Written by Dr Lynette Mackey, Dietitian and Behavioural Change Consultant to the LifeShape Clinic.
As a client of LifeShape Clinic, I can imagine that you are highly motivated to do what it takes to lose your excess weight! This is a great goal, and the team and myself are looking forward to supporting you on your weight loss journey! My role and that of the team is to help you to stay aware of the behaviour change process throughout this journey. At the clinic you will receive specially targeted brain training sessions that have been designed to assist your transition to a healthy lifestyle as opposed to a weight loss mindset. As you achieve this mindset you will find that your weight will take care of itself. Possibly the most exciting part of this process is that you will enrich your life in total unexpected areas. The only catch is that you will achieve great personal as opposed to physical growth!
Your decision to join the clinic possibly arose from your frustration or feelings of helplessness as a result of an ongoing struggle to lose weight. If this is the case – you are not alone! As part of my research, I have interviewed people who have reported that they have been on more that 12 diets in their lifetime, yet they are still overweight or obese. So, what is going on? Why is behaviour change so difficult and why do you feel at times that your decision to eat healthfully may be “off line”?
One way to answer this question is to consider how the human brain is designed to make decisions. We possess two decision making systems in our brain. One is designed to make reflective, carefully thought out decisions. It is called upon whenever you are required to make a behaviour change. You used this system when you decided to Join the Life Shape Clinic and it is “online” when you say no to an unhealthy eating choice. It is responsive to your desire to look after your health and to achieve your goals. The other is designed to keep things running on automatic pilot and to make reactive or impulsive decisions that are often automatic and habitual. It is a reactive system that has been designed to keep you alive, out of trouble and safe! If we still lived in a cave – it is this system that would drive your fight/flight response in response to being chased by that tiger! It is also the system that would have driven your motivation to consume whatever was available as food was scarce. However, in today’s “obesogenic” environment, an over reliance on this system can get you into trouble with your weight. You guessed it! You use this system whenever you give into temptation and act out of habit! To change unhealthy eating behaviours into healthy ones, we need to activate our responsive brains so that they are “online” and able to override the short-term, reactive impulses that are arising from the reactive brain system.
When we make a choice or a decision – we can only use one brain system at a time and there are many reasons why one system may be in control versus another. To be successful in your weight management efforts, you need to power up your responsive brain to help you to make healthy eating behaviour and lifestyle decisions. If the balance of power goes to your reactive brain, you will give into temptations, struggle with the behaviour change process and your weight The good news is that there is a way out of this conundrum. Please stay tuned for next month’s instalment.