Hello my sweet friends. How are you? ARe you navigating the 3-d world well? Last week I had several aha moments about some emotions I’ve been sitting with for several weeks. They showed up with just a gentle unfolding (and then what felt like a cascade of breakthroughs). I saw the connection of emotions, thoughts, physical experiences, and behaviors were all interacting. It was like a veil had been lifted when I finally saw the underlying belief that was driving it all. It was freeing for sure.
That’s not what I’m talking about this week exactly, but it’s relevant. Because so often it feels like I have been sitting in the same place for so long and that NOTHING is going to change. And then it does. Usually right as I am about to give up, things change. This has been true of my emotional or physical health. I sit with something, and I get to the point of “NO MORE” and it changes.
I see this often when my clients want to change what they eat and they want to see changes right away. Some of my clients want to lose weight and some want to have more energy right away, and sometimes it can take time for the body to react to the changes in what is being eaten.
Here’s what happens; there is something new that needs to be incorporated into daily life (exercising more, sleeping more, or changing food patterns). It’s new and it’s different, so there’s an emotional reaction as well as thoughts that arise about the change (usually something like it’s too hard, I can’t do this, I wish I could eat BREAD). The brain is resisting because change is happening and the brain doesn’t like to change. It wants to stay the same. So the resistance is there which we spoke about in a previous episode. So the brain says NO I DOn’t want to CHANGE. So it’s looking for every reason to STOP this new routine or food or whatever you are doing differently.
What we know about neural change from brain retraining (called neuroplasticity) is that if we want to see change it takes THOUSANDS of trials to make new connections in the brain that feel effortless. This is called massed practice. So those changes in the brain that feel HARD it’s because you haven’t become a master of that yet and you just have to practice it more.
A second principle is neuroplasticity is that new neuronal connections happen more quickly if the training is intensive. What that means is that doing it all at once is actually helpful instead of spreading it out a little bit at a time. Intensive training of what you want to do will help develop those new pathways and those new connections that you want in order to make it feel easier over time.
So there you are, trying to make a change, the brain is resisting and says NO I’m not going to and it feels HARD because it is new. The brain gets tired because it is having to make lots of new choices and decisions. This is decision fatigue and of course the food system in our country is set up to encourage you to eat things that are not healthy. They don’t make more money off spinach and lentils!
How do you use this knowledge to help you change your eating patterns? What do you do when you reach this point?
First of all, knowing that is going to be uncomfortable is of great support here. It’s not supposed to be easy and so when it feels hard it means there is actually nothing wrong with you. It’s just hard because that’s how the brain works. It wants to save energy by doing what it’s always done, and you are asking it to do something different.
Second, come up with why this change is important to you. The reason you are doing this change has got to be strong enough to carry you through challenging moments. Going to your friends’ birthday party and being surrounded by all the things that are not on your new nourishment plan without a strong WHY is not going to work. Even just being in the house and there are m&m’s in the cabinet is going to be hard when you are not having sugar or dairy. Especially when you are tired at the end of the day. Remember, the brain wants EASY. Willpower doesn’t work, so you have to have a reason. Is it to have energy to play with your kids? Or maybe it is to be able to go dancing with your friends? Or have enough energy to apply for that new job? What do you want and why? This is what you want to practice thinking.
Third, keep noticing. This is going to be one of the most powerful tools. Notice what thoughts are present. Notice what emotions pop up when you reach for the donuts. Bring as much compassionate awareness without judgement. Attention helps to drive change, and awareness is attention.
Finally, you have to prepare for these moments when the brain gets fatigued. It will resist. It will fight against you. Your job is to use your energy ahead of time so that when you are tired and hungry you aren’t going to cave. Put meditation on the calendar. Make meal plans. Get rid of the offending food from your house. Go shopping and have lots of quick grab foods that fit your new nourishment plan. Work with someone that will help support you in figuring this out so you don’t have to. I provide a week’s worth of recipe ideas with what they would need to purchase at the store. This will help with the consistency. When you are adding in new food items or removing new food items the “just one bowl of ice cream” doesn’t work. It not only disrupts the body’s ability to detox, it also has just given your mind the opportunity to not stick to the new nutrition plan. It has disrupted the thousands of trials you are conducting to create new neuronal pathways.
Does that mean you should beat yourself up if you are not able to make the changes you want. Of course not! As I mentioned previously it’s all about compassionate awareness. Oh look at how I just ate the whole tub of ice cream. Ok, well, I didn’t want to do that, I wonder what happened? I wonder why I pulled out the ice cream? How can I help support myself?
Ok dear ones, I hope this is helpful as you change how you nourish your body. Thank you so much for listening. I’m seeing all of you in your own divine light. Take good care of yourself.