You Don’t Need A New Diet, You Need A New Mindset.

Expert
Self

There is a key problem with the culture of the weight loss industry today. We’re constantly being sold short-term solutions for something that is a long-term problem. As consumers, we’re always looking for the magic solution that will “fix” our problem, and the big corporations are all too willing to sell us a new one every week. This cycle has turned weight loss into a multi-billion-dollar industry. You see the companies raking in all that money have no real interest in helping you conquer your weight once and for all. They may hope you succeed, but only long enough to take a great before/after picture and rave to everyone about their product, service, plan, or pill. Then they’re secretly hoping you fall off the wagon, gain all the weight back (or more), and go back out, with a fat stack of cash, looking for the next magic pill. What’s most curious is that people already know this. I hear people say it all the time:

“It has to be a lifestyle change.”

Then they go right out looking for a quick fix. So why do we struggle to do what we know we must do to succeed? Well, I believe it has to do with some basic facts of our neurology.

The Weight is a symptom, not the Disease.

We might not realize it, because all of these products and services are advertised as cures, but the reality is that they’re only band-aids. You see the weight is not the real problem it’s just a symptom of something bigger, and all those pills and programs they sell are mere treatments for a symptom of the real disease. So, what’s the real problem? Well, the specifics, of course, are different for everyone, but the answer is our mindset. No matter what the weight loss program you chose, long-term success will be 80% mindset and only 20% mechanics. Here are three reasons our mind gets in our way:

Your brain is not designed to make you happy

According to the 1960 book written by American physician Paul D Maclean our brain is made up of three distinct parts representing three phases of our evolution. These three parts are the human brain, the mammal brain, and the reptilian brain. It is the reptilian brain that is responsible for our desire to take the path of least resistance. You see, while the human portion of the brain is concerned with language, ideas, and concepts, and the mammal part of the brain is busy dealing with our feelings and emotions, the reptilian brain is constantly in the background worried about our survival. It controls all of our involuntary functions (think: heartbeat, breathing, organ functions). This part of our brain is absolutely necessary and benefits us in some amazing ways, but it’s not designed to make you happy it’s designed to keep you alive. And, since for the most part, we have all of our basic needs met our reptilian brain almost gets bored. What do you do when you get bored? You go looking for something to do, right? Well, when your reptilian brain gets bored it does the same thing. It goes looking for something to protect you from, and in doing so tends to interpret anything uncomfortable as a threat to your survival. What that means is anytime we get outside our comfort zone that reptile brain is back there saying:

“Dude, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to kill us! STOP!”

This is why we quit when things get difficult and why we look for a quick fix that will get us through the pain in the shortest amount of time possible and back to our nice comfortable life (you know, the one that caused all the problems).

So how do you teach your subconscious reptile brain that your conscious human brain is the one in charge? Well if you spend any time with a personal trainer (and at this point in my life I’m happy to say I DO!) then you’ll undoubtedly, at some point, here the phrase:

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

In short, that’s how you take control. By consistently feeling that fear; that desire to quit and go back to comfort and pushing through it (I actually prefer being PULLED through it, but that’s another blog) you’re conditioning your brain to know that you’re in charge.

2. Your brain does not like to admit that it’s wrong.

So maybe this is more psychology than neurology, but our ego loves to make excuses. Our excuses are just a story we tell ourselves that keep us from taking responsibility for our situation, and as a result, kills our progress. This is true of all things, not just weight-loss. With health/weight, they sound something like this: “I’m big boned”, ”I have a low metabolism”, ”I just don’t have the time/money/discipline/etc. to lose weight”, or one of a million other things. What makes excuses so tempting is that there is an element of truth in them. You may very well have a low metabolism or an injury that keeps you from exercising, but no matter what your situation you played a part in creating it, and no matter what your challenge there is a solution. I submit to you that somewhere in the world there is a person with the same challenge that still managed to achieve the goal. Nothing changes in life until you take responsibility for your part in it. Gut check time:

Your actions caused the problem and your actions will be the solution.

Take a hard look at your situation, recognize the part you played in creating that situation, and get resourceful in finding a solution. There is no health challenge that cannot be overcome with the right nutrition and there is no injury that cannot be worked around. If you’re triggered by this and find yourself wanting to defend your story of why “it’s not my fault” then realize that is your brain resisting change, and this is your opportunity to make a huge shift in your thinking.

3. Your brain likes its routine.

Our brains have pathways just like a hiking trail. Some paths have been used frequently and are well worn. Others have only been traveled a handful of times and are barely visible. And just like a hiker following a trail our brains like to take the well-worn path. See if this story sounds familiar:

You start a new program of some sort and you’re really excited about the possibilities. You jump in 100% and get some great results for a while. Then something happens. You have a stressful day at work, a holiday, a friend’s birthday, or some other event happens and you get off track. Then once you’re off track you find it almost impossible to get back on. Before long you’ve lost all your progress and you chalk it up to just one more thing that didn’t work.

You see, when you start a new behavior like a diet or an exercise program you’re literally blazing a new trail in your mind and it’s going to take many trips to get it established and some time before the old paths get overgrown. This is why it’s so easy to get off track and feels so difficult to get back on. Some people can get through this with brute force. Just pushing through until the new behaviors are well established, but that’s a tough road, and until those old trails are completely obliterated your brain will keep leading you down the wrong path looking for the path of least resistance. A better option is to use our knowledge of the brain and continually conditioning it to do what you want. Consciously shaping your mind into exactly what it needs to be to achieve your goals. This is where tools like neuro-linguistic programming and neuro-associative programming come in. Techniques like this have been shown to create dramatic change in a short period of time compared to traditional therapies. Truly transforming your mind in this fashion is key to creating lasting change.

Final thoughts

The weight loss industry doesn’t want you to succeed long-term; they want a long-term customer. There’s no magic pill that’s going to solve your weight problem. You’re going to have to do it yourself and 80% of that equation is going to be your mindset. So don’t go to work looking for that one thing that’s finally going to work for you. Go to work shaping your mind into exactly what it needs to be to achieve your goals.

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This article was originally published at medium.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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