When you set a goal there’s a specific process within your brain that determines how or even if you achieve it. If the strategy you try to follow to reach a goal means any sense of unhappiness or loss of pleasure, then you will self-sabotage and fail, no matter how much you think you want to achieve it. You will literally bully yourself into submission.
So, what is the solution to keeping on track this Christmas?
The first step is to fall in love (again) with the benefits of achieving your goal. I don’t mean just sit and think “wouldn’t it be nice if….” I mean REALLY love what it would mean to feel and look happy and healthy the other side of Christmas and New Year. Sure, being the same weight or not feeling fat and frumpy is a nice visual, but that’s not enough to really fire up your neurons to get you where you want to be, you need to associate massive pleasure with what it will mean. When you do this, several areas of your brain work together to increase your chances of achieving it and doing so in a way that you enjoy. After all if you choose a weight loss strategy you don’t enjoy, and feel deprivation and unhappy doing it…..but stick to it anyway until you reach your desired size or shape, once you cross the finishing line your brain will mark it as “done” and immediately begin to delete the behaviours that caused you pain, even if they brought you “success”.
Your food and activity habits over a consistent period of time are what determine the size, shape and health of your body. That’s great if they are good habits, but even bad habits will fight to defend their neurological position if you ignore them. Have you ever tried to say to yourself “no don’t have that extra chocolate/glass of wine …you are being “good” today”…and yet at the same time associate real pleasure with eating or drinking whatever it is? This creates conflict in your brain and it knows the habit you are trying to stop brought you instant reward, so that habit becomes like a bully literally goading you into doing it. What happens next is an internal row usually in the form of internal dialogue, something like “oh go on you deserve it” or “just this one, it’s Christmas, and then I can start in the New Year” etc. etc. etc.… this is the exact process that often results in you giving in to the bully and eating or drinking it.
When you truly and completely fall in love with the outcome, and then visualise the benefits over and above getting in your jeans, then your neurology is better equipped to deal with the bully.
You can’t break a habit, but you can change it…. that’s because the triggers that generate the behaviour don’t disappear, you will still be exposed to the food and drink temptations, so you must train your brain to react differently to them.
If you can do one thing that will help you pacify the bully in your head and create habits that are your friends, then you must love the process as well as the outcome. Look at your habits, and the cues or triggers, and create alternative behaviours or responses that you can use that don’t make you feel deprived or as if you are missing out. Imagining walking past the tin of Christmas chocolates and having no desire to open it at all or opening the fridge and not reaching for another piece of cheese even when you are not hungry.
When you learn to change your mind all of this can become second nature. You will have total control.
When you have a variety of tools in your tool box that you can use to make you feel good, without using foods or drinks that take you away from your goal, you not only achieve it but also increase your levels of happiness along the way. That’s got to be worth doing – right?
When it comes to losing weight so many people think “when I lose the weight, I will feel good/happy/confident etc..” but the reality is you must decide to feel good now, before you even start the process, and find new ways of controlling your neurology and making more happy chemicals naturally. If not, your brain will always bully you into doing the things that made you happy for a few seconds or minutes but lead to long term sadness. There is no better time than Christmas to start creating new healthier habits!
Think about what you are doing consciously and just STOP!
If you are struggling in any moment and you feel an internal dilemma about whether to eat or drink something, the chances are you will think something you have thought before.
In terms of making choices that affect your health, if you love mince pies and think how good they taste and how they are so much a part of Christmas, and you ate them all the time as a kid at Christmas, then when you stop and think about it before you decide, the thought you are most likely to have, is how delicious they are! That’s clearly not going to help.
Instead of stopping to think… JUST STOP! Literally. If you feel the thought coming into your mind literally say “STOP” to yourself before you put something in your mouth that makes you fat or lethargic, and either make a different food or drink choice, or if you’re eating or drinking when you’re neither hungry nor thirsty, do something else instead. It’s that pause that allows the change. Just Stop. SLOW DOWN. BE AWARE.
Awareness is curative, spend some time honestly thinking not just about what you want to achieve health wise, but make a list of the benefits you will feel over Christmas and well into 2023. If they don’t really move you when you think about them, spend some more time asking yourself “what else will be better” until you find the thing that really resonates deep inside, maybe something you hadn’t even thought of that will be a benefit of losing weight and being healthier, and when you get it, the bully disappears. It no longer objects. Although it is a bully, it believes that bullying you is in your best interest, when you show it that other habits are in your better interest, it will naturally switch to those instead.