Mindset and body coaching to overcome emotional eating
Hi, everyone. Lucia Veracruz here, and welcome to the last lesson of week 3, Lesson 9. Today we will cover How do we form beliefs, How do we make decisions and The science of thinking.
In our last lesson, we talked about resolving conflict within society and accepting both sides of society so we know where we fit in.
You also should have done a personality test to explore your opposite traits and I wanted you to do 3 things that you would normally never do to help you accept the other side.
What we cover today summary:
- How do we form beliefs
- How do we make decisions
- The science of thinking
How do we form beliefs
First, what is a belief?
A belief is something we consider to be a fact (whether it is true or not) to help us fit in this world and to keep ourselves safe which is why we guard them carefully as they become engraved in us.
Knowing something is true is different from believing it to be true; knowledge is objective, but belief is subjective.
Sometimes our beliefs are merely our opinions.
E.g. Eating meat is good or bad, Lifting heavy weights is good or bad, Drinking cows milk is good or bad, etc…
We all have our beliefs that affect how we look at ourselves, others and the world around us and how we deal with our emotions and actions, that is why it is important to understand how we form them.
One thing said one time can become our reality until we realize that this is only our perception and it can be changed.
For example, if someone called you chubby, whether it was true or not, you would start wondering if it was true until you would believe that you were…
Our beliefs are so strong that they can make us the best in the world (believing that anything is possible) or they can also drive us to suicide (believing that life is not worth living).
We can’t always remember where we got some of our beliefs from but in most cases, they are formed when we draw conclusions from our experiences whether they are positive or negative which then strengthen our beliefs.
When we form a new belief and we decide to deny some part of ourselves, we often come across people who have different beliefs from us.
Until we change our beliefs, accept both sides and learn “our lesson”, we will always find ourselves emotionally affected by those who disagree with our beliefs.
How are beliefs formed?
Beliefs are formed either by our experiences and conclusions, by our memories and imaginations or by accepting what others told us to be true.
When we accept something to be fact and form a belief, it is stored in our subconscious mind.
Our subconscious mind does not know or care if the belief is true or false but it uses that information to automate our actions as a response to certain situations.
Our core beliefs are formed in our childhood by our parents, family, friends, teachers, etc. but as we start maturing (around the age of 9-10) we examine our beliefs based on evidence and facts.
And when we receive new information that contradicts our core beliefs, we will either change our beliefs, or disregard the new information or somehow fit the new information with our current beliefs.
Once we form a belief (whether is the truth or our imagination or perception), our brain looks for supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary.
One of the most important points about our beliefs is that:
WHAT WE BELIEVE WILL BECOME OUR REALITY (not the other way round) and we will be “BLIND” to what is contrary.
If you believe that you will get bitten by a shark, then the chances are that you will…
If you believe, that you always have bad luck, then you will never be lucky…
If you believe, that all the men are liars and cheaters then that will become your reality…
And the same applies to positive beliefs:
If you believe in miracles, then you will experience miracles…
If you believe that you can be balanced, then you will…
If you believe, that you attract positive, kind, loving people in your life, then you will…
How Our Beliefs Affect Our Behavior, Thoughts and Emotions
Each belief we have (even the negative one) serves a purpose which can help us grow or it can hold us back.
Believing that we can become whoever we want to be can help us to be motivated.
Believing that we are unlucky, can give us attention/ pity from other people to help us feel noticed.
Believing that we cannot control ourselves, allows us to continue with overeating and indulge in food.
Beliefs can be empowering or limiting in nature.
Limiting or negative beliefs hold us back and create negative thoughts and emotions.
Empowering or positive beliefs, allow us to believe in ourselves and create positive thoughts and emotions.
Just imagine how you would think, feel and act based on the examples of the following limiting and empowering beliefs:
Limiting belief: I cannot be slim no matter what I do, because I am “big boned”.
Empowering belief: I can be slim and healthy when I stop binging and eat balanced nutritious meals.
Limiting belief: I need to lose weight to be happy.
Empowering belief: I can choose to be happy no matter how much I weigh.
Limiting belief: I am like a grey mouse that hardly anybody notices because I am not attractive.
Empowering belief: I am beautiful on the inside and I shine every time I enter a room.
Limiting belief: Begin beautiful on the outside (my body) will make me more attractive and happy.
Empowering belief: Being beautiful on the inside (my heart, mind and soul) will make more attractive and happy than anything else in the world.
Limiting belief: Most people judge me and think that I am overweight.
Empowering belief: The majority of people in my life love me as I am in any shape and size.
Limiting belief: I can never be fit and in good shape, until the kids grow up or if I would have more time for myself.
Empowering belief: My health and fitness is determined by my priorities and efforts rather than lack of time and other excuses.
Limiting belief: This is not for me, this won’t work for me, because I am different. I don’t do this or that.
Empowering belief: If they can do it, with the right guidance and knowledge I can do it too.
Limiting belief: I will not succeed doing this program, because I always sabotage myself and give up at the end.
Empowering belief: This time I will succeed because I have all the tools to work on my mindset, brain and beliefs, which I have never done before.
So, start replacing your limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs and your reality will change.
What you believe is what will become your reality so be mindful of what it is!
