Ep #9: Reducing Desire for Unhealthy Foods

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Welcome back to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight! I'm so glad you're here today because we're going to talk about desire and how it affects our relationship with food.

Although you probably understand that desire is an emotion, have you ever thought about where it actually comes from, or how your desire for certain foods keeps you from obtaining the level of health and well-being that you're seeking?

Many of us believe that our desire for certain foods is part of our personality, that it is an unchangeable facet of ourselves. On this week's episode, I'm going to share an alternative thought with you - you can influence your desire for foods that keep you worried about your health and your looks and learn to desire them less.

I know this challenges a lot of thoughts you may have surrounding food, but I'm going to walk you through the exact process of how to uncover those unconscious beliefs that are keeping you from your weight-loss goals.

Click "Play" below to get started!

Make sure to download today's worksheet on how to examine your desire for certain foods and, if you don't have it already, grab your copy of the Quick-Start Guide to a Successful Weight-Loss Plan

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You'll Learn from this Episode:

  • What desire is and where it comes from.
  • The key reason we overeat.
  • The role dopamine plays in our eating habits.
  • How to reduce your desire for unhealthy foods.
  • The unconscious belief systems that keep many of us desiring foods that are unhealthy.
  • How to examine your desire for food that you want to let go of and desire less.

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast with Pat Beaupre Becker, episode nine.

Welcome to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast for women approaching 60 who have been successful at everything but reaching their weight loss goals. Tune in each week for tools and strategies to help you lose weight, create a strong body, and support a healthy mind. Here's your host, certified weight and life coach, Pat Beaupre Becker.

Hello my dears, so good to be back here. I'm recovering from the flu. Wow, that was something. But I'm feeling back to normal, feeling good and energized and excited to be here. Part of my recovery was sitting on the couch watching the program on PBS called Victoria, and it was fascinating because there was this perfect thread in one of the episodes with Dame Diana Rigg, who I remember from The Saint, where she was this really cool spy, and now she plays the duchess, the court's new mistress of the robe, and she takes this trip to France.

Now, she's a very curmudgeon-y character, she's not very friendly or warm, but during this trip when she goes to France, she's especially irritated. We don't understand why yet, and she really hates the food. Now, of course, the food is presented amazing, right? Total decadence of food, gorgeous food, and everyone is totally impressed, but she is not having any of it. And through the course of the episode, she just is really irritated with all this fancy food, doesn't really partake in any of the meals.

So when she gets home and they have this scene sitting, eating her meal at home, and she's like, so happy because she is eating her plain mutton stew, and she actually says, "I'm happier seeing what I can eat, as opposed to not really knowing what's in my food." And the fascinating part about this was you could see the people who were impressed with the food, and then you could see her not being impressed with the food, right? And the difference, although we know she's a curmudgeon, the difference is that her way of thinking.

Now, it's revealed in the episode, and this is a little spoiler alert, that she trained herself not to like the food or anything about the French because of her brother's death, which happened in a battle with the French army. So she has trained her brain to not have any desire for this food, and that's what we're going to talk about today. We're going to talk about desire.

Now, I'm really curious about what you think about desire, like where do you think it comes from? And of course, I'm talking about our desire for food, for wine, for sweets, for candy. And I want to ask you, how does your desire for certain foods keep you from success? Now, a key reason we overeat is because we have an over-desire for food.

Now, we know that desire is an emotion, and that our emotions are the drivers or the motivators for us to take action. Now, as we get older, I know you've noticed, your bodies are changing and your response to food changes, right? So at 60, we have the accumulation of many years of eating unhealthy foods that might be catching up to us.

I mean, I know when I was younger, I used to be able to eat lots of junk food, and I didn't really notice the problems other than weight and bad skin and bad attitude, but I mean, life seemed to be a mess anyway. But I never related it to my food. And as I got older, eating lots of desserts and processed foods not only added weight, but actually created a mild depression.

So even though my brain wanted the reward of these foods because it felt so good to eat them in the moment, my body was not enjoying the aftermath. I also saw my mom gain lots of weight and slowly I saw her developing diabetes, and how much she suffered with that. And then in her late 60s, she was very sick actually, she also had lung cancer, and then she died at the age of 74.

