As I shared in last week’s blog, I have made a commitment to lose a serious amount of weight. And I have been successful thus far – I’m in week #4 and it’s going well.
And by script I mean a food habit. I had many food habits that had to be assessed and most of them needed to be completely re-written. Here are some new habits I’m picking up:
- I no longer eat grains
- I no longer eat sugar
- I eat a lot less dairy
- Very few desserts or sweet things are allowed in my new diet
- I eat a lot more vegetables
- I eat a lot more nuts
- I use ground almonds instead of flour
- I am allowed one ‘cheat day’ a week where I can have some of those things I used to have all of the time
- I am learning to exercise more frequently
I have made these changes for many reasons. But the one I will talk about today has to do with our food habits.
As I child I was taught to eat certain foods and to like certain tastes. Those same food habits are still with me today. I have used them so often that they have created a neural highway in my brain that is so well used it is like an 8-lane highway – super fast with a lot of traffic on it. Because these food habits have such active and large neural highways inside my brain they fire and cause me to act before I’m really conscious of what I’m doing. So getting conscious was a really, really important first step in this whole process.
I needed to be AWARE of what I was eating and drinking – at all times.
So I’m at a meeting and someone brings in coffee and donuts. In the beginning stages of changing my food habits, I would have my hand in the donut box before I realized. But NO – you can’t have this. I have to remind myself that I have almonds in my purse – pull them out and snack on them instead. Every fiber in me was screaming for the donut – not because I had to have it but because my brain was used to it and expected to be allowed to have it.
Giving in to your food habits is like giving in to a child who is having a tantrum. That’s why the first 21 days of a new food regime is SO critical. You are quite honestly fighting against your own brain that is hard wired to EXPECT certain foods at certain times of the day. And when you deny it what it wants, it throws a tantrum! And when we are tired or out of sorts or we have had a bad day, guess what? We give in.
So knowing all of this, I was prepared with a food plan that took into account 3 meals a day for 7 days. I knew what meals I would have and what snacks would be available. I had pre-bought the groceries for the week and spent time on the weekend pre-making some of the main meals that I would need to have on hand in order to see me through the week. The food plan was clear in my mind and I was RIGID in executing it – especially in the initial 21 days, which is the length of time it takes to form a new neural habit.
But here’s what I knew and what you also need to know: The new neural habit that is only 21 days old is fresh – it is like a newborn. It’s not yet a super 8-lane highway in your head. It is more like a dirt road through the countryside. So you have to continue using the new habits in order for the neural highway to become strong, secure, and well-travelled.
Not only is food a habit – it’s an addiction. Those flavours and tastes we so love are addictions our body has become used to and it takes time to shake them. So it’s critical that you pay attention and stay committed at all times. Furthermore, you need to have a plan about how you will deal with those moments when you want to give in and go back to old habits – because they are still in your brain, folks! It will take months to really build new habits that will take over where the old habits were.
And those people who have lost the weight and then regained it? Their old food habits were still wired up. Losing focus on the new habits simply caused them to reconnect to old wiring and, before long, they were back at it.
I know it’s just my head. And understanding why it is so compelling helps me to ‘not give in’ and to persevere until the new habits wire. Committing to this new regime takes time because your body is not going to like it right off the bat. You need to learn to like new things – and that takes time. In order to be healthy, food needs to become fuel rather than entertainment or a source of pleasure.
These are the habits and mindsets I am working to rewire in order to improve my health and wellbeing. I’ve done this in my business over the last several years, and I will continue to do it in the years to come. How about you? Which neural highways are firing in your brain that you need to rewire? Which country roads are in need of building up? I’d love to hear from you!