If you have gained and lost weight over and over again over the past 20 to 50 years… that is a lot of practice and wiring of neural pathways. We do continue to grow at every age and develop new neurons through neurogenesis. Through diet, exercise, sleep you can not only lose weight, you can keep your brain healthy as well as bones and joints and immune system. When you feel better you will enjoy life more.
Even though we have the knowledge of what will make us feel better in the long run, it is easy to fall off track. The trick is to build a clear track and when you get off it, don’t make it mean anything about you. Give up the drama. See that track as your guidelines and get back on it.
When I was growing up in Brooklyn, NY the B71 trolley bus line maneuvered a turn onto Sackett from Smith Street. Often the two trolley poles and ropes which connected the bus to its’ power source above would disengage on the turn and the bus driver would have to get out and put the poles back on the track. It seemed like a genuine pain in the butt, yet it was part of the driver’s day. He didn’t make it mean he did anything wrong or curse the wires, he just got out of the bus and fixed put it back on track and got on his way. (In those days all the drivers were men!)
I like this image of a track. You can move smoothly from one point to the next, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes erratically, but it’ll always get you to your destination when you are on it.
If you engage with work or family or if you breathe – you have many distractions that could take you off track when you are developing new healthy habits.
Even Tim Ferris, speaker and bestselling author of The 4-Hour Body and Tools of Titans, shares that he gets off track. Tim is known for hacking his body and lifestyle to achieve optimal health and peak performance and even he gets off track. His response: “No big deal – I know what works, I just have to get back on track.”
Them are some wise words.
Your track is your guide to stopping overeating, weight loss and living a healthy lifestyle.
Where do you want to be in 6 months? Where do you want your track to take you?
Let’s say you want to lose 25#, with better numbers in your blood work and blood pressure. How do you get from here to there? You build a track with the knowledge and information of what it takes to lose 25#s and get your blood pressure at its peak.
It is not a great big mystery how to eat less and exercise, but it may be a mystery to your brain as to how to stick to it and stay on track. Neuroscience has taught us that it is difficult to change your habits because each time you take an action or series of actions (sweet treat after dinner) you have created linked neural synapses in your brain and those neurons have been firing together as long as you have been asking, “Hey, what’s for dessert?” Neurons that fire together wire together.
Knowing this gives us a method to follow to learn new things. We must create new neural pathways and continue learning new things, never giving up because it feels uncomfortable. We know it will feel uncomfortable, but we are in for the long haul.
Losing those 25#s will require you to eat differently repeatedly. Maybe more of some things and less of others. For most of us is means less junk food and more vegetables or salads. It definitely means having a growth mindset. It means exercising and figuring out what makes you happy in moments in your day. It means expecting it to be difficult to learn new habits and to enjoy the sights along the way. Don’t keep your head down looking at your phone and miss the view around you as you are traveling to your destination.
Can you see that you can’t get to where you want to go without a plan? Without a destination and a goal, you are lost. You are stuck.
With a plan, passion and persistence and lots of love and kindness sprinkled on, you can glide along your track and get to your destination. For sure.
Let’s break it down into tracks, each building upon the other. Let’s make it sustainable when it comes to food and exercise.
Why do you want to be healthy? Why do you want to get on track? Generally, we feel better once we are on track for a couple of weeks. Where is the track going? Is it in a place you are drawn too? Enriching views and colors? Stimulating for your mind? Focus on what you want in your life. What is your destination?
From the many diets out there, most of them agree that eating more whole (real) foods, including a more plant-based diet, you pretty much can’t go wrong. Keeping your food simple is the strength of this track. You can listen to prior episodes on how to create a food plan to build out this track. Eating whole foods, lots of plants and healthy fats has been identified as your best bet to prevent or beat cancer, diabetes, inflammatory conditions and Alzheimer’s. Learn about food and its impact on your health – don’t just take it from me.
Learning the skill of what it takes to stay on track or to get right back on track is likely new to you. It requires new neural connections which will happen over time. What skills in your plan are you weak in? Do you hate to shop? Is being bored a driver for overeating because you don’t have any fun things in your schedule?
Process Improvement is a job for someone. Consider your weight loss journey as a process that you are in control of and when it isn’t working, you look at how can you improve it. This requires a growth mindset, which you have already committed to. Acknowledge and figure out what skills you need to develop and go about deliberately practicing them.
Life happens. We are faced with changing situations that challenge our sense of safety. Maybe you have a diagnosis or someone you love is diagnosed with an illness. Our world seems to tumble upside down and we reach out for the comforts we have developed our lifetime. Powerlessness over some parts of life, does not have to result in powerlessness over yourself.
Emotional eating may be part of your history, but you can learn to manage your reactions to your feelings differently. When you want to overeat, over shop or stay under the covers, look to your self-care plan. Your spiritual plan.
What can you do when you are bored? Why do you always want to push that feeling away as soon as it appears?
How can you build resilience and allow the 50/50 – feelings. Good and Bad. Happy and Sad. Excited and Bored. Allow your human feelings to be part of your experience but not to define you.
Include movement into your life. It has been proven to create more joy, support you in learning and can relieve stress.
As you age you have choices:
You can be rigid or flexible, in your thoughts and in your muscles and bones. You can be fearful of change, or intentional, developing courage .
You can be resentful that you have to make these changes, or you can accept them and feel the experience of growth and self-love.
You can live with regrets, or you can live with purpose and make a daily plan. You can live in isolation or in community, reaching out and cleaning up relationships that may have gone stale. Finding something where you can meet others.
You can live in dread of old age, or delight in all the freedoms you now have in your thinking and living.
I think this is the most crucial of all the skills. If you never give up, you will get to your destination. You can only fail when you give up. When you build your tracks with the values you treasure and set the destination to a place you truly to get to, getting back on track will be attractive. This is where managing your emotions is also critical. The reason you think it is so hard to get back on track is because you hate the way you feel. Educate yourself on your feelings and how they are created.
Make your goals outrageous, as long as you are willing to miss the mark and keep going anyway. Remember when you learned how to walk or when you learned a new job. If you gave up each time your perceived failure, you would be crawling around.
Your brain has a mind of it’s own. If you say “I want to be healthy.” your brain will respond, “Sure, but I’m not giving up my cookies and milk at the end of the day.” You have to tell your brain why you want it to not eat the cookies and milk that day. Offer your brain an alternative that will eventually feel better than before. You have to challenge and engage your thinking brain. Never give up. Did I say that already?
Your guidelines are all there. When you do the upfront work involved in building your tracks, you have already done the heavy lifting. Now it is just following the guidelines you put down for yourself.
Pat Beaupre Becker is a Master Certified Weight and Life Coach. She coaches women over 50 who have struggled with overeating for most of their lives. She teaches them how to lose weight, stop overeating emotionally and learn to love their life today and create excitement about their future. She is absolutely sure It’s never too late to lose weight.