Understand the difference between Fear versus Courage (Knee jerk reaction versus intelligent choice!)
We all have two distinct voices inside our brains (normally referred to as the limbic system (LS) and the prefrontal cortex PFC). One has a tendency to fill us with hope (PFS) and reminds us how wonderful our life is, and the other fills us with doubts (LS) and convinces us that nothing is worth the effort. Which voice do you want to win? Which voice do you really want to feed? The Limbic System’s ancient function was to help us survive. The more recently developed pre-frontal cortex permits us to think and plan. The two systems are closely linked. The more emotional our responses, the stronger the limbic influence. As we learn to think and plan ahead, the PFC cools down the limbic’s hot, knee-jerk responses and reduces our addictive tendencies.
Thinking, planning, pausing before over-reacting, breathing more deeply, working out the consequences – these behaviours favour the PFC’s ‘executive function’ and encourage more reasoned and healthful choices. Learn to think. Learn to plan. Look ahead. Work out the consequences. Engage the power of the PFC. It’s what makes us human.
Realise that when you make unhelpful eating selections you reinforce that voice that says you are helpless!
This is, of course, a very complex and fascinating area of neuro-scientific research but we now accept that these two deeply influential aspects of our brains play a major role in determining how we behave in many different situations and circumstances. Let’s run with this behavioral theory, which is supported by thousands of studies, and see how it can help us.
The two voices inside your mind are your positive sense of courage and motivation to lose weight as opposed to your experience of a sense of helplessness that leads to the uncontrollable urge to eat. We all know that the overeating voice is usually the loudest and that it usually wins. Every time you overeat because you are feeling helpless, you reinforce your incorrect belief that you are helpless. You feed the wrong voice. Once you understand this it will get easier to resist the urges and temptations to binge.
Look back at your eating behavior honestly and recognise your automatic comfort response
No matter how hard you try to diet, no matter how sincere your promise to give up certain foods, you can’t stop the emotional compulsion of overeating for very long. When you do, you feel helpless, worried, empty or anxious. Feelings of depression, resentment, deprivation and boredom begin to creep in. If you remain unaware of how the underlying experience of helplessness is affecting you and how it automatically manifests as the uncontrollable urge to eat, there isn’t much you can do to change it.
Once you begin to recognise the fact that overeating has helped you to feel powerful in some way, you may be ready to understand that link between your long term inability to lose weight and your automatic comfort response to the stresses and challenges in your life.
As you become more aware of these old and potentially harmful patterns of thinking and feeling, you can consider alternative ways to express yourself and experience the freedom of making life-enhancing and healthy choices for yourself.