Excerpted from "Weight Loss The Screenplay."
What's Playing in the Cinema of Your Mind?
Taking charge of your automatic reactions in tempting food situations is critical in changing your eating behaviors so that food triggers no longer have power over you. Like a scary Hollywood movie, if you’re terrified to be alone in a room with certain foods because you’re afraid to lose control, it’s very likely that one of the clips playing in the cinema of your mind is one that says, "Food has power over me."
Well, I’m here to tell you otherwise. Allow me to repeat what Glinda the Good Witch told Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz": “You’ve always had the power.” And you always will. Food has no power. And like the Scarecrow, it has no brain—food only has the power your brain gives it. The fear of food does not come from food itself, but from your thoughts and reactions to it. It’s time to reclaim your power over food. Instead of seeing it as your enemy, see food as your ally, something nourishing and enjoyable that’s sustaining you on your life’s journey. Let it play the supporting role it's meant to play in your life—not the lead. And don’t allow food to seduce you. Leave that to your partner. Having a healthy relationship with food is the ultimate goal in becoming a weight manager. Once you recognize food for what it truly is—fuel and information for your body—it becomes much easier to manage. Trust me, the film The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was not a documentary!
Another clip that may be playing in the cinema of your mind is the one that says, "Eat as much as you can now because there may not be any later." The fear of food restriction or deprivation can create a sense of panic or cause you to obsess about food—and these emotions can result in overeating. You may find yourself binging on certain foods because you have a core belief in “scarcity” or “lack.” You subconsciously believe that you must stock up now because you may not get to eat that particular food ever again—a fear that is simply untrue. Unfortunately, each time you overeat, you lose strength in your ability to self-regulate, which reinforces the self-defeating thought that says, “See, I told you I have no willpower.” Your ego loves to be right, and when you listen to it, your self-worth begins to diminish—because you feel guilty for binging on the foods you know you should be eliminating. And on and on the story goes.
Welcome All Foods
So what do you do? You can make a conscious decision that from now on, no foods are forbidden. You can give yourself unconditional permission to choose the foods your body desires when you are physically hungry. This freedom allows you to release the gridlock that “diet” mentality has on your brain. When you don’t feel restricted or deprived, your mind has no need to rebel. And once you begin to eat whole, natural, and nutritious foods that give you energy and make your body feel strong and vibrant, you will begin to condition yourself to associate these good energetic feelings with these healthier foods. Eating in this way will make you feel so good that you will naturally begin to eat less of those foods that make your body feel heavy and sluggish, foods that you later regret eating anyway. When you focus on eating healthier foods, most of the time, meals become more pleasurable and satisfying—so you eat less. What you will soon discover is that the quality, and not the quantity, of the foods you eat is what best nourishes and satisfies you. Also, when you allow your hunger to guide you and you stop eating when you are comfortably full instead of stuffed, you will naturally eat smaller portions. By practicing the valuable skills of healthy eating that you will learn in Part 2 of this book, you will develop a new relationship with food once and for all.
Exercise Your Self-Regulation Muscle
Building your "self-regulation" muscle requires training over a period of time using mental strength and effort. However, like a muscle that is exercised to exhaustion, it can become weak, especially when you are distracted, stressed, or tired. For example, an out-of-shape person will have a difficult time lifting heavy weights at first, but if she trains herself regularly, she will eventually become stronger, be able to train for longer periods, and be more confident in her abilities. However, after a long workout, it does take a little time for her muscle strength to be replenished. But once it's replenished, she is stronger than before. This cycle works the same way with strengthening your ability to self-regulate. Your self-regulation "muscle" becomes stronger with each workout, but when it’s been used up after a long day, it can take a little time to be replenished. One way to quickly replenish your self-regulation muscle when you’re fatigued is to give yourself a healthy shot of positive thoughts and emotions while focusing on your goals. Every time you consciously engage your emotions and use your imagination to convince yourself that the new healthier option is more inviting, you jump the old pathway in your brain and avoid a limbic-brain takeover. If you keep up this practice, eventually these new “detour” thoughts and emotions will automatically be triggered and become the regular route.
Your brain is constantly assigning a “cost vs. benefit” value to every food situation you encounter, and when you give-in to short-term gratification over long-term goals, it shows that your immediate
gratification needs have registered more votes in your brain than your bigger vision. When your reactive instincts and your pleasure center get the best of you, it’s time for you to review your lists of
reasons for losing weight. If your reasons aren’t motivating enough, it’s time to come up with some more compelling reasons. You must practice using your awareness skills to shift your thinking so that
your long-term goals register more votes in your brain than short-term pleasure. When your desire to be slim and healthy is stronger than your desire to hold on to comfortable old habits, you’ll be on
your way to success.
You Have the Power
You alone have the power and ability to stop your reactive subconscious behaviors and make the conscious choices that will direct you towards meeting your weight loss goals. The small choices you make every day add up to the big picture of your life. Your success depends on learning how to not give-in to the superficial need for immediate gratification, but to override it in order to gain something much greater. It also helps to remember that immediate gratification is always fleeting—it never lasts. If you’re honest with yourself and clear about your desires, values, and priorities, it will be easy to make the right choices for the long-term.
Unfortunately, most of us haven’t developed our self-regulation skills in the area of our weight, so we need constant reminders to help us stay on track. It’s not because you don’t have “willpower” that you haven’t mastered your skills in this area. It’s simply because you haven’t practiced enough. By using the tools and techniques in this book, you will become more aware of the methods that lead to weight loss success, and eventually these new choices will become your new default thinking. The inner monologue cue cards at the end of the book will help you change your thoughts and actions and strengthen your self-regulation skills. With patience and practice, you will internalize these inner monologues which will eventually help you permanently rewire your brain and take away some of the conscious mental effort required to redirect your thoughts and actions.
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