But during the process of her time learning about diabetes and learning that she was supposed to change her eating habits, she believed actually, that her desire for gravy and mash potatoes, and bread and butter, was actually part of her personality. And in her unconscious brain, that was really true because she could not imagine not eating these foods.

And you know, it wouldn't have been a problem of her eating these foods, except they were killing her. You know what doesn't make sense? I mean, really doesn't make sense, is that what got our species here, seeking pleasure of food, sex, avoiding pain, becoming efficient, these things are now claiming more lives despite our advances in technology and medicine.

Because unfortunately, we haven't evolved enough where we can tell the difference between what foods are important to our survival, nutritious food, and what foods are cutting our chances. I mean, you know what we should advance? We should invent a pill that creates an innate knowledge of what food nourishes us and what food takes away our health and vitality.

Now, that's a pill that should be invented. How to desire the food that's good for you. It would be a blockbuster, and it would also be a hit to the profits of the healthcare industry and Big Pharma, right? So nobody's really looking for that pill. So what can we do?

Tell me if this pattern sounds familiar. You make a decision to eat healthier. You decide to give up on junk foods. Then you're having a stressful day or long week, and the next thing you know, you're reaching for a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream, and you hadn't planned on it. And as a matter of fact, you had decided, you had planned you were not going to have it. So what is going on here?

We think it's something wrong with us, we're morally broken, we have no willpower, but first, the powerful reward of dopamine that your brain received from these non-nutritious foods convinces your brain that they are really important and then you want more and you want it now. Second, you have this unconscious learned belief system that food is for many things other than fuel. The unconscious is very powerful. It is the unseen drivers of so many of our behaviors, and you know, in studies, they have actually shown that your body will start in action from your unconscious, three seconds before your conscious brain is even aware of it.

So while our unconscious brain is powerful, you know, it's also amazing. I mean, think about how your body operates without any input from you. Your heart beats, the blood flows through your body, your adrenals all work, all these complex systems of hormones and fluids, bacteria, digestion, nerves, all working, actually all fighting to stay in balance and to keep us alive.

And while these processes within our bodies work from instinct, if you think about it, our behaviors in our world, they come from what we learn, and this is the key to our freedom. This is where we can take advantage of something we have, our evolved brain, our prefrontal cortex. So if your brain learned to desire all this unhealthy food, the good news is that it can be taught to unlearn it.

Remember this Duchess, Diana Rigg, who was serving Queen Victoria? Well, she learned to hate the French because that was where her brother was killed. She could no longer see French food as desirable. This is an example of where your desires are learned and can be increased or decreased by your own thinking. So would you like to look at the foods you so greatly desire today, that keep you worried about your health and your looks, and not have any desire for them? Would you like to be more like the Duchess?

This is a really important question to ask yourself. You know, my mom didn't believe she could unlearn her desire. She just thought that was part of who she was, and she didn't believe it because she didn't know how to do it. So we have scientists to thank for pointing out that there's this pathway that we have to change our brains. And we understand from research that our desire for highly processed foods are really addictive, and we know that the human innovation has now made all of these foods really easy to get and made them cheap and available.

I mean, over-processed fast foods, one of the major human innovations, may well be our demise. But we do have a way out. How do we learn to reduce our desire? One way we do that is we do it by uncovering all the thoughts that drive it. We have to make conscious those unconscious thoughts and beliefs that actually are nourishing our desire. The unconscious is powerful because we cannot see it, and if we cannot see it, we cannot change it.

So think of it as you have two competing brains. One that thinks eating cake is a splendid idea, and the other one that really wants to lose 10 pounds. So if we talk about our subconscious conditioning for highly processed, high sugar, calorie dense food, we have to see that it's part and parcel of our culture. Everywhere you look there is food. We're exposed to it at home, on TV, at school, and from very early years.

And I think about it, you know, mothers are set with the task of feeding children, and I know for me, when I started out my first year as a mom, I actually made all Ruby's food fresh, organic vegetables, smashed them myself, started to learn how to cook healthy. I was like, "I am going to teach my baby how to eat healthy even though I've struggled with it for so long."