Here is an example of how I changed one of my limiting beliefs:
I had this client who often said, he never got sick. And I thought, he was so lucky, I wished I never got sick too.
I noticed that in the last few years I had this limiting belief (I have been telling myself and others) that I always get sick and always get cold sores because my immune system is weak from being run down, lack of sleep and putting my body through such extremes in the past with exercise and dieting.
And even though it crossed my mind to change the way I think but my argument was, how do I convince myself of this lie if the opposite is true?
So first I had to take some steps to change my habits.
Having more rest and eating foods with nutrients that supported my immune system.
After more research, I also added daily meditation, deep breathing and cold showers.
Now here was the “old me” who hated cold water!
The old me used to say “I never swim in cold water until the end of summer unless it is more than 30 degrees outside and I am sweating.”
But I was determined to change my limiting beliefs in order to grow!
I still don’t like cold water but I take a cold shower any day, over being sick as a “dog” while trying to work, look after the kids and the household.
So now I can change my thinking and belief to:
“I am always healthy and energetic, even if I don’t get much rest and even if I come across sick people, germs and viruses!
My immune system is super strong from eating healthy, exercising, meditation, deep breathing and cold showers. My body functions like a brand-new Ferrari!”
And now I never get sick!
It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That is how powerful our beliefs are…
How do we make decisions
Neuroscience suggests that addressing the decision-making process itself is the key to breaking bad habits and our “obsession” with food.
Many of us spend our days making decisions whether they are minor or major like what to wear, what to eat, what to do or what to study, where to live, etc…
But how does the brain decide?
We often don’t realize that other than receiving information from our environment and surroundings we also receive information from our memory (thinking about the past) and our imagination (thinking about the future).
And what is interesting that our brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is in our memory or imagination.
We will have the same feelings regardless of the information being real or not.
For example, if we think of a memory that has caused us a lot of pain, we’d feel the pain right now as if it was really happening at the moment.
Or if we watch a movie which is sad, even though we know it’s not real, we’d still cry, like it was real.
In a process of making a decision we start by determining our goal, its value (risk versus reward), examining our options, choosing the right option and then using the outcome of this experience to adjust future decisions.
There are times when we make decisions that are wrong and then there are times when we make decisions that are right.
Understanding the neuroscience behind making a decision can be useful when learning new behaviors and changing bad habits.
When we think about making a decision for our long-term health and well-being, often our current feelings delay the process and we end up repeating our mistakes over and over.
Many bad decisions are the result of setting the wrong goals, asking the wrong questions and then responding to our mistakes with the wrong thoughts (shame, guilt).
So the first step of making a decision requires you to ask yourself a question:
“What, exactly, do I want?”
Decision-making is in the locus of your control.
You have the power to break patterns of behavior simply by making better decisions.
You can change your mind and your actions at any time.
Even when you’re stuck in a self-destructive cycle, a change of attitude and decision-making can turn your life around.
Same as you can train your body, you can train your mind and brain to make better decisions that are aligned with your higher goals by being more mindful of your thoughts and emotions.
What has helped me enormously was when I shifted my focus from having a better body (being beautiful on the outside) and having full control of my eating to being beautiful on the inside by nurturing my body and mind (like it was my child) in order to achieve balance and peace.
Once you’ve established your goals, you have to figure out how to reach them.
Your beliefs, experiences and personality will determine the options you consider.
People often confuse the brain and the mind thinking they are the same. Think of the brain as the hardware with all of the neurological connections, and the mind as the software.
The brain has collected all of your past decisions so you don’t have to overthink them every time a decision has to be made which is called “conditioning”.
Unfortunately, the brain follows these preconditioned patterns automatically regardless if they are good or bad, so not all of its functions are beneficial for your growth.
The untrained brain will continue to repeat old patterns of decision-making to keep you in your comfort zone rather than help you reach your full potential.
The good news is that you aren’t stuck in old habits, you can use your thinking reasonable mind to train your brain to change.
Look at the pattern of poor decisions you have made without judgment and see if you can notice a pattern that your decisions give you and use that information to move forward.
A good way to discover your patterns is to think of a decision you made recently that you wish you could do over again.
Were you stressed out, were you in a hurry, tired or unorganized?
Some people tend to make their poorest decisions when under pressure or by trusting instincts instead of logic.
As you bring awareness to your decision making patterns, you will start shifting the automatic response that is influenced by your emotions.
By consciously directing your mind to focus on what you want rather than allowing the automated part of the brain to take over, you will begin to make better decisions.
And to help you train your focus, a study found that only 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily can help you improve it and avoid self-destructive decision-making.
Meditation will help counteract deep-rooted tendencies however it is important to note, that meditation alone is not the solution, it is just another tool to use in the process of change.
Mindful decision-making can break down compulsive or addictive patterns and lead you to long-term health, balance and well-being.
The science of thinking
The most common problem that we face when trying to overcome emotional eating is that we keep doing the same things over and over:
- we keep eating when we get emotional, stressed, tired, sad even when we are not hungry or
- we keep dieting and restricting food or
- we keep over exercising to make up for a binge
and then we get in this automated mode that we cannot control.
It is because these habits and repetition then create an automated pattern in the “irrational” part of the brain that brings on the urges to overeat instead of the action we want.
This never-ending battle between what my rational brain wanted and my automated behavior (which was