No More Failed Diets: Hack Your Brain to Make Your Diet Work

 In Healthy Living, Nutrition

No More Failed Diets: Hack Your Brain to Make Your Diet Work

It’s that four-letter word we all dread. The one that sneaks into your head when your favorite jeans don’t fit quite right. The one that makes you drool silently over your co-worker’s plate of pasta. The one that has you drinking extra glasses of water and counting every last calorie all day. The word even makes me cringe. Diet.

Yet, we’ve all fallen into that trap of feeling the pressure of declaring that we’re on a diet. We tell ourselves that we MUST follow through with prohibiting ourselves the pleasure of our favorite foods. Yet it’s easy to fall away from our plans and indulge now and then. The trick is to retrain your brain so that it is easier to keep focused on your goal, lose the weight, and keep it off for good.

The Diet Trap Solution
I recently read a book called “The Diet Trap Solution.” It discusses all of the reasons – or excuses – we have to eat when we aren’t necessarily hungry. More often than not, our habits – for any of the actions we take – are based in some sort of subconscious rationale. Judith Beck pinpoints these rationales and has defined several different categories.

  • Emotional eating
  • Stress relief
  • Food pushers
  • Eating for others
  • Travelling and eating out
  • Holidays
  • Psyching ourselves out
  • Getting off track accidentally and staying there

I know that I’ve fallen into several of those categories at different times. Sometimes several at once. The first step is to figure out what your triggers are. Once you can do that, you can get yourself on a track to retrain your brain and create new, healthier habits.

Excuses We Use
Ask yourself if you’ve thought – or even said out loud – any of these excuses to overeat:

  • “I’m upset and this ice cream will make me feel better.”
  • “I have too many things to do already. I can’t track my food, too.”
  • “If I don’t eat what my mom is offering, she’ll get upset.”
  • “I’m on a diet, the rest of my family isn’t. They shouldn’t need to sacrifice for me.”
  • “I’m out of town, it doesn’t matter what I eat these two days.”
  • “It’s a holiday. I can eat whatever I want.”
  • “I can’t stop myself. Those burgers looked so good.”
  • “I already ate too many calories. One more cookie can’t hurt. I’ll take an extra walk later and get back on track tomorrow.”

Make a Lasting Change
We all have challenges to overcome. Once we recognize our patterns or at least the stories we tell ourselves, we can start working on fixing our thinking. The more tuned in we are to what we think and how we act, the more obvious our behavior becomes to us.

I have a couple of things that have helped me stay focused and I’ve been able to apply these techniques to other things I do. The insight I’ve gained has been invaluable and the changes I’ve made are incredible. The only thing you’ll need is a notebook, your table, or anything you can use to keep track of your thoughts.

  1. Set a plan for the day. It can be a goal for you to not snack between meals or a calorie count for the day.
  2. Any time you feel tempted to stray from your plan, write down:
    • What you are craving
    • Any thoughts running through your mind
    • At least one reason why you should reach your day’s goal
    • What you eat. You don’t even need to track calories, just what you eat.
  3. Keep track of what you’ve done to avoid that extra bite. It could be to drink a glass of water. It could be to go for a quick walk.

Review what you’re doing. Learn new ways to deal with any situations that can be triggers for you to eat. Remember – be strong in your commitment to make changes in your habits. Don’t let anyone convince you to stray from your plan.

Embrace the Process
Don’t be so hard on yourself if you stumble from time to time. The point is that you are making changes with each decision you make. If you are cognizant of struggling to avoid a late night stack, you are already changing. Keep track of even those milestones.

Most people believe it takes three weeks or so to make a significant change. Not that I want to burst your bubble, and I definitely don’t want to discount your effects, but it takes daily effort to make long term change. And that’s okay. If we don’t stay on top of our behaviors, it can be so incredibly easy to let one day of a slip up turn into several days. Several days turn into weeks.

But it also takes one day of success to result in one week of success. One week of success can lead to a month of success.

Overcome Cravings
There is no doubt that food can be an extremely pleasurable indulgence. Think about the last time you ate your favorite treat. I bet you just smiled to yourself.

Scientists have proven that just like a drug or alcohol, food can change our brains. Unlike drugs or alcohol, we can’t quit or avoid food completely. It all comes down to changing our thoughts so we can change our behavior. I know that if you commit to overcoming your undesired eating habits, you can do it.

Keep Going
If you feel yourself getting hungry, set a timer. Wait ½ hour and if you are still craving an extra cookie, write down what you’re thinking, what you’re craving and why you shouldn’t do it. Set the timer for another ½ hour and reread what you wrote. If you REALLY want that cookie still after an hour, decide if you want to indulge.

I’ve found that it’s MUCH easier to break things down into small increments at first. You can’t expect to do 100 sit-ups the first day. Break them down. Increase the time or amount little by little. Instead of grabbing a cookie, grab some celery. Replace your go-to.

You can change your thinking and your behavior. I know you can. I believe in you. Small alterations in habits lead to big changes if we stick to them. Get that notepad ready and starting building the new you.


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