And then comes the first birthday cake, right? Okay, so I decide I'll make carrot cake. There's vegetables in it, it will be healthy. But of course, there was lots of sugar in it. And then as time went on, she discovered white bread, like what an idea. She thought it was fascinating and wanted to eat it. And then of course, there was ice cream, which was one of my favorites. Then there were Easter baskets filled with candy.

And as I mentioned last week's episode, that my poor child did not have lots of fresh food, wholesome, home cooked food during her growing up time. But point I want to make here is that I loved feeding my child. I loved feeding her friends and her classmates if we went to volleyball, you know, bringing snacks.

So I want you to consider the following thoughts that you may have about food. Food is love. Children love sweets. And then we celebrate every birthday with cake. I remember growing up in the summer, going to the candy store and buying all kinds of candy and the candy we had then was a pretend cigarette, a pretend necklace, pretend lips, all these things that we could play with it and eat it, and it was just horrible sugar.

And then the summers we looked forward to the ice cream truck that came around, right? And then if you go out and you go to somebody's home, you really want to try new things, right? I mean, you can't turn people down. The idea that new restaurants as we become older and more sophisticated, they are the place to see and be seen and to taste all that luscious food.

And then there's all of the time we spend going out to eat as the way we show love. And who doesn't want to experience good food? Have you ever thought life is boring without this food? Have you ever thought food is fun? And then there's FOMO, the fear of missing out, right? I'm only going to get one opportunity to have this food, or they made is special for me. They love me.

And then there’s the food of my ancestors, which actually might be a good way to eat, but maybe not all of them and maybe not in the quantities that we eat them in the United States. But, you know, food is where we share our cultures.

How many times have you heard, “Oh come on, you only live once. It won’t kill you. Have it your way.” So hearing these beliefs and thoughts all of your lives, your brains have learned to see all of this food as pleasure, as comfort, and associate it with these things, which actually, we have needed for survival.

So what I propose is that we’re going to first examine the roots of our desire, one food at a time. And then secondly, we’re going to visualize ourselves without this desire for food, so we can actually lessen our desire. So I’ve created a worksheet that you can grab at never2late.info/desire – and we’re going to go through some of the questions in the worksheet on the podcast, but you can always print it out and do it later on. And if you have any questions, you can contact me and I’ll be happy to work with you on that worksheet.

So, let’s start with examining the roots of your desire for one food. So I want you to pick the food. Maybe it’s the one that really you have a hard time letting go of, the one you want to let go of, and whatever it is, use this for our exercise. So let’s pick the food. Let’s just say it’s Oreo cookies, okay. And then why do you desire it?

Maybe it makes you feel good. What do you remember about this food as you were growing up? Oh, Oreos were my treat; my special treat. My brothers had their treats and Oreos were mine. And I could make them last, I could play with them, it was like I had very vivid memories of eating Oreos as a child.

And one of my favorite new questions which I put in the last podcast is, imagine that cookie, that Oreo, looking up at me and asking me, “What do you want me to do for you?” And I have to say, in the past I would have said, “I want some pleasure, I want some fun, and that’s what I want you to do for me.”

Then I want you to ask yourself, your prefrontal brain, what will this food do for your health? And then you could ask yourself, how do you feel about yourself because you desire this food? And how do you feel after you have eaten this food?

This is really important because this is, I think, the piece we forget. I know, for me, in the moment the food is in my mouth, it may be tasting good – although I have to say, quite often it doesn’t even match the memory of the desire that I have for that food, right. I don’t know if they’ve changed the recipe, but it doesn’t have that same taste for me today, and it doesn’t feel so good in my body. And really, playing with my food the way I did as a child, the whole thing just doesn’t feel good afterwards; it gives me a lot of discomfort.

Then I want you to ask yourself, can you imagine not desiring this food? That’s a big one. Imagine yourself actually looking at that food and not really caring for it one bit. Imagine the duchess looking at those French pastries going, “No, not for me.”

What would your life be like without this desire? Well, perhaps I would be able to stick to my weight loss goals, you might say. Or my health, I wouldn’t have to worry about my sugar numbers when I go to the doctor. I would not have food chatter, not have to make the decision about it. I would have more time to focus on other things.

So what you want to do is really take your conscious brain and bring up those unconscious thoughts that are being played out in the background. And if you can think of other questions for yourself as well, that’s a great idea.

