You Cannot Hit a Target if You are not Aiming Directly at it
By this I mean that any weight loss or health goal will become much, much harder and fruitless if you don’t even have a target – therefore the first rule is, you must decide what that target is to be. Choose exactly what you want in your life, how you want to feel and how you want to look – then think about the opposite, how you definitely do not want to feel and look, this will help to start creating the vision in your mind.
Remember, you will receive whatever you think about, so at this moment, start focusing on the things you want and create a crystal-clear vision of you achieving it. How will it feel to you? – that’s your target. The next step is to encourage your neurological growth to guide you in the direction of your target, so you must amplify the pleasure you associate with achieving it.
Willpower Isn’t a Thing
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “I was doing really well – then I lost my willpower” but here’s the thing, you cannot lose something that isn’t actually a thing. Willpower isn’t like a set of car keys, you can’t actually lose it, because it’s a mindset or an attitude not a tangible object. Your behaviour is determined by how you think, and importantly, how you verbalise that thought dialogue inside your own head.
Imagine you’d arranged to meet someone, but were having second thoughts and really didn’t want to go, and that you only agreed because you felt obligated; then when it came to leaving, you genuinely couldn’t find your car keys, and it was too far to walk, you would then (by default) be able to do what you truly wanted to instead. If you believe that you need willpower, all you need to do to go off track, is tell yourself ‘I have lost it’ and hey presto – cakes, sweets, fatty snacks etc. are immediately returned to your menu!
If not Willpower, what is it that You Really Need?
Well you can select a word that works for you, but essentially, it’s mindset, attitude and desire. For all these there’s a neurological pattern that helps keep you on track. Of course, you have to ‘create’ this pattern, and it’s useful to know a little bit about how the brain works to help you do that.
We are taught to avoid pain and move toward pleasure, fundamentally your unconscious mind is always going to lead you away from pain where possible. In terms of evolution it was an important strategy and no doubt helped our hunter gatherers survive, however for those of us in the western world, life is very different. We live a life of abundance with many more things that bring about pleasure, including culinary delights.
If you think about the sparse selection of foods our ancestors had compared to what is available to us today, it begins to make more sense; they certainly didn’t ever walk by a patisserie and get excited by all the wonderful cakes and sugary snacks in the window, so they had no need to resist temptation to “stay on track” as staying on track was the only option.
Change Your Association
It all comes down to association in the moment. When you set your target it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re not going to do anything that will deter you from your goal. If it’s weight loss, it might be that you’re confident to walk beyond the vending machine, if it’s gambling or betting then you might be sure you can walk beyond the betting shop or casino, when you are using your slower thinking mind you can completely commit to staying on track. The problem is that when we are faced with these triggers that evoked the old behaviour that got us what we didn’t want, we don’t use a ‘slow thinking’ process. Our neurology is wired to avoid pain, so if we associate pain with not having the cake, or not placing the bet etc that will be our default setting.
This can be overcome and it’s one of the techniques I teach on my courses it features heavily in the ‘Placebo Diet at Home’ online course. It’s critical to long term progress to change your neurology so that the old behaviour genuinely loses its appeal – to the point that when you think of it you almost feel repulsed at the thought of doing it. Anything that brings you pleasure, whether it’s good for you longer term or not, is neurologically registered in the same way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a delicious food, a surprise gift, a great physical encounter or promotion at work. Your brain releases dopamine (the motivation hormone) from a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens, which forms part of what is known as your brain’s pleasure centre. When you create a behaviour that activates the pleasure centre, it’s easy to become addicted to this neurological “hit”. When you associate massive pleasure with this behaviour, the neurological drive to do it grows stronger and stronger.
A Graphic Pizza Story Makes it Clear!
The answer is obvious, you change the association. Imagine you were addicted to eating pizza every time you worked late and didn’t have time to cook, but you ‘processed’ and labelled a meat-feast pizza as a reward. Whenever you work late your brain is ahead of you and begins to release dopamine in anticipation of the pizza long before you eat it. By the time you finish work there’s no way you are not going to eat pizza. Imagine then one night you eat a pizza and as a result have the worst bout of food poisoning, that your vomit tastes of rancid pizza and you are on the loo with it coming out of both ends. You know totally that it was the pizza that made you so graphically ill that your body evacuated it from both ends simultaneously. If someone offered you a pizza the next day your body would have learned to change the association and you would probably repel the thought.
Try the ‘Craving Crusher’!
The exercise in the video above named the “Craving Crusher” uses this process to alter how you think and feel about a specific food. If you want to try it, identify the food and watch the video and I will talk you through it. So, set your target, think about the real pleasure you will get from reaching that target and practice my ‘Craving Crusher’ on the foods that you know will tempt you the most and try to move you off track!