Thursday, February 17, 2011

DIY Behaviour Modification

Calorie Neutral is not A Diet.

I mean, it is a diet in the sense that it is – it has become – my usual food and drink. But it’s not A Diet that I go on for a few weeks or months and then go off, back to my normal diet of Doritos and peanut butter toast three times a day. Because, you know, that didn’t so work well for me.

Why this plan works, as Vicki Waters explains right up front, is because it’s behaviour modification. She outlined the path and lit it and I walked it, changing my behaviour to better suit the life (and the bathing suit) I wanted.

Garry Martin and Joseph Pear of the University of Manitoba lay out seven characteristics of behaviour modification (in Behavior Modification: What It Is and How To Do It). As you can see, they are easily adapted for DIY projects like weight loss through a healthier lifestyle.

1. Define the problem in terms of measurable behaviour.
My take: weigh yourself every couple of weeks or so, measure a few key places, and keep a daily food and exercise journal. The connection quickly becomes clear.

2. Alter the person’s environment to make it easier for her or him to function better.
My take: fill the fridge with vegetables and fruit, make sure there’s lean protein available for every meal and snack, set guidelines for what and when to eat.
(NB: it helps if everyone in the household is on board for this. At the very least, they should agree not to sabotage the plan and not to expect you to bake them cookies)

3. Methods and rationales can be precisely described.
My take: join a group like Vicki Waters’s program, follow the Mayo Clinic healthy lifestyle guidelines or Julia Cameron’s Writing Diet or find some other sustainable, health-based plan that explains itself and suits you.

4. Techniques can be applied to everyday life.
My take: I think eating fits in here without further explanation.

5. Behaviour modification techniques are based on both conscious and unconscious learning.
My take: consciously establishing sustainable new habits will kick the old, unhealthy ones to the curb. Even when I have an emotional crisis now, I no longer think of French fries and cake first. Or second or third. Seriously.

6. Psychologists who practice behaviour modification with their clients like to see scientific evidence that the treatment is responsible for the changed behaviour. My take: see Number 1.

7. Accountability is important.
My take: write down your goals and share them with other people, preferably supportive ones, although if you’re of a stubborn disposition then telling a scoffer might make you stick to your plans just to show them.

Hey, whatever works.


  1. Well, I don't need an "after photo" as I got to see the real deal last night when I met Rachel at a lecture! When I first saw the photo on the blog today I said "huh??" and then I got it....the "before shot." You look fantastic!

    I'd love to join in, and will start the journal today. It's not clear tho - in #3 above do you mean we should join a group like Vicki's, or are YOU going to be giving us the food guides and beh. mod. stuff to follow.... or is this more of a reporting of our progress with everyone doing their thing separately?


  2. It was so great to meet you last night, Madeline, and I'm delighted you're going to join me here!

    I'm not a weight-loss expert for anyone but me, so I will share my experiences but I don't feel qualified to tell anyone else what to do.

    That's why I recommend you find a source for specific information that you might need – only you will know what really suits you.
    Some people like to know numbers, some people want a detailed eating plan, others (like me) need to be told to set certain foods firmly off limits…

    The local library system has lots of books on the subject – I've discovered that each branch has a different selection. They're worth looking over – give them a test drive before you consider whether you want or need to buy anything.

    I hope that helps.

  3. Thanks, Rachel - will do.

    Just came back from swimming and on the chalk board there was the following quote, which I thought perfect for what you are doing - hope you like it as much as I do:

    "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."

    Maria Robinson

  4. I'll be having words with the man who shops for groceries at my house, affectionately known as my Hunger/Gatherer. HG has a fondness for carbs, the sweeter the better. I often resist, but if they're not in the house I won't be tempted at all. Well, hardly ever.

  5. Madeline, I love the quote! I'm going to add it to my little notebook of inspirations.

    Lee, I have a feeling you'll manage to persuade Hunger/Gatherer to mend his ways – at least for a while:)