- “The brain is an unbelievable powerful tool of intelligence, but the problem with our brains is they deceive us into thinking that we are rational, logical and consistent and that we remember things correctly. Nothing could be further from the truth. I still don’t see all my biases. … we are really are a very flawed form of intelligence – as awesome as we are. We need to start figuring out how to improve humans at the rate we are improving our digital tools so we can evolve together.” Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO neurotech company Kernel. (Kernel develops brain interfaces that record the activity of neurons through a tiny grids of electrodes.)
I love reading smart people who articulate complex ideas into simple language. Mr. Johnson does just that. He knows that while we have a brain that can solve very complex problems, that very same brain is suspect when it comes to simple thoughts about ourselves.
Mindset as related to achieving weight loss is just as suspect. Once you make a decision to lose weight you get all excited about something new. You clean out your cupboard, buy some kale and make a commitment to lose weight. Then, slowly the bright sheen of something new tarnishes and you are faced with unconscious habits and urges. That bright new weight loss plan requires a bit of effort to shinny up.
Let’s go back to high school, because I want you to think of your weight loss program not in terms of shiny and new, but as math and drama.
When I ask a new client, why are you overweight? No one answers – because I overeat.
Mindset drama causes suffering that drives bad habits and overeating. The drama may have originated with your childhood; how you grew up and what you learned about food, emotions, love and self-worth. The drama shows up if you use food for entertainment and/or punishment.
Math accounts for what and how much you put into your body.
If we look at the math of healthy body weight, we have to discover the food that fuels our body and activity level. The foods we grew up with may not be the right foods for us.
As you cross the threshold of your 6th decade, you may need much less to actually keep you going. If you have hormonal issues, finding balance takes more effort.
When we think of math, we think – cold; calculated; inhuman. The equation seems unfair to our brain. Why can’t I eat that food and lose weight?
When you look at the scale in the morning, the number is just the calculation of your internal organs, blood, water, skin and fat. That is the math.
If your brain thinks – "Oh, my God. I am never going to lose weight. Why can’t I change? Why did I eat all that pizza? I hate getting old and fat. I hate myself. After all that work. It’s not worth it." That is drama. We have repeated those dramatic thoughts so often, they seem like facts.
Our addiction to drama may be the thing that keeps us from reaching our goals.
We use drama as permission to overeat. “You would eat too, if you had to live with him. If she was your sister, you would understand.” We use drama to keep us from our dreams. “I could never take that risk. Easy for you to do. I’m terrified.” Drama gives us a reason to give up. “I just can’t.”
I used to think drama was the most important thing about life. Growing up on The Supremes, The Four Tops, Mary Wells, The Beatles and Ray Charles teaching me that I will be rescued, that I can’t help myself and I shouldn’t be too proud to beg. My world is empty without you, babe. The drama developed not because of the ideas, but because no one behaved as was promised. No one wanted to rescue me. I wasn’t the one they loved, I was the one they were with.
Culture instilled dramatic messages that created longing, the desire to be chosen and the need to find love outside yourself.
When you look outside yourself for acceptance, love and worthiness, there will always be drama.
This is where food steps in. For me it was the final frontier. I gave up sex, drugs and rock and roll, but food remained an easy drug. An easy fix to avoid the giant hole I felt in my soul.
In my brain I heard traces of: "I’m not cute enough, wild enough, smart enough, skinny enough, young enough, or talented enough.” I learned the mindset of "not being enough."
If you have developed a never enough mindset, food may be your comfort too.
We innocently speak in dramatic terms about our lives, our problems and people. We can easily become addicted to these intense feelings.
Listen to how you speak about your life and food. Are you using these words and phrases?
Struggle. Devastated. Terrified. Taken over by food. I found myself in front of the frige. I don’t know how it happened. He made me do it. She hates me. I hate him. He makes me want to scream. They make me want to throw up. She’s awesome…I suck. I never. You always. The most, the best.
I am a film/TV fan. Westworld is drama. Billions is drama. The Americans is drama. Some of these stories may be taken from the headlines, but they are written to heighten the Drama. I used to think it made my life interesting. We think it creates texture, depth, personality, character.
Drama mostly creates stress and negative emotions – Fear; anger; sadness; depression; insecurity and hopelessness.
