Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Motivational Triggers

Last week, I talked about negative triggers that get in the way of our weight loss, good eating habits and exercise goals.

This week I want to talk about the positive side -Motivational triggers. Things that will have the opposite effect and instead help with weight loss, assist you in keeping your good eating habits and encourage exercise.

If you took a few minutes to track or recognize your negative triggers, you can see how the connection is made. Repeated behaviors, things you do over and over, create a trigger, a sub-conscious 'on' button that will elicit a specific behavior. Cool, huh?

So how can you use this? Create pre-meditated triggers.

Ask yourself what you want to trigger. Lets use eating breakfast as an example. Say you know that eating breakfast would be a healthy choice. You know all the smart reasons. But you don't 'like' breakfast. Or you don't have time. Or you just aren't hungry. In other words, you have plenty of excuses.

The first step is to set the excuses aside and plan to do it anyway. Look at them realistically and find answers to them.

Figure out what you like to eat and a way to make it available. It could be making something the night before, or earlier in the week, like an egg bake, that you can have individual servings ready to go (takes care of that time issue, since it's a grab and go). It could be pre-cutting up fruit into sealable packages, or buying (healthy, please) toaster waffles.

Then find the trigger that will work for you. It might take a few until one clicks.

  • Set the table with a pretty place setting the night before.
  • Get up an hour earlier, eat breakfast at your laptop while reviewing the previous day's writing.
  • Move your exercise to morning, eating something light before and a protein-rich meal after your workout.
Can you see the trigger for each new habit? The place setting, reviewing, exercising are all going to create connections that, if repeated, will create a signal to your sub-conscious, tying the behavior (seeing a pretty place setting in the morning) with the automatic reaction (sitting down to eat breakfast at the pretty place setting).

I created a trigger for exercise by doing a short, 15 minute Bosu step workout in the morning as soon as I get up -before I eat. Its not too long a workout to be difficult on an empty stomach, it burns more fat than if I workout after eating and it sets a signal. If I do this morning workout, I always follow up with my afternoon run. Always. I've told my body that I'm going to exercise today and my body knows that this beginning will be followed by the running ending.

It keeps me motivated to exercise, I don't even have to think about it, just get up, brush my teeth, throw on the exercise clothes that are waiting in the bathroom, strap on my heart rate monitor and plug in my headphones. It took me three weeks to create this trigger.

What about you? What is a healthy habit you'd like to create and what kind of triggers can you think of to anchor it? Can you think of at least three possibilities for each habit, just in case the first doesn't work?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at www.tawnyweber.com

6 comments:

Sally Kilpatrick on April 1, 2010 at 7:12 AM said...

Tawny, I think your post brings up few good general points about weight loss and exercise. We must plan; I've noticed that I fall off the wagon when the unexpected derails my plans.

That said, I'll turn to the positive. I, personally, will eat the same thing for lunch or breakfast if I know that it will help me lose weight. (My husband is all about how variety is the spice of life.) SO it helps to know that I have egg whites, canadian bacon, and English muffins on hand. It takes about five minutes to make my own "Egg McMuffin" and voila! healthy breakfast.

I used to get up and do fifteen minutes on the treadmill while my hubby showered--similar to your routine. I have to confess, though, I'm at a crossroads where I really need to sit down and just think about the order of my days and come up with a routine. I'm glad you've suggested triggers--that's something new I can incorporate.

I will say that I've managed to lose a little weight despite being out of commission with my burn. Being able to fit into the bigger of last summer's clothes--at last!--has been a real trigger to get going to fit into the others.

It's funny how doing well makes you want to do better and how falling off the wagon often reinforces the same bad behaviors that pushed you off.

Interesting post!

Elise Hayes on April 1, 2010 at 7:46 AM said...

Hi Tawny,

I've never thought about positive triggers before--that's really interesting! I think that's why the 5-day per week workout works so well for me. It means that almost every day when I get up, I roll out of bed and put on my running clothes and get out the door. The days when I *don't* put on the running clothes are the exception (maybe due to rain, or a tight schedule that day, or someone being sick). If I have too many "exception" days, the trigger of rolling out of bed and immediately putting on my running clothes no longer works--and then it takes a lot more mental effort to get my butt out the door!

Michelle Butler on April 1, 2010 at 9:04 AM said...

This is great, Tawny! There's a lot to establishing healthy habits that eventually you just do. You reach the point where when you are confronted by a challenge, you ask how will I fit my healthy habit in as opposed to will I do the healthy habit today.

What always, always helps me with practicing all the healthy habits I want to follow is working out regularly. It makes doing everything else so much easier. I'm not entirely sure why it is, but it's a very strong pattern. Whenever I'm backsliding or have even fallen off the wagon, I often make the first thing I start to get back at regularly is exercise. (A close second is tracking/keeping a food diary.) After a week or two, the accomplishments there bleed over into all the other areas of my life.

Like Elise and Sally said, I'm really not sure why falling off the wagon in one or two areas can make all my bad habits flood back. If I stop exercising regularly, it can be so hard to restart. I just don't know why that is.

Tawny on April 1, 2010 at 11:59 AM said...

Sally, it sounds like you have some great triggers in place already. That's great. And like you say, we really do need to sit down every once in awhile and evaluated what's working, what we want to change and ideas for making the change stick.

Validation is a huge thing in life, I believe. We're validated in a good way with weight loss, and in a bad way with weight gain. Either direction triggers (my word of the day *g*) a reaction and with that reaction, a very specific set of behaviors. Its easy to ride along with the positive ones -hey, it feels great to lose and know we're on track. But the negatives are harder to overcome. When we gain, it validates all our doubts about success in this weight-journey and with those doubts front and center, its really hard to break the cycle and stay on track.

Unless, of course, you realize what's happening and can combat it with some positive self-talk, motivation or something :-D

Tawny on April 1, 2010 at 12:00 PM said...

Elise, that is an amazing trigger!!! Very powerful. And you have a great point - triggers are like muscles. They have to be used to work :-)

Tawny on April 1, 2010 at 12:34 PM said...

Michelle, I think for some people exercise comes easily and naturally. They're the ones who loved PE in school, who gravitate toward active entertainment, that kind of thing. Then there's people like me, who hated PE and always pouted when mom said "get moving, play outside." *g* I'm the same as you - the exercise habit is something I have to work at, it doesn't come naturally and it requires constant tending to keep, well, a habit.

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