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Stimulus Control

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Ethan Quant. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff

Health coach Ethan Quant, of Elite Wellness Solutions, has succeeded in his weight loss journey and now wants to share his methods with the Bahamas in an effort to foster a culture of wellness and conquer the obesity epidemic.

I always tell my clients that the best thing we can do is control that which we can and worry not about those things that we can’t. This is as true for your health, wellness and fitness journey as it is for any other area in your life.

I remember when I first starting my 110-pound weight loss journey I really felt I was unable to control anything. Everything seemed to be such a huge task; it was very overwhelming. I know at times I even thought that I should just accept that I will be fat forever. I would try to not eat the cookies and chips in the house but I would fail and feel defeated because I would open up the cupboard to look for something else and there those chocolate chip cookies would be taunting and teasing me. I couldn’t resist; I would just get upset and eat all, then I would feel bad. Then the cycle would repeat its self.

I know that some of you may be saying, “Well, why buy the cookies in the first place?” The thing is, I had convinced myself that I was buying them as snacks for my daughter to have when she spent the weekends with me. The truth is that I would still have to buy more because I would eat them before she even came.

This was when I first started practicing stimulus control, keeping in mind I didn’t even know it was a thing. I called it my “A & V” strategy – A for accessibility and V for visibility. The strategy was to limit access to the things that I struggled with, like cookies and chips, so I stopped buying them and keeping them in the house. This was a big step because I realised that naturally I ate less if they weren’t in the house, and even if I wanted them really, really bad, it would be unlikely that I would drive to the grocery store just for a bag of chips. This worked along with some other rules I set for myself, like only shopping with a list, and not putting cookies and chips on the list.

The also visibility strategy came into play when I did have snacks in the house for whatever reason. I would literally hide them from myself. Now, I know this sounds silly, because I knew exactly where they were, but removing them from plain sight meant that I didn’t see them when I opened the cupboard. I realised that many times I would just eat these snacks because I saw them. So if I saw them less, then of course I would eat less.

The craziest thing is that my strategy actually worked. It wasn’t until I was studying to become a certified health and lifestyle coach that I learned what stimulus control was.

Stimulus control involves altering your environment to encourage healthy behaviours and make following your health, wellness and fitness programme as easy as possible. Stimulus control is related to operant conditioning and really refers to manipulating the stimuli in your environment to trigger the behaviour of exercise or healthy eating. Some other examples of stimulus control include:

• Taking out your workout clothes, socks and shoes and placing them where they are easy to get to for morning workouts.

• Keeping a gym bag in the car with all of your workout gear.

• Posting signs and notes on the pantry and refrigerator doors listing foods that you should be eating.

• Making a healthy grocery list and staying away from purchasing those things that are not on the list (If it’s not in the house it will not be eaten).

• Being a part of a group or club that engages in physical activity together (such as a walking or running group).

I would like for you to think of how you can use stimulus control as a way to help you on your health, wellness and fitness journey. Remember, if you want help navigating this or any other part of your journey please feel free to reach out to me directly.

• Health coach Ethan Quant, of Elite Wellness Solutions, has succeeded in his weight loss journey and now wants to share his methods with the Bahamas in an effort to foster a culture of wellness and conquer the obesity epidemic.

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