5 min read

Weight Loss is Behavioral

It’s said that 5 behaviors, drive about 80% of the cost of Medical Care in North America.

  1. Smoking Too Much
  2. Drinking Too Much
  3. Eating Too Much
  4. Too Little Exercise
  5. Too Much Stress

No one really needs to consult a meta-analysis of behavioral data to conclude that behaviors are most likely the biggest limiting factors when it comes to weight loss or healthy living.

There is no question then, that we need to develop strategies that encourage behavior change in order to produce, long-term, maintained, weight loss results and healthy lifestyles.

The question is, why do we still point a finger and yell, “Bad Dog!”

But more importantly, why do we still rely on the old model for change?

Alan Deutschman put me onto this concept, in his wonderful book, Change or Die. It’s so good, I started seeing it in successful action everywhere and noticing why a lot of other stuff fails.

The Old Model vs The New Model

The 3-F’s (Old Model)

1) Facts

We know that being overweight makes us die young.

Obesity is in fact, the second leading preventable cause of death in North America next to smoking — though it appears it will take number 1 soon.

It leads to hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc…

We’ve got stats to prove it all but I’m not exactly saying anything ground-breaking here, everyone reading this probably knows this.

Yet, how many of you, knowing the facts, changed your lifestyle, after discovering them? Maybe 1 in 10…

The truth is we may accept facts, but they never provide the tipping point state of mind needed to actually change.

We end up defending ourselves from the facts with excuses, “It’s genetic,” “I’ve always been this way,” “I can’t afford it,” or “I don’t have the time.”

No one wants to feel like they are wrong all the time, so we block it from our conscious.

2) Fear

Utilization of the facts above are often used in conjunction with attempts to make you fear dying young and therefore taking the initiative to change your lifestyle and behaviors.

You may go to your doctor and they may tell you, “John, you’ve got to change your lifestyle, start eating better and lose some weight or you’re going to die.”

The attempt is to instill fear, and so John may go home and start a fitness and eating plan, at least for a little while.

The reason it only sticks for a short time, is because John is never actually going to try to change his behaviors.

John is going to go home and simply look for the tools he thinks he’ll need to use to accomplish the goal, but more on that later.

The stats on that doctor fear model appear to be that about 1 in 10 people will actually change their lifestyle after that kind of conversation. Pretty dismal results…and it might explain why no one has tried harder to find a better way.

3) Force

Authoritarians’ take on getting people to change, is to force them to.

What I like to call the, “Military Mentality.” A mentality that made it’s way easily into corporate America too.

It may work in the military, but has very little context in the rest of society. Sadly a lot of people run their businesses like this.

It’s not exclusive to business though, we do it in prisons, we do it in the medical system, we do it after people have heart attacks, we try to do it at gyms, we do it when we want to make someone we care about, change.

Too many coaches take this route too.

Why Doesn’t It Work?

The problem with this approach is that we almost instantly get people’s back up against the wall, no one really wants to be told what to do. So when someone forces us to change, we push back to assert our own autonomy and control over the situation.

The 3-R’s (New Model)

1) Relate

How many times have you changed yourself because of a relationship?

I’m not talking about a partner or friend who is constantly trying to make you change.

I’m talking about those people you enjoy being around so much you are more than willing to accommodate some of their lifestyle into your own? You know, free will…

This is really the social and cultural aspect of change. It’s said that you are the sum of the 5 people you are closest with.

With that in mind, if your friends are overweight, then there is an increased likelihood that you will be too.

I’m sorry, but it’s true and it’s often a tough one to deal with. It’s really hard to essentially divorce people you may have known for years.

Bottom-line – People are more likely to change when interacting with people they relate to on multiple levels. The best aspect of most fitness programs is when they bring together groups of people to accomplish a common goal.

2) Repeat

Think Deliberate Practice.

Or teach, depending on how you look at it. Malcolm Gladwell published a book a few years back called Outliers and in it, he popularized an old approach to the development of talent with the 10,000 hour rule.

It was based a lot on the research of Dr. K Anders Ericsson and others who had been researching something like it for decades.

It’s also referred to as the 10 year rule, and the 10,000 repetition rule.

The nice thing? It proves that talent acquisition is more attributed to deliberately practiced skill development than say genes.

The bad thing? It can take a lot of repetition to develop even good skills, let alone expert ones.

Another good point is that surrounding yourself with the right people, a good coach, a great mentor, can all probably shorten the amount of time it will take you to acquire skill in something and change your behaviors.

3) Re-frame

A lot of people who are trying to change them-selves, don’t do it, simply because they identify themselves as, ‘being fat’ or, ‘I’ve always been this way’ or, ‘I can’t possibly live without X or Y.’

The fact of the matter is, you identify yourself as a chocolate-o-holic or a drinker, or as having bad genes. You can’t possibly live a fulfilling life without alcohol, or sweets or TV, right?


You’ve merely conditioned yourself to identify yourself as being a certain way. We all view ourselves in a certain light, so we need to re-frame how we view ourselves.

It works best in combination with positive relationships and repetition of the necessary skills. After a while, you start to associate other better behaviors as being a part of your identity.

Suddenly you feel even better about not eating sweets — they become the treat they should be — or drinking alcohol every now and then and good healthy food no longer seems expensive.

So if you really want to lose weight, think about surrounding yourself with the right people, repeat good behaviors, skills and habits, then reframe your former self into the fit, enthusiastic person you want to be.