A Dog Trainers Thoughts on Behavior Change

The post I’m going to make today is something I’ve not only wanted to put down for a while but was originally written for a monster book on fat loss that I started last year (which is 95% done and from which the women’s book sprang).  Since that book focuses on fat loss, most of the language deals with that topic.  But it would generally apply to behavior change overall.  I’ve changed some of the text and verbiage for various reasons.

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An older idea of human behavior (called behaviorism) suggests that we do things either to obtain reward (things feel good) or avoid punishment (things feel bad). While there is obviously more to it than that in humans, there is no doubt that these types of pathways play a role in human behavior.  Humans tend to do things that feel good/reward them (like eating) and avoid things that feel bad/punish them.  In fact, we are fairly hardwired (deriving pleasure) to engage in activities that make us feel good or reward us (like eating, sex, etc) since those are important beahviors to keep us alive.

It’s not coincidence that most of the “bad” behaviors that people engage in, sex, gambling, smoking, drinking, drugs or overeating tasty high-sugar/high-fat foods drive the reward system in the first place. We do them because they are fun, feel good, make us feel better (at least temporarily), etc.  If we didn’t, we wouldn’t do them.  Which raises a reverse question, why do some people engage in what seem like miserable activities (such as intense painful exercise training or restricting themselves from tasty foods) and that I’ll come back to.

Technically you can addict or mis-use any of the above and more. There are sex addicts, gambling addicts, drug addicts, alcoholics and I talked about the concept of food or eating addiction earlier in this book. It’s clear that some people are more or less predisposed to become addicted to anything, there is a clear genetic component and it probably resides in the reward system and the same system may be involved in food intake and obesity

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