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Is it easier or harder to lose weight in self isolation?

 

Ian Reddington
Health Behaviour Change Implementation Lead

Wellbeing

Most days I have found myself rummaging on the top shelf on the inside of the fridge door, just in case there might be something more than a hard piece of Parmigiano Reggiano.

My last visit to our office in Marylebone Road London seems like a lifetime ago.

Like much of the nation I’ve been adapting to working from home on a full-time basis:  Following good desk hygiene, working out ways to keep the children out of my newly designated office, and learning that when I am bored, I like to look in the fridge or anywhere for a snack.

The turning point came when I measured my waist for some new sportswear. I looked at the tape measure, it looked at me, “Give it a go” it said.  It was more than I thought it would be.

I stepped on the weighing scale to confirm what I already knew.

Interestingly I was at my ‘training weight’. This is the weight I like to get to when I’ve been in the gym for a few months. Although, I haven’t been to the gym this year yet.

Old me v Current me

My typical day has been turned upside down. My engrained healthy habits have been hijacked. No walks to and from the station, no lunchtime walk with colleagues at work and my regular eating patterns have shifted.  Current me arms-length from snacks,  barricaded into an office, and a biscuit tin waving at me each time I make a brew. 

Working in healthcare, weight management and behaviour change for the last 10 years I knew what I had to do. I just needed to find that commitment. That magical ingredient ‘will power’.

But what if there was something better than will power.

"A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% of people who planned their intention to exercise by writing down when and where they would exercise each week ended up following through." James Clear, Author, 'Atomic Habits' 

So what’s the plan, Stan?

Nearly everyone I know has implemented a plan at some point in their life. A wedding plan, planning a holiday, retirement plan, planning Christmas presents, planning what to wear for a special event.

It always started with what. So what habit do I need to improve?

I decided I needed to move more and snack less. These were two culprits I wanted to work on.

Now the easy part. Writing down when and where. This is me making the handshake with myself.

actionplan

Habit

When

Where

Exercise-15 minutes walk

After breakfast every day

After lunch everyday

In house/garden

Outside with the dog

 

Bike ride – 1 hour

Every Sunday after lunch

Inside ( I have a basic exercise bike or outside (Find a new route on bike app Strava)

Improve snacking – Drink 1 pint of water

Before breakfast

Before lunch

Before eventing meal

At home by my desk before mealtimes

Now here is the important part.

"What will increase my odds of achieving my plan, improving my habits, and hitting my goal?"

I’ve made plans like this before and they didn’t stick. So I've included a link to a change plan below

Download change plan

Have you heard of habit anchoring?

I first learnt about habit anchoring from BJ Fogg, a behaviour scientist at Stanford University in America, who wrote a programme called Tiny Habits.

It’s about how we can form new healthy habits that stick. I call habit anchoring, ‘habit hijacking’.

You simply use an existing habit to 'trigger' the action of your new habit.  BJ Fogg mentions two of my favourites.

“After I sit down on the train, I will take three deep breaths.”

“After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.”

So think of a current habit you do everyday….

After OR Before [CURRENT HABIT], I will form my [NEW HABIT]

 

I’ve created an evidence-based hat-trick habit, 3 healthy habits in a row. By using an existing habit I do every day

EXISTING HABIT TRIGGER (REGULAR EATING)

FORM NEW HABIT  - BEFORE

FORM NEW HABIT AFTER

EATING BREAKFAST

DRINK A PINT OF WATER  1 HOUR BEFORE EATING

WALK FOR 15 MINUTES AFTER EATING

EATING LUNCH

 

1) Before I start preparing my breakfast and lunch I will drink 1 pint of water up to 1 hour before eating. 

2) As soon as I have finished my breakfast and lunch I'll go for a walk.

"It should be easier to remember as my existing habit (eating breakfast and lunch) is a trigger"

Will this work?

Preload with water:
A few studies have looked at preloading with water before a meal to aid weight loss. One study saw a group eat 13% less at a buffet when they pre-loaded with water, another study saw the water group eat about 20% less.

water

Exercise after eating:
Exercise is all about getting our energy stores ready for fuel. Evidence suggests exercising after meals can bring down blood sugars, so great for people with diabetes or those at risk of type 2. If you were to choose one meal, dinner/evening meal would be better.

 

Adapting to self-isolation

We all need a plan for modern life, even the leanest species amongst us can struggle with weight gain.

It’s important to know I’m not striving for perfection. If I don’t do it every day I haven’t failed. Just doing it once, will mean I’ve started. This meal planner might help you get started.

Get your free meal planner

I can review it, learn from, it tweak or change it. I’m following behavioural science and hijacking an existing habit, to help me trigger a new behaviour I want to improve.

 I’ve got the trigger behaviour (Eating Breakfast and Lunch). Now it's time to practice and learn. I  wonder how many hat-tricks I’ll get this week.

"We are always only one small decision away from making a healthy habit"

References

  1. Davy BM, Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Wilson KL, Davy KP. Water consumption reduces energy intake at a breakfast meal in obese older adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108(7):1236–9.
  2. Corney RA, Sunderland C, James LJ. Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(2):815–9.
  3. Haxhi J, Scotto di Palumbo A, Sacchetti M. Exercising for metabolic control: is timing important? Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62(1):14–25.
  4. Colberg SR, Zarrabi L, Bennington L, et al. Postprandial walking is better for lowering the glycemic effect of dinner than pre-dinner exercise in type 2 diabetic individuals. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009;10(6):394–7.
  5. Chacko E. A time for exercise: the exercise window. J Appl Physiol. 2017;122(1):206–9.
  6. Reynolds AN, Mann JI, Williams S, Venn BJ. Advice to walk after meals is more effective for lowering postprandial glycaemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus than advice that does not specify timing: a randomised crossover study. Diabetologia. 2016;59(12):2572–8.
 

Ian Reddington

Health Behaviour Change Implementation Lead

Ian has a special interest in behaviour change, physical activity and weight loss. With over 10 years’ experience in the National Health Service, Public Health, and commercial healthcare settings.

Ian’s main interest is to improve population health using digital channels.