W O O P(IE)…HOW TO MAKE NEW HABITS STICK

Woman Raising Arms In Delight With Bubbles

W O O P(IE)…HOW TO MAKE NEW HABITS STICK

by | Jul 6, 2020

My greatest hope and wish for this site is that it will help you and your family develop, improve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Through trial and error and over many years, I’ve gone from a girl who might eat only bread, cheese and butter or alternatively chips, cheese and salsa as her diet for a whole day. My daughter, Alison, once said that I could eat my body weight in cheese. I don’t(rarely) eat cheese now. I learned that for me, it represents too large of a percentage of my daily need for fat and calories. When eating cheese, I am not getting the true nourishment that I need. Learning how to make new habits stick has been a vital part of these lifestyle changes fo me.

I used to say…..

that I could never give up milk in my coffee. never eat fruit instead of a chocolate chip cookie, never really enjoy eating vegetables and fruits, never give up bread, never give up cheese, never make plants the center of my diet, never give up chips, never saute onions without oil.

The list goes on and on. My current project is counting calories. I hate counting calories. I have been on so many diets over the years. Like mostly all dieters, I was never able to lose weight and maintain it for any extended period of time. And I love to eat! My dream is to be able to eat recipes that I have prepared without thinking about how many calories I am consuming(mindful eating) and continue to lose weight. That hasn’t worked for me because I’ve never learned mindful eating, but that is starting to change.

My friend, Jean, introduced me to the app Lose It. What I love about the app is that I can enter the ingredients in my recipe easily and quickly. I can also coordinate my calorie intake with my exercise for the day. Recipes are saved for future meals. I’ve tried manual calorie counting as well as various apps to add up calories but nothing so far has met my standards. The thing I love about Lose It so far is that It is helping me to clearly see how many calories I need in a day to feel satisfied while still staying within the recommended calorie intact for weight loss or maintenance. So, I’m counting calories now! I’ve started to make a new habit.

How can I make sure that the new habit sticks?

Well, miraculously, just when I was starting to use the app, I was also starting Week 6 of The Science of Well-Being by Yale University entitled “Strategies For Better Habits.” This class is offered by Coursera, is FREE and is well worth the time that you will invest. I’ll break it down here in case you aren’t able to find the time to take the full course.

First of all, it’s important to remember as the course concludes that knowing something is not enough. Even though I know that the number of calories that I consume will be reflected in my weight, that “knowing” is not enough to cause me to limit my calorie intake.

Two strategies and the science behind them are outlined in the course to assist with making new habits stick. It applies to all new habits in addition to health and weight, but it’s particularly helpful in the weight management context to help me use the Lose It app regularly for counting calories.

The first strategy for making new habits stick is what’s called “Situation Support”.

Brian Wansick who runs Cornell’s Food Lab and is the author of Slim By Design did a study on kitchen counters. The goal was to determine whether what’s on your kitchen counter affects your health and your weight..  He started with unhealthy foods like cookies, chips, crackers, cereal, soda. He found that if those things are visible on your kitchen counter, you have, in general, about a 10 kilogram increase in your weight.   By the way, he found cereal to be the worst item to have on your counter for weight management. Alternatively if you have fruits and vegetables on your kitchen counter, you can decrease your weight by about five to ten kilos on average. 

Various pieces of fruit on a countertop for WOOP(IE)...How To Make New Habits Stick post
Karolina Grabowska at Pexels

So in the context of making Lose It a regular habit, I can do things like putting a sign on my refrigerator that reminds me to enter the information into the app. Or I can set an alarm on my phone to remind me to make the entries. I can also share the experience with friends who may be using the app, like Jean. And as you might expect, the app reminds me from time to time if I haven’t entered my foods.

The second strategy to assist us with making new habits stick is where the WOOP comes in.

WOOP is an acronym for Wish, Outcome, Obstacles, and Plan. It is a technique developed by Gabrielle Oettingen, the author of Rethinking Positive Thinking. She describes this WOOP process and the science that suggests that it is successful.

For five minutes a day, sit quietly without interruptions and think about your Wish as specifically as possible. In my case, it might be that I want to use the app everyday until I have lost 10 pounds.

Then think about what’s the best possible Outcome of that wish. The best possible outcome will be that I will lose 10 pounds. 

Next think about what are the Obstacles to using the app every day. It might be that I think I don’t have time to enter my foods. Or I’ve eaten more than I wanted so I just skip it to avoid the “scary” number.

And finally what is the Plan for overcoming those obstacles. I might, for example, have a plan to enter my expected foods at the beginning of the day when I’m fresh and then revise the list as needed. I might also set a timer to remind myself to enter my foods.

You can see an interview with Gabrielle Oettingen describing this process in Week 6 of the course. Remember it’s FREE!

It’s important to also remember in this context that research shows that visualizing your desires is not as effective as visualizing your desires coupled with anticipating your obstacles and planning for them.

Salad Ingredients being cut
Maarten van den Heuvel at Pexels

So WOOP, WOOP, I say……Here’s to meeting and exceeding your goals for yourself.

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