If we could all try to learn healthier habits in a stress-free bubble (real life, in other words), the going would be a lot easier. Who hasn’t received an irritating email and had a sudden urge for a bag of chips, not baked?

When it comes to weight loss, stress reduction is extremely important, according to Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, and author of the just-published The Hunger Fix. “When life’s stresses hit, you must learn to adapt and adjust without resorting to self-destructive habits—your False Fixes,” she writes.

“Studies have shown,” writes Peeke, “that forming what is referred to as an implementation intention (‘If I encounter situation X, then I will perform behavior Y”’) increases your probability of carrying out your goals.

“These problem-solving skills require creativity, and by flexing those cognitive and creative muscles…you’ll also exercise and thus strengthen your PFC [prefrontal cortex], giving you a Healthy Fix that will make you more creative! Definition of a virtuous cycle.”

Peeke offers these guidelines for trying out this approach:

1. First, be aware of your usual life stresses. Think about what was happening in your life when you had your last big tussle with False Fixes. Fill in this blank: “I was doing fine until _________ happened.”

2. Then think about which False Fixes you “took” to get through the situation…These are the maladaptive knee-jerk reactions that have packed on the pounds over the years.

3. Last, activate your PFC and adapt and adjust your responses based on your Healthy Hunger. Write down every suggestion you have for a Healthy Fix alternative.

4. Be proactive and plan for the typical False Fix land mines you know you’ll encounter. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

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