Change the Way You Think, Change the Way You Eat…
I was thinking about one of my favourite pieces of research which suggests that we think about food at least 200 times per day! That’s a lot of brain activity! But the reality is that most of these ‘thoughts’ are processed in our unconscious. You will have heard me say that we have 2 minds, a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. If you imagine how a huge iceberg looks with the tiny tip the only bit visible, that is a good representation of how our 2 minds work. Your unconscious mind is ‘below the water line’ or in this case ‘below your conscious awareness’ and it’s this part that gives your mind its structure. Some scientists suggest that over 99% of our ‘thinking’ is done in our unconscious mind.
I often liken it to Google’s search engine. When you type something into the Google search bar it looks for any words or phrases that match what you’ve entered. When you have a thought your unconscious mind does something much the same and searches for anything the same or similar to what you’re thinking about, and then presents it to your conscious mind as a thought. For example, if you walk past the vending machine at work and notice it, your internal search engine will pull up whichever file (behaviour) you use the most when you walk this way, and recreate it. So, if you have often succumbed and bought a chocolate bar, you think “I just fancy / need / want a chocolate bar!” but it’s not a new thought, it’s just one of many that are sitting in your Google like database deep in your unconscious, where you store millions of bits of information about everything you have ever experienced. It feels like a real ‘in the moment’ thought, but it’s not.
Another good example is when teenagers start smoking to look cool in front of their mates, this association is embedded in their unconscious mind. As adults, when they have a cigarette it’s this original thought and association that drive their behaviour, even though it feels original. Just think about it, many smokers in their 30’s 40’s or 50s are technically still smoking to impress people they haven’t seen for decades, and probably will never see again! Crazy isn’t it! Likewise, if a biscuit or piece of cake once made you feel better when you were upset, that same thought or association can drive a behaviour months or years later, even when you don’t really feel that sad but just want to feel a bit better!
All this happens because our brain likes to economise and be efficient. We create these neurological patterns in our brains called ‘maps’ that we dip in and out of, which saves us from having to generate new thoughts and associations. In fact, most of us think the same thoughts and do the same things over 80% of the time! No wonder they call us creatures of habit! This is all well and good if the habits you’ve created, based on your thoughts, keep you happy healthy and wise! But many of us would like to change something about how we live our lives, or look after our bodies. The good news is that our brains are highly adaptive and plastic. Through the exercises in The Placebo Diet you learn how to change the way you think and feel, and literally re-wire your brain. No will power required!
So, the thought for today (that leaves 199 more to think about food!) is to change 1 thought or 1 association and imagine what it would be like to have a new thought. For example, how would it feel to walk past that vending machine and genuinely not want the chocolate?… to not be controlled by a brown sugary stick that sits very happily on your thighs or tummy! The first step is to notice your old thought. Acknowledge that it was once true, but that it’s not necessarily true now. Awareness is curative, and once you know something, you can un-know it! The first thing I invite and encourage you to do, starting today, is to notice every time you think about food and ask yourself…”is this a thought you have had many times, and if so is it serving you?”