Using Your Brain for Weight Loss

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You’ve tried every diet in the book and still no luck. Sure, you lose some weight, but it comes back with a vengeance. You feel like giving up. Your mind says it’s a lost cause. But it’s not!

What you think directly affects how you feel. If you’re an emotional eater, you know exactly what I’m talking about. A scenario: You get home from a long day of work, the kids are hungry, dinner is in an hour, your feet hurt, and you’re exhausted. You need a rush of sugar to jumpstart your engine and curb hunger pangs. You reach for a box of cookies for a quick fix. It feels good, taste goods, and your engine is revved up for the next chore on your long to-do list.

Sound familiar? I bet it does. This habit is a learned behavior, like driving to work on autopilot. You don’t have to think about where to go. You just know from your daily routine. When you try to change this behavior, it becomes uncomfortable and your brain naturally resists to the change. When you try to lose weight by breaking a habit, changing your diet, and depriving yourself of a pleasurable quick fix, OF COURSE your brain protests! This is a recipe for weight loss failure, feelings of guilt, shame, and defeat.

Here’s the Good News!
You can overcome bad habits with a few simple steps. These steps will change your brain and maximize weight loss results. You can apply these steps to every situation in your life!

Step One: What is Your Situation?
Your situation is the circumstance you’re dealing with. It’s a fact. A situation might be that your mother-in-law is coming to spend two weeks with you next month. It’s a fact, you can’t argue it, and everyone agrees that it is happening. Another situation would be that your coworker is having a big housewarming party and you weren’t invited. Notice how I didn’t add any feelings to these situations. I just stated the facts. I want you to identify one situation you’re experiencing right now and write it down on a notepad. Don’t judge or say what you’re feeling. Just write it down. It may be harder than you think. If you practice, you’ll be able to do this naturally and see how powerful these steps are.

Step Two:  What Are Your Thoughts?
Instead of fighting with yourself, work on what you know. The first step is determining your thoughts about the situation. Let’s use your mother-in-law’s visit. Notice what thoughts come up when you think about her coming to visit: Are you thinking that you need to buy her favorite food? Maybe she’s hard to deal with and you’re thinking you’d like to call a hotel and put her up there. Are your thoughts about cleaning the house or giving the kids a lesson on how to behave when Grandma visits? Write down every thought that arises when you think about your situation.

Feelings:  Feelings are byproducts of thoughts. Writing out your situation and thoughts sounds easy, but trying to do it without emotions can be difficult. Most of us have a hard time separating our thoughts and feelings. That’s why this process can be so powerful. Writing your feelings about a situation can be cathartic. This is where the process gets fun. Let’s use the example of your coworkers invitation to her housewarming party. You recently found out that you weren’t invited to the party. You think that she has some nerve excluding you. You’ve always been cordial to her and you can’t figure out why she would intentionally leave you out. This makes you feel resentful, vengeful, angry, embarrassed, and incompetent. Only write the feelings associated with the thought. Again, don’t judge them and don’t beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. It’s really important to feel, deal, and heal from your emotions, so your feelings are never wrong. In fact, feelings make you take action.

Step Three: What Actions Are You Taking?
Your actions are influenced by your thoughts and feelings. If your situation causes you to think a certain way, your feeling is the byproduct of that thought, and therefore affects how you act. If you see an animal shelter commercial, you may feel empathy and donate $50 to the cause. If you feel vengeful toward the coworker who didn’t invite you to her housewarming party, you may feel incompetent and excluded. To feel better, you might go out after work and order a large hot fudge sundae.

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Do you grab an unhealthy snack when you get home from work? Do you crave chocolate after dinner? Do you raid the vending machine at the office? Be aware of your eating habits and notice the “food chatter” that goes on in your mind right before you reach for a snack. Your food chatter might sound something like this: “I’m so tired. I don’t feel like making anything for myself. I’ll just grab what I can out of the fridge. I’ve been working on this project all day and really need a break.” How do you satisfy this need for a break? Do you reward yourself with something that feels good? Is it usually a quick fix from the vending machine or a burger at a fast food restaurant? Notice your habits and internal food chatter. Identify your thoughts, connect them to a feeling, and see what actions you’ve been taking. Write these actions down and see if a pattern emerges.

Step Four: What’s the Final Result?
The final result is the product of the Situation that you had Thoughts on. These thoughts affected your feelings, which caused you to take Action that led to this Result. Let’s tie this together with an example.

Situation:
You just had your annual physical. Your doctor recommends you lose at least 25 pounds because you’re pre-diabetic with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Thought:
“It’s not my fault. I have no willpower. I’m so busy. I don’t have time to take care of myself. I have a demanding job and work 40 hours per week. I have three kids to care for. I can’t manage my time, let alone my weight. I’ve already tried every diet imaginable and nothing works.”

Feelings:
Scared, disappointed, deprived, discouraged, confused, anxious.

Action:
You try to diet for a while, but quickly get discouraged. You can’t find the time to cook healthy food, let alone eat it. You can’t juggle everything. You give up and go back to your old habits and eat for comfort, hoping that you’ll find a diet you can stick with.

Result:
You continue to gain weight, feel miserable, and stay super stressed.

That sounds pretty grim, but don’t bail on me now! Here’s how you can change your old habits and create healthier ones by changing your thoughts. The concept is simple, but because your brain tries to repeat the same pattern, it will take a couple of weeks before the habit sticks.

I call this the S.T.A.R. Process (Situation / Thought / Action / Result). It’s easier to remember and implement this way. It will teach you how to create better health, happiness, confidence, and lasting relationships! Let’s take the same scenario and change it around a bit.

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Situation:
You just had your annual physical. Your doctor recommends you lose at least 25 pounds because you’re pre-diabetic with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Thought:
“I’m not surprised. I’ve been eating poorly for while. I need to take action and make a plan to get myself healthy and motivated.”

Feeling:
Anxious, motivated, compelled, excited.

Action:
You make a few phone calls to find a health coach who can  help you create new habits and plan healthy meals. You  start walking after work instead of reaching for the box of cookies and make plans to meet with your best friend every Tuesday for lunch.

Result:
In a few short weeks, you’ve dropped 5 pounds, feel better, sleep deeply, and have already lowered your blood pressure.

The S.T.A.R. Process is powerful. When you change your thoughts and feelings, your actions and results change with them. Keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and actions on your notepad. Once you train your brain to see things differently, you’ll be on the road to better health, less stress, and a happier life in no time!

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