Sunday, July 7, 2013

How do I Train my Brain to Think like a Thin Person?

I am a 40-year old female with high blood pressure. I was very overweight, but by making some conscious effort I have lost about 80 pounds and would like to lose another 80. My diet has changed rather drastically: I used to eat processed foods, soda and sweet tea and lots of junk! Now I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and drink lots of water.
My diet is not perfect--I still enjoy ice cream once in a while, and fried chicken--but I keep those treats in moderation.
The problem I hope you can help with is that my brain still tells me to eat like I used to. For example, I went to the quick-mart to buy some food for my 5-hour work shift-- I got 2 bottles of water, a breakfast burrito and a greek yogurt. That would have been enough. But while I was there I also bought a turkey sandwich. Sure enough, at lunch time I wasn't hungry, but I knew I had that sandwich and it was "lunch time" so I ate half of it. Then on the way home I knew it was there. I still wasn't hungry, but I ate the rest of it.

How do I retrain my brain to realize I don't need to eat all the time, just because it's meal time, etc. I am not even hungry, but it's telling me to eat. It doesn't make sense.

Thanks, Pat. A.

Dear Pat,

Congratulations on your successful weight loss and the healthy changes you've consciously made!
Your struggle makes a lot of sense, and I'll tell you why... Of course, if we knew what made us want to eat and how we could overcome these urges, we could stamp out obesity across the country, right?!

The issue is that we, as humans/animals, our brains are programmed to eat whenever there is food in front of us. Imagine if a caveman had some meat and berries in front of him and said, 'Nah, I'm good for now. Maybe I'll eat in a few hours.'  What are the chances food would be there later?
So when we see food (in front of us, smelling the aroma of baking, being confronted with the rows of chips and candy bars at the drug store, driving by the Golden Arches, etc etc) it makes us, on a primal level, give our conscious brain a very strong signal that we need to eat, NOW!
Your primal brain said, "I know there's a turkey sandwich" and another part of your brain acknowledged, "Yes, there is, and I can have it now".

So, the trick is training yourself to rationalize why it's NOT a good idea to eat now. To do this, you can start with writing some short sentences that make sense to you on note cards and carry them with you wherever you go, and read them often (dozens of times a day) and especially when the urge hits. 
They may say, "I can eat later" or "I just ate 2 hours ago" or "I'm not hungry so I'm not going to eat" or "I am too advanced to let my primal brain think for me" or maybe, "I will be so proud of myself tomorrow when I step on the scale" ... whatever resonates with you.
For years you have been listening to the instinctive part of your mind and you have been obeying. So it's going to take a lot of re-programming, but that's exactly how it's done. Simply repeat the NEW message you want to learn over and over again repeatedly for weeks and weeks until you realize you are starting to think this new way.

I would highly recommend the Beck Diet Solution Workbook by Judith Beck which helps overcome a struggle exactly like the one you speak of, that so many overweight people face when trying to lose weight. I lead a teleclass every few months that I call "Lifechanging Weight Loss" in which I use Dr. Beck's workbook as the basis of the course. Anyone anywhere in the country can be in the class since we meet over the phone on a weekly conference call. So many people have told me how well this program works for them, and it's even better when you've already had success in progress!
You can see when the next course is offered, and register here
Please feel free to email me again with any questions.

Good luck with your continued success!

1 comment:

  1. Another option is to hide the food! I do that quite often. I forbid anyone to leave food out on my counter. See it, smell it, eat it; just like you said!