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A Change in Health Habits Requires a Change in Psychology

Greenwich Hospital, located at 5 Perryridge Road.
Greenwich Hospital, located at 5 Perryridge Road.

The first few weeks of the New Year often bring self-made promises and resolutions to break bad habits or start new healthy ones.

Dr. Joshua Hraboski, manager of Greenwich Hospitals Center for Behavioral and Nutritional Health, says that while the start of a new calendar year brings the opportunity to live healthier, there is no wrong time to start.

Theres no bad time to start trying to change, Dr.Hraboski, a psychologist specializing in long-term behavior change, said. A Tuesday is as good as a Monday. Dec. 31 is just as good as Jan. 1. We have to be aware of what prevents us from succeeding long-term. Its a life-long change were trying to implement.

Gym memberships go up, diets are watched and calories are counted, but it is often the psychological factor that is forgotten when trying to stay healthy.

As a psychologist, my goal is to help people gain awareness of the obstacles and the barriers that often prevent people from making changes or cause relapse. The psychology behind it is really about greater self-awareness of behavior change.

In fact, the Greenwich Hospital recognized this change, rebranding its Weight Loss and Diabetes Center as the Center for Behavioral and Nutritional Health on Jan. 4, 2016.

The hospital says the new name was picked to reflect their expanded mission.”

The new name is significant because the mission of the Center for Behavioral and Nutritional Health (CBNH) extends beyond the scope of weight and diabetes management, Norman G. Roth, Greenwich Hospital president, said in a statement. The name reflects the full array of services that we have been providing for a long time to keep people healthy. 

The psychological side of maintaining a healthy lifestyle includes what Dr. Hraboski refers to as a biopsychosocial model, an approach that includes biological, psychological and social factors.

He says his role isnt to educate about what is or isnt healthy so much as about what prevents people from implanting change toward healthy choices.

One major obstacle is their definition of self-control and willpower, Dr. Hraboski said. A lot of people will perceive it as something innate and something they should have and just be able to do. There is an expectation that it should just come naturally to them. Thats a major obstacle that I come across quite frequently.

Even when results begin to show, he notes another mental barrier that people suffer from after a few weeks of transitioning to living healthier.

Another obstacle is impatience with oneself, impatience with the process of change and the expectation that we should be able to just sustain that change.

With both nutritional counseling and psychological counseling, with a therapist, Dr. Hraboski says it, increases the likeliness of long-term change.

Along with teaching the role of environment in shaping ones behavior, the CBNH offers ways to help people better control their own surroundings by understanding how we respond to ourselves and others.

Were very much motivated by positive feedback,” Dr. Hraboski said. “Whether that be coming from a loved one or coming from a scale, whatever the external source is, we really do crave and are driven by that positive feedback. But as we achieve that goal or we plateau to some degree, the positive feedback may diminish and therefore were less motivated. We cant be dependent on positive feedback. We have to be aware of how we feel both when were getting the positive feedback and also when were not getting the positive feedback.

When we plateau pre-maturely in our weight loss or exercise goal, we get frustrated and annoyed we arent seeing as much change as in the beginning. If we bring it to a higher consciousness and recognize how were responding to immediate frustration and immediate sources of reward, then we can better cope with them, and it will be much more likely to succeed long-term.


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