©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
When you know better you can do better
“I bet I've tried every diet in the world,” said Laurie. “Each time I lost weight and then gained it all back—plus more. Something is not working!”
“It’s likely that the diets that aren’t working,” said her wellness coach. “Sure you may lose a few pounds initially, but diets rarely work in the long term. You'd have to follow them your entire life and that would not be advisable and perhaps not even doable. What does work is developing and consistently implementing a high-level healthiness lifestyle.” M
“But how do I deal with food cravings, like for cherry pie?” asked Laurie. “I tell myself I can’t have cherry pie. After a few weeks, however, willpower just seems to up and take a long hike and I find myself closet-eating, scarfing down half a pie at one sitting.”
“In most cases, depriving yourself of something you really like to eat will eventually lead to bingeing,” her coach explained. Laurie nodded. “Think of a craving as your brain demanding a reward—one you used to give it. Acknowledge the craving and avoid thinking ‘deprivation.’ Instead, try a self-talk sequence such as the one below.”
So, you’re craving cherry pie. You know you can have some any time you want it. Do you really want the calories more than you want to reduce your weight? Right now you are choosing to have a glass of water (or an apple or some fresh cherries). You can choose to have two bites of cherry pie at lunch tomorrow. (By tomorrow you may not want any.)
“I’ve certainly been beating myself up using unhelpful self-talk!” exclaimed Laurie.
“Now that you know better you can do better,” said her coach, encouragingly. “As for willpower, it rarely works well (if at all) to deprive yourself of something you already do for gratification (e.g., ending a bad habit). Willing yourself NOT to do something (like eat cherry pie) creates a picture in your working memory that causes you to think about cherry pie even more. Willpower is designed to help you follow through on a new behavior, a positive choice, in order to accomplish a goal.”
Your brain and immune system constitute the most powerful healing system in the world. Keep them in homeostasis (in balance) by living a brain-friendly lifestyle. This will help keep life in your years—maybe even add years to your life—and can make it easier to follow your weight management program. Living a brain-friendly lifestyle can help minimize cravings, too, especially as you get new habit patterns in place.”
“This is the first time I’ve heard of a brain-friendly lifestyle,” said Laurie. “What does it look like?”
“It looks slightly different for each brain,” said her coach, “because each brain is unique. Following are 13 key components of a brain-friendly lifestyle. There may be others but these will get you started. You need to implement them in ways that work for you and your brain. In fact, you’re probably already doing some of them.”
- Develop a positive can-do mindset. If you have an enemy outpost of negativityinside your brain, get rid of it. Avoid anxiety and fear; they can trigger downshifting.
- Become aware of your self-talk patterns and keep them positive. Always tell yourself what you are doing as if it's a done deal and stop talking about what you don't want to do.
- Keep your brain and body well hydrated. Many eat when they are actually thirsty. Generally drink enough pure water each day to have two pale urines per day.
- Protect your marvelous brain. Avoid inhaling toxins (e.g., cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, and air pollution). Take deep breaths of pure air to oxygenate your brain. Wear seat belts. Use helmets appropriately. Avoid trauma (e.g., pugilistic sports), falling, excessive radiation, and infections.
- Aim for 30 minutes of physical exercise a day: aerobic, balance, stretching, and flexibility. This helps keep your brain and body in homeostasis (a balanced state).
- Obtain moderate exposure to natural light. Flood your home with it, but avoid sunburn, tanning parlors, and ultraviolet light.
- Lean toward Mediterranean cuisine. Eat when you are physiologically hungry; minimize snacking; read labels carefully; and settle for two bites of dessert only.
- Schedule regular opportunities for play, relaxation, fun, and mirthful laughter (at least 30 times a day). The brain loves variety. A change can be as good as a rest.
- Get optimum sleep for your brain. Sleep deprivation can drain energy, accelerate aging, suppress brain and immune system functions, and trigger weight gain.
- Manage stress effectively. High cortisol (stress hormone) levels can kill brain cells, contribute to dementia, accelerate aging, and suppress the immune system.
- Increase your emotional intelligence (EQ). Identify emotions quickly, obtain information they bring from your subconscious, and manage them effectively.
- Interact regularly with a nurturing support system of selected individuals. Those who do this generally are healthier and live longer than those who don’t.
- Hone your spirituality, personal life vision, and whatever evokes a sense of awe. As the old proverb states: A grateful heart nourishes the bones.
“It’s obvious that prevention beats cure!” said Laurie. “I’ll begin outlining my own brain-friendly lifestyle this week. And, yes, I’m already am doing some of these things. That’s encouraging and makes the process even easier!” She and her coach both smiled.