Do you know how to use Premack methods to accomplish your health & fitness related goals? Premack is a psychological principle central in behavior change. The foundation is “do this first and then you can do that”. It’s simple to apply for nutrition and fitness plus it has a catchy name. So, Premack in health & fitness is growing in popularity. Even better, it’s rooted in scientific literature and research so you know it can work for you.
Premack’s principle is the foundation of how to influence yourself and Premack Life is the health & fitness direction you need. PremackLife.com eases your healthy lifestyle so you avoid complexity and create meaningful change. It gives you information and tools grounded in research by leading professionals.
Most of us want to look better, run a marathon (or something), have better blood work, be more productive- the list goes on. But, have you checked these off your list yet? If not, it’s because you don’t always enjoy doing the things it takes to get there.
You would eat healthy more if you liked to, wouldn’t you? If you loved running 3 miles a day, wouldn’t you wake up each day with your running shoes on?
Wouldn’t it be great if you ate well and kept your body fit because you liked doing it?
Who started Premack?
David Premack (1925 – 2015 and former Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania) coined the Premack theory after years of supporting research, evidence, and valid predictions. His theory has several foundational principles, but it comes down to one thing:
If there’s something you want to do because you like doing it- you’ll go out of your way for it.
This sounds fundamental, but you wanted to know it so you read some paragraphs to get here. Premack’s principle.
What’s the difference between Premack and simple reinforcement?
The difference between basic positive reinforcement and Premacking is the enjoyment of an activity, not a tangible reward. Your reward is the activity itself. Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds and still do some fun things. If you run 2 miles and meal prep before going to the movies, you were Premacking. The more you pair these activities, the more you will start appreciating the run and healthy eating.
Is this like punishing unhealthy behaviors?
Premack is never a form of punishment. However, reversing the activities is known as punishment. Let’s say you go to the movies and make it worse with snacks. Afterwards you feel bad and decide to do a run and get your food ready for the week. You punished yourself for not being in line with your goals. Eventually, this pairing of activities will decrease your likelihood of the physical activity and good nutrition.
Years of training and coaching clients say punishment “can” work. For example, “You ate out and skipped cardio? We need to weigh you in and do 7 minutes of burpees”. It only works short term, not long-term if at all. Can you set these types of things up in your life so you avoid doing the bad in order stave off the punishment? Of course.
The question is, how long will it last and will you have fun doing it?
Should rewards be food?
Some will argue Premack’s principle specifically when it comes to food as the happy activity. This debate is irrelevant here. Premack is about the experience of doing something for the sheer appreciation of doing it. Happy hour isn’t happy hour just because there’s a beer or wine involved. It’s happy hour because you made it through the day, you get to enjoy “calling it quits” and spending time with people who are doing the same. It’s fun, it’s social, it’s cheap food and drinks. These are the little things we appreciate in life and are likely to do again.
4 Premack Tips for Health & Fitness
Following the Premack Life vision, here are 4 things you can do today to start influencing yourself.
1- Find the right activities
Seek out activities you enjoy and are likely to do for the pure experience of doing them. Some examples include spending time with friends, listening to music, catching up on social media, reading the news or going to happy hour. In general, it doesn’t matter how small the activity, find things you do regularly that you just enjoy.
2- First do something else
Find one thing you like to do, and precede it with something you are less likely to do. For example, walking to the convenient store for a scratcher ticket, eating something nutritious before going out, or drinking water before your cup of coffee. In order to use Premack in health & fitness, the first activity should always be something you’re less likely to do. More importantly, it should be something related to your goals.
3- Healthy is never punishment
Never punish any activities you do with something that’s healthy or helpful in nature. For example, skipping lunch after missing your morning workout, or doing extra workouts at the gym because you binged on vacation. When healthy behaviors are punishment, they just won’t happen as much or as automatically.
4- Use what works
Premack includes a principle of “Freedom”. In health & fitness this means, you choose the healthy activities you want to incorporate. Use freedom in the decision-making process of what healthy activities you want to incorporate. In the long run, what you like and choose is far more important than what works for someone else.
The Premack Life goal? Switch your mindset, alter your behaviors, and create a healthier, happier lifestyle that’s more enjoyable every day. Use what works for you and toss out what doesn’t. With the tools and information here, you can choose AND enjoy the journey because YOU are making the decision (called Freedom in Premack’s principles).
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People are always looking for different ideas of how to Premack. Comment here to let us know how you’ve creatively used the Premack principle- even if it’s not health & fitness related!