Now, the second part I want you to do is start to visualize yourself without the desire. We already started that, right, but we want to lessen your feeling of desire. So if you are someone who did not desire this thing, what would you be doing differently?

So obviously, you wouldn’t be thinking about stopping at the Walgreen’s to pick up the extra cookies, right. You might be thinking, “Maybe I’ll go home and prepare a good dinner. Maybe I’ll go to the gym. Maybe I’ll call a friend.”

How would your health be impacted if you didn’t have this desire? And I know it would be bettered, right. Without eating that high processed sugar, I know that my health is going to get better. And if I didn’t actually have this desire, what would I be thinking? I’d be thinking, “That’s not for me. I’m glad I don’t eat that anymore.”

And how would you feel, right? I would feel really good. I mean, this is actually how I feel right now. But you want to imagine, how would you feel if you didn’t have that desire. How would you act around this food if you didn’t desire it?

So there’s some more questions on the worksheet, but that’s a good start. I want you really just to get the idea of how you approach a subject, right. With curiosity, with your prefrontal cortex, you want to understand your desire and you want to uncover those unconscious thoughts, which make a lot of sense and which give reason for why you do what you do.

So in summary, you actually are a changing human being and desire is something that can change as well, because desire is created by your thoughts; your unconscious thoughts, your subconscious thoughts, right. And we can increase or decrease that desire.

But it’s really created by what we think things, when we see them, those Oreos or cherry pie or Cheetos or chips or ice cream. You know, it’s the flavor, the look, the commercials, which are just incredible at selling this stuff.

So because our unconscious desires create these competing desires, right – our conscious brain wants us to lose ten pounds, our unconscious brain wants us to eat that ice cream. So we want to learn to bring the unconscious to consciousness. And then we question them; we imagine a life without them.

We create new thoughts so that we can actually recondition our brain to unlearn desires that are not serving us anymore. Then we can learn new desires that serve us, and that reconditioning of your brain is only going to happen by practice and attention. And I think this is a good start.

So that’s it for today’s episode. And next week, we’re going to talk about our urges, because hand in hand with desire is our capacity to resist the urge we are going to experience when we stop eating these highly processed and very addictive-like foods. So that’s what we’ll talk about next week.

So now I want to go to my favorite things, and this week, it’s not anything you can by. And what it is, is creating lists. Now some of us love lists, we love to check off lists, we love to make lists. Sometimes we are just list makers; list lovers. And so that’s what I want to talk about today, because quite often, when I work with my clients, I’m asking them to come up with lists.

Come up with gratitude lists, a list of impossible goals. I like to ask them to think about what are things you used to like to do as a child. What are things – a list of things you want less of? How about creating a list of things you want more of? Create a list of things that make you happy that are free. Create a list of nature sightings; like when was the last time you saw something in nature that was just spectacular?

Then we have a bucket list. We have the best of books list, we have the best of movie lists, we have the best of TV list, the best of photos, right. We can make lists of movies we and to see, we can make a list of the things in our purse. We can make a list of friends that we’ve forgotten about. Maybe we can make a list of our favorite qualities when we were teenagers, or our favorite qualities about being in our 20s and go on in our 30s and 40s and 50s, right.

We can make lists for things that will open our mind, really make us curios and give our brains something to do that is creative. And then when you’ve discovered what’s on that list and you’ve pursued that list, you never know what you might discover.

So you have just a few more days to enter the contest to win a Motiv Ring, which is a tracker for your health. Kind of like a Fitbit, but you wear it on your finger. And how do you do this? So if you enjoy this episode and you found it valuable, please leave a review on iTunes. And once you review this show, you have to email me the title of the review to pat@beauprecoaching.com, and you’ll be entered to win the Motiv Tracker. And I’m going to be announcing the winner on next week’s show, which is early February.

So visit never2late.info/iTunes to learn more details about the contest and how to enter. And remember, I’ll be announcing the winner on next week’s show. And if you’re listening to this after February, well, sorry, we’ve already announced our winner, and maybe next time.

So thank you so much for being here. I hope that you have learned that your desire is something that you actually can influence, and I’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.

Thanks for listening to this episode of It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. If you liked what you heard and want more, head over to never2late.info/guide, to download your quick start guide to jump start your weight loss plan and begin creating an amazing life you love.

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