Those feelings do not motivate us to self-compassion and self-care or self-regard. These are required for choosing healthy foods and activities that break away from the intense pleasures our brain seeks.
I am going to teach you a way to sort through the math and the drama so that when you decide you want to lose weight and give up your food struggle, you can take steps to change your mindset.
Mindset observation - The Model will reveal the math and the drama of weight loss.
The mantra of the CTFAR Model is: our thoughts create our feelings; our feelings drive our actions and our accumulated actions give us results.
Circumstance = Thought + Feeling + Action = Result
Here is a Weight Loss Math Model.
Body needs xx amount and quality of food for fuel. = Eat more fuel than your body needs = Body stores weight.
Body needs xx amount and quality of food for fuel. = Eat just the right amount to fuel and access stored fuel from body fat = Body releases weight.
Let’s reveal the Weight Gain Drama Model.
To be successful at weight loss, you understand the math. Determine how much food you need to access the stored fat on your body. Then eat that much food. Simple, yes?
What happens? To find out what happens let’s go back to the moment of choice; when you might have eaten on your plan, but decided not to. That might be the moment I ate that pizza.
C: Monday 6pm arrive home from work.
T: It was the worse day ever; traffic was crazy; I had a very stressful meeting with a client; my co worker irritated me; My lunch order was wrong. I got a call from my sister that pissed me off. I don’t feel like eating what I planned yesterday.
F: Irritated. Frustrated.
A: Eat pizza
R: Ate off plan. Ate more than by body needed. Ate for emotional reasons, not for fuel.
C: Monday 6pm arrive home from work.
T. There were cars on the road. I went to work. My co worker said …… I ate lunch. My sister called me and said…..
T: I am glad I have a plan for dinner. One less decision to make!
R: Ate on plan. Accessed stored fat on my body. Ate for health and long term goal.
The first model is called your unintentional model. The second, your intentional model.
The model exposes the math and the drama.
The drama. The thoughts and emotions driving the action. It may not seem too dramatic that you said I don’t feel like eating what I planned yesterday, after all as the adult in the room, you get to choose. But the math to losing weight would be to eat on plan. The drama of irritation and boredom led to eating off plan.
How do we find our way to health and vitality using the model?
We have to know what is operating in our lives today. What we think and do unintentionally and habitually. After all, we want to lose weight. We want to learn to eat healthier meals. Yet, our mindset – our thoughts and beliefs lead us to take different action.
Seeing the unintentional model in writing, makes conscious the unconscious, habitual and historical thinking.
Now we use our minds to reframe the mindset. We decide to create an intentional model. By planning what we are going to eat ahead of time we are activating and strengthening our pre-frontal cortex – your brain’s chief executive that is expert at understanding consequences of behavior, allows you to plan, learn, remember, impulse control, create, invent and communicate. The part of our brain that is good at the math.
Take the drama out of your thoughts and your language.
C: Monday 6pm arrive home from work. Same exact facts. C (Circumstance) Line.
T: I will eat my planned meal, even if I don’t feel like it.
A: Eat planned meal.
R: Eat on plan.
No Drama. Goal of weight loss or maintenance achieved.
You can use the model for exercise, for stress relief and for reaching your goals. Just look at your brain, one thought at a time.
It all adds up – just like math.
What I know for sure is that if you can make key changes with your mindset by creating a new vision of who you want to be. When you make these changes, you will find yourself facing new challenges; not the same old problems you have always faced when it comes to overeating and being overweight.
We know we can change the brain. We can create the conditions to develop a new chemical chain reaction. We use the Model, identify negative thinking, practice a message for eating right and for treating ourselves better. In the repetition, we will create a new habit.
Once we understand the difference between math and drama, we can focus separately on each of them. Eat for health and weight loss; Think and feel your emotions for health, happiness and weightloss.
You are living the Unintentional Model resulting in ineffective behavior. By creating from your intention (Intentional Model) and practicing more effective behaviors you create a bridge from here to there.
What comes after? Therein lies our glory and our gifts.
Can you find the drama in a sunset; the birth of your grandchild; eating broccoli that you grew in your garden; the touch of your friend’s hand; creating art; climbing a mountain; traveling to new vistas.
It’s waiting for you.