Monday, March 5, 2012

Will it never ending?

I started reading a book by Chip and Dan Heath (yes, they are brothers) titled "Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard." I'm only half-way through it, but it's been such an interesting book that I wanted to share some of the information from it with you guys. Why?

Because losing weight IS a big change! You got the way you are because of the habits in your life. And changing the way you look will not happen unless you change the way you behave. Understanding how your brain works will only help you understand what your brain is doing in those moments of weakness.

So back to the topic for this email. Will power. What is it? Basically it's an attempt by your logical/rational brain to keep the emotional brain from doing something that it wants to. In the book "Switch" the authors make the analogy of an elephant and the rider. The emotional brain in us is like an elephant. It's big, it's strong, but it can be a certain extent. The rider is analogous to the rational logical brain. Basically the rider guides the elephant along a directed path. But here's where things get interesting.

You see the elephant - our emotional brain - can take over in a hurry, especially if the rider - our logical brain - isn't directing it where to go. If we let the elephant just go where it wants, it's going to cause problems. Not just because it's unpredictable, but because it's so stinkin' strong! However, the rider usually doesn't have much of a problem directing the elephant. The elephant will go where the rider takes it as long as the path is clear and the elephant knows what to expect. And this is where we get back to my point about will power. You see, will power comes from our rational brain/the rider.

The rider can only keep the elephant doing something it doesn't want to do for so long. If the rider becomes exhausted, the elephant will run wild. We see this a lot in our culture in that many people are emotional eaters. The rider has lost control and the elephant is running wild.

Bringing this back around to our eating habits and changing our behavior, will power is a limited commodity. It cannot and will not last you for very long. This is why people who struggle with emotional eating, can't say "well I only keep these cookies in my house as a special treat." Because their will power to not eat them will eventually run out, the elephant will run wild and they'll eat the entire box of cookies and then come back to reality in this sugar coated daze. It's the same reason that when your stomach is grumbling and you haven't eaten all day, you'll eat just about anything in sight: the rider is asleep and the elephant is running loose!

To really change behavior, you have to start small. Big changes will "spook the elephant." At that point, no matter how logical the benefit of the habit is, the person will not engage in changing the behavior. Your goals must appeal to both the logical brain and the emotional brain. This is why in the last blog post I sent you, I suggested you send yourself a postcard from the future. This stimulates the elephant to move. The path is clear: come to the Hi-5 FitCamp and start with a simple habit like eating from smaller plates.

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