Sunday, May 23, 2010

Motivation & Self-Control

The purpose of my blog is to have us examine the reasons we make decisions to sometimes eat poorly and remain inactive when we know it's not good for us. I recently came across an article entitled, "Obesity, Motivation & Self Control"  that does just that. For those of you who majored in Psychology, this article should be a breeze. For the rest of us, we may need to focus a bit.
The article is based around a study that examines how obesity and eating disorder symptoms are related to the four facets of impulsivity in a clinical sample of overweight and obese women. Researchers used the results of the study to identify techniques to combat the self-control problems that characterize impulsive behaviors.  
One technique used in these interventions is mindfulness, which encourages patients to understand the thoughts and negative emotions that trigger problematic eating and to observe their feelings of hunger and satiety. I'm sure my yoga and meditation fans out there are happy to hear about that one. ;)
Another way is by using imagery techniques which aim to strengthen thought-control abilities. The imagery technique is when people are trained to form images that interfere with images of food. Basically this is when you would read visual and olfactory cues unrelated to food and maintain the imagined scene or smell by focusing exclusively on the picture or smell brought to mind. Researchers have found that this procedure reduced food desire. They suggest that this is because the visual and olfactory images interfere with food-related images. An example they give in the article is imagining the smell of cut grass. Imagining this smell will reduce your desire for food.
The third and final are implementation intention techniques. The idea behind this one is that planning in advance when, where and how a person will complete a self-assigned goal (‘‘If situation x is encountered, I will perform behavior y!’’) leads to effective and automatic goal initiation and pursuit. Basically, we have to prepared for how we will react in a situation where there are choices involved that may lead to poor eating or inactivity. For example, if it rains tomorrow, I may be less inclined to go for a walk outside. Therefore, if it rains tomorrow, I will plan to use the treadmill in my house or at the gym. Or, because of time constraints, I may have no time to cook dinner tomorrow night. I may be tempted to stop for fast food on the way home. Instead, I will prepare something tonight and heat it up for dinner tomorrow.
Throughout the article, the term "obese and overweight persons" is used. Keep in mind, that this is only because of the study used in this article. We are all guilty of eating poorly at times so I believe these techniques apply to all of us, no matter our weight.
Now it is your turn! Which of these techniques do you think will work best for you? Are you already using one or more of these techniques with success? Share your thoughts with the Body by Kelly community!