Thursday, December 29, 2011

How a food contract can help you lose weight

How to succeed with your new years resolutions & goals 
New years is around the corner, and this is a perfect time to make some positive changes in your diet and exercise routine. Most people make new year resolutions every year and fail to follow them, so lets break that cycle! Let's make this year different, we will follow through with our resolutions! But how? 
By using a food contract! I learned this method in my nutrition counseling class, and I think its a great way to help you carry out your goals. It gives you a constant reminder of your goals and away that makes you accountable for them. This method was also proven by Gretchen Rubin in her New York Times bestseller book "The Happiness Project." 

Download the food contract sheet I made, then read the guidelines on how to follow it below. Click on the link to download: 

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How to fill out the food contract

  • A food contract is an agreement singed by you to follow goals set fourth by you in the following week. 
  • You should decide on 3 goals per week, no more, so you are more likely to follow through with them. 
  • According to Rubin's research, people are more likely to succeed in reaching their goals if they are concrete, measurable, and have accountability and positive reinforcement.
  • So when choosing goals:
    • Goals should be short term. Something you can do this week, such as "Swap out an apple for a cake", as opposed to long-term goals such as "lose 5 pounds." Your short-term goals should put you in the right direction to achieve that long-term goal. 
    • Reasonable - You want to succeed, so choose something reasonable to you. If you hate waking up early and are not a morning person, a goal you probably shouldn't pick is "Wake up every day at 5 am for a 30 minute workout." Choose something you know you can follow through with! Also by reasonable I mean that if you have never worked out a day in your life a goal such as "Work out for 2 hours every day of the week" is probably not going to happen. Something like "Walk for 30 minutes around the neighborhood on Monday, Friday, and Saturday" is more reasonable. Take baby steps, this week a little step forward then next week another step. 
    • Measurable & Specific - You goal should be measurable. That means you can definitely know if you did it. It should also be specific and include a what, when, where, and how. A measurable and specific goal is "Take my dog for a 20 minute walk every day after lunch." As opposed to a non measurable and specific goal such as "Exercise more" or "Eat less cake."
    • Accountability - You need to be accountable for your goals on a daily basis. You will achieve this by filling out the accountability chart provided in the food contract. Each day give yourself a check for good or an x for days you failed to follow with your goal. For days that received an x identify the reason behind not following the goal that day and ways to avoid it in the future. 
  • Identify barriers- I want you to think ahead of what may come in the way of reaching your goals and how you will overcome those obstacles. For example, if your goal is "Swap out an apple for a cookie as a snack on monday, wednesday, and thursday" a barrier can be the cookie jar on your kitchen counter. A way to overcome that barrier is by putting the cookie jar in a cabinet (or better yet get rid of) and having washed apples in a bowl on the counter instead. Another barrier may be not having apples, so you will overcome that by going to the grocery store and buying apples before you begin the week. 
  • Pick a non-food reward - This will serve as a positive reinforcement for your efforts and success! Your reward for keeping all your goals for that week should be non-food, so you begin to stop associating success and reward with food. So a piece of chocolate cake as a reward is off the table! Instead choose a reward like "I will buy myself the jeans i've been dying to have" or "I will sleep in on saturday" or anything that is a reward to you. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed how having an incentive (such as your reward or money) resulted in subjects losing more weight (14 pounds as opposed to 4 pounds in the non-incentive group.) Even 7 months after the study concluded, the incentive group weighed less then the non-incentive group. So give your self an incentive and a reward! You deserve it! You should get your reward if you followed your goals 90% or more of the time. 
Additional tips for success: 
  • Share your goal and contract with your friends and family, tell everyone! you are more likely to succeed that way because you don't want to let your friends and family down!
  • Once you completed the contract, make a few photocopies and have them at key places so you will constantly see it such as on the fridge, by the bed, in your agenda, and at work. You don't want to forget! So make sure you constantly see it! 
  • Get friends on-board - Get your friends to complete a contract too and help keep each other on track! 
  • The first week should include 3 new goals, then 2 new goals every week after that. At first it will take you constantly thinking about your goals to follow through with them, but then they will eventually become a habit such as brushing your teeth. 
  • Be positive and believe in your self! Don't be hard on your self if you mess up on a day, just identify the reason and get back on track! 
  • If after beginning you notice a goal just isn't reasonable, change it for something that is! you want to set your self up for success for choosing something you can follow through with. Your goal should also challenge you though, so choose something that challenges you but that is reasonable. 
Please send me an e-mail with your question if you have any problem and share your stories and additional tips you may have in the comment section! 

Quick tip of the day: 
" Over 95% of people who lose weight on a diet end up gaining the weight back. Instead develop a healthy lifestyle, something you can live with long-term and that isn't depriving. You will lose the weight less quickly but you will also keep it off long-term."

Other then the food contract, if you are trying to lose weight read my previous health blog post weight loss 101



  1. Thank you so much for putting this together!! I can't wait to start using this contract. Thank you for the tips as well! I know I can follow these.

  2. No problem! Glad you are going to use it! Let me know about your success :)

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  4. Great post. Its really inspiring. Weight lose strategy is made easier with this post. Thanks for the valueable post.


  6. Looking for the link to the Food Contract. It only opens as a picture which is somewhat blurry. Looking for a PDF.