When we think about losing weight the two most common elements of pretty much all the weight loss programmes available to us are DIET & EXERCISE… and this has been the strategy for many years. So it’s nothing new to us, such a simple formula, eat less and move more, BUT if all we need to do is to take care of our CICO (Calories In Calories Out) then why is obesity continually on the increase and why are so many of us still struggling to lose weight after trying diet after diet after diet, even when we love the food we are eating?
The answer is that a third critical element is missing, the “elephant in the room” ignored by so many diet providers, and this is that eating is not just a physical activity it is also a very EMOTIONAL one.
Our emotions and our desire to avoid pain and achieve pleasure is what is driving all of our food choices. It’s why we can follow a plan for so long feeling happy and in control and then we suddenly fall off the wagon and eat like we’ve never eaten before!
When you get an emotional reward for doing something, such as a feeling of comfort then you are motivated to do the same thing, or something very similar again and again and again.
If we needed instant sugar for energy but it tasted horrible, then we would be less inclined to search for it. In fact most things in nature that are poisonous and dangerous to us have a bad taste, this is nature’s way of helping us understand what to avoid and what is bad for us.
There are really only two elements that drive what we eat and that is genuine physical hunger and emotional triggers.
When we learn that sweet foods make us feel good emotionally (and often we have learned this in childhood when we have been given ‘treats’ and ‘rewards’ for good behaviour, or given a ‘treat ‘when we have felt poorly, sad, fallen off our bike etc.) our brains automatically look for more opportunities to use the same mind mapping and the same strategy, to get the same result. So from when we were little we have managed to create a personal list of foods that we ‘believe’ make us feel better for every emotion we have, when we are sad, when we are happy and celebrating, when we are bored etc. Our brains don’t know reality from fiction so they just do the job they have always done and remind you to ‘eat the cake’ so you will feel better. It’s that simple!
Of course once you eat the cake (or the ice-cream, pizza, chocolate, crisps etc.), because these are mostly high GI foods, you get an instant hit from serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good, and that just cements the idea that these foods do really make you feel better! At the same time the chemical reaction in your body from the serotonin makes you crave the food even more. But then comes the aftermath, maybe of feeling guilty, uncomfortable, sick even, and this is the payoff but in the moment we wanted to feel better this knowledge of g how we will feel after is not the strongest focus in our mind.
The good news is that all this is reversible, you can re-train your mind and you can learn new ways of re-wiring your brain to do things that will enhance your health.
The first step is that you must overcome the emotional craving for the food long enough for your body to make the necessary adaptations. Your brain is wired so that the more you do something the more you can do it automatically…so much of the time, you literally eat without thinking., you shove the food in mindlessly and even though you know it’s not comfortable you shut off the part of you that knows that.
The way to move forward is to change the association that you have with the thought that you have. Just imagine what it would be like to have a new thought. For example, how would it feel to walk past a chocolate/crisp aisle at the supermarket and genuinely not want the chocolate/crisps?… to not be controlled by a chemical sugary/salty/fatty concoction that sits very happily on your thighs or tummy!
I’m sure you have experienced the tug of war inner voice that goes on in the supermarket! The first step is to notice your regular recurring thought. (‘I deserve…want….need…this’…’I can eat better tomorrow’….I’ve had a terrible day so this will make it better’)… Acknowledge that it was once true, but that it’s not necessarily true now. Remember all those times of feeling guilt and discomfort and weak and sick! Remember that is doesn’t serve you now in your goal to be healthier and slimmer.
This is the time to remember how good you will feel when you make a healthier choice or a different choice. Remember you can’t actually see and feel the pain your choices are causing you in the moment, but hours later when you are no longer emotionally attached to that instant need to give into the craving, you will hate the choice that you made.
If you could see the outcome of your choices, then you would make different choices. So see the outcome for what it is and start making a different choice today. Remember that one bad choice won’t ruin your health but a repeated pattern of bad choices will. Be honest with yourself as to how many times you tell yourself that ‘there is always tomorrow’…..what will be different tomorrow? Only you can make the change now.
Think of the worst thing about being overweight or fat. What’s the absolute worst thing? How does that make you feel? Really sit with that feeling for a while, feel the physical discomfort and the emotion around that feeling, how you dislike how your body moves and feels and aches, how your clothes don’t feel good, how your energy is low and your body is restricted…Because that’s the feeling you get for free when you forget to remember to make your choices based on outcomes. Instant gratification has a buy one, get one free painful emotion. That doesn’t sound like much of a bargain to me! REMEMBER this feeling when you are making an instant response without slowing down and thinking.
Watch my video below as a great reminder of what to do when you are in this moment: