Mindset and body coaching to overcome emotional eating
Hi, guys. Lucia Veracruz here, and welcome to Lesson 14. Today we will talk about The rules of averages, Reward-based learning by positive reinforcement and How to manage urges.
In our last lesson, we discovered Synchronicity and confirmation bias and I have also shown you my personal daily mindset training, routines and habits.
What we cover today summary:
- The rules of averages
- Reward-based learning by positive reinforcement
- How to manage urges
The rules of averages
Most emotional eaters are constantly in a battle with doubt especially when they have a few “bad” days.
What it means is, that one day we are on a roll, feeling really confident, motivated and in control, then, a few days later, we are in total panic because we had a few parties to go to, we ate too much and we start to worry that we will fall back into our old ways.
We might start questioning our food choices, our ability to stick to our new routine and implementing what we have learned.
It’s like we are constantly swinging from one state where we are feeling extremely confident to this other state where we are filled with doubt.
Understanding why this happens will help us immensely because we will know what it is, and how to deal with it. That’s why this lesson is important.
So why does this happen?
Well, this happens because of regression to the mean (or rules of averages) just like we would see when we flip a coin.
The odds of seeing head or tails are 50/ 50 but we never see those odds equally distributed.
So if I was to flip a coin 10 times in a row, it won’t be 5 times heads and 5 times tails, it might be something like 3 heads and then 7 tails…
The same would happen playing roulette. We would see a few reds in a row then a few blacks in a row but never 50/ 50 even though the chances are 50/50.
The effects of regression to the mean can also be frequently observed in sports, where the effect causes plenty of unjustified speculations.
For example, a gold medal swimmer will do really well most of the time looking at a large number of swimming trials however not so well some other times…
And that’s when the coaches or commentators would come up with all kinds of speculations to explain their decline in performance.
The rules of regression suggest that when evaluating performance, we must rely on track records more than outcomes of specific situations. Otherwise, we are prone to be disappointed.
And the same will apply to our “performance” or our ability to control our emotions, some days we will be on the roll and some days we will be a bit off…
It is never 100% this way or that way, the odds are all clustered together.
And in reality, the science of performance is complex, situation dependent and often depended on our mindset at a time.
Regression to the mean is a natural thing to experience and it’s how numbers and statistics work.
So the distribution is never equal, but if we look at the average between all of those over a longer period of time there will be some sort of order to this.
Averages don’t show themselves in small datasets so it is very important to always look at a big picture.
E.g. Instead of thinking that you failed because you had a terrible weekend where you ate and drank like a fish and you will need to go on a diet…you must always look at the big picture and see how well you have been doing overall in the last few weeks.
And when you work out the average, you’ll see that you were doing pretty good 80% of the time making better choices, following your routine and 20% of the time having fun, “letting your hair down” and enjoying life.
When you continue doing this for a long period of time, you will achieve and be able to keep the new found balance and get in shape without restrictions and dieting.
So don’t judge yourself based on daily “performance” but look at the big picture, otherwise, in a small data set (looking at a couple of days) you might panic wanting to change your new habits because of doubt.
And remember, that now with your new mindset, you will not let the “bad days” bring you down and affect you emotionally because you will be able to pull through every single time.
Reward-based learning by positive reinforcement
When we get in a habit of eating sugary, salty or fatty foods, our brain associates that with a feeling of pleasure and stores that information in our irrational part of the brain to become automated.
So next time we feel bad, we tend to automatically look for those kinds of foods to help us feel good and repeat this every single time (a reward- based process).
So instead of hunger, our emotional states trigger that need to eat and turns this repetition into a habit that seems impossible to break.
I talked about creating new automated habits to break the old patterns that don’t serve us in the previous lessons but what I wanted to tap into this time was another strategy I used when I quit smoking (20 years ago).
On an intellectual level, my rational part of the brain knew I shouldn’t smoke, but for some reason, I was not able to break that habit because it was rewarding for me (helping me manage stress).
The logical brain tries really hard to control our actions, but then as soon as we get emotional (tired, stressed, sad, etc.), that part of the brain switches off and the automated responses take over.
That is why it is so important to separate the two systems (rational and irrational) and create new habits.
So one day, I have decided that instead of forcing myself to quit and fight the urges (which I was convinced wasn’t going to work for me), I would experiment with myself.
I didn’t forbid myself to smoke, on a contrary I decided that I am going to continue smoking, but instead of having a cigarette every hour or so, I would try and see if having 3-4 a day would be enough.
And to my surprise, it was…
Then I thought, that I will try and see if having one after lunch and dinner would be enough, and after a few days, it was…
And then I went a next step further where I just wanted to hang on to one cigarette after dinner.
I continued to have one a day for a couple of weeks until one day I ran out of cigarettes.
And instead of rushing to buy more, I just got curious and I wondered how would I feel, if I didn’t buy any, and to my surprise, I felt good…
That way I was able to let go of the old habits and form new ones and I never looked back since…
And after a while, I got so sensitive, that I couldn’t even stand the smell of cigarettes…
I went from knowing it in the logical part of my brain that smoking was bad for me to knowing it deep in my bones that I will never touch cigarettes again and with that my urges to smoke went too.
And I applied the same principles to my emotional eating.
Rather than giving up and restricting unhealthy foods and alcohol or committing to a diet, I got curious about how would I feel if I swapped the unhealthy foods I craved for more nutritious foods that satisfied me.
And I felt great!
In the past, the more I restricted certain foods, the more I wanted them.
But as soon as I knew that I could have them if I wanted to, after a while I didn’t even want them anymore.
Mindfulness is just about being really interested in what is happening in our bodies and minds at a present moment.
And this interest to observe ourselves is supported by curiosity which is naturally rewarding and it feels good.
So we replace the old reward with a new one.
And what happens when we get curious?
We stop for a moment and we wait to see what happens next…
We start noticing things we couldn’t “see” before.
Like our emotions appear out of nowhere, they make us feel a certain way for a moment and then they go.
And then we realize that we can actually manage them without turning to any “suppressants” whether it’s food, cigarettes or alcohol and we replace our old fear-based, reactive patterns to mindful, objective ones.
This might sound very simple to overcome such huge issues such as addictions of any kind but studies show that mindfulness training is twice as effective than traditional forms of therapy.
How to manage urges
Wishing you had will power and no urges to eat unsatisfying food will not make them go away.
Urges can be physical, psychological or both when physical urges can influence our emotions and our emotions can influence our appetite.
Same as the waves in the ocean, our urges come and go…what goes up, must come down.
So, if we wouldn’t respond to our urges to binge eat, the urges would get stronger like big waves but then they would break and fall same as the urges would just disappear.
We often go through the day having different kind of urges (to have a nap, to have another coffee, to have a glass of wine, etc…), but as we get busy or when things don’t go as planned (we run out of coffee), we forget about them and simply move on.
However, when we indulge in a craving, then we crave more and have more difficulty to resist… and the more we indulge in this habit, the more automated it becomes.
The more we use food to cover our emotions, the more engraved this habit becomes creating neural pathways in the process.
By deliberately focusing on changing our behavior, we can modify the neurological pathways involved.
And we can do this by being mindful, labeling the emotions and using the logical part of the brain to manage them.
Delaying and eventually not satisfying the urge with food when we are not hungry, will weaken the urge.
And creating a new response will create a new neural pathway.
Not satisfying the urge does not mean that we are depriving ourselves.
It is not forbidden to satisfy our urges, we are just being mindful about what happens if we don’t.
We don’t need to suppress our urges all the time but we need to make that decision with an intention rather than mindlessly indulging because we cannot cope with our emotions.
When we do decide to satisfy them, it is important to be present and mindful in order to really enjoy the experience.
So there you go, a few more strategies to implement, as you are going through the process of transformation.
And in our last lesson of the program, we’ll talk about Tracking of progress and adjustments and How to get unstuck, if you feel like you are not able to move forward.
Thank you for completing today’s lesson, you are nearly at the finish line, keep up the good work and don’t forget to do your Homework and implement what you have learned today.