourself?

If you are trying to lose weight yourself and want to try positive reinforcement. How could you go about it? There are a number of ways.

Reward Yourself

  • Compliment yourself and often on your milestones and small victories, even the loss of 5 pounds is a big win
  • Treat yourself to a movie, or a small gift after reaching your weight loss milestones
  • Been eyeing a new outfit for a while? Go get it once you have lost some weight
  • Look in the mirror each evening and congratulate yourself on another successful day
  • Reward yourself for breaking a bad habit
  • Recognize your achievements regularly, write yourself love notes for all you have accomplished

Note: Do not use food as a reward, this is not a positive reinforcement

Look for the natural rewards

With weight loss the natural rewards are great sources of positive reinforcement.

  • You go down a clothes size or two, note that and recognize it and celebrate it
  • Take those compliments from others seriously and with vigor
  • Many experience big increases in energy after losing some weight, note that and celebrate it
  • Look for the other rewards you gain after losing some weight and recognize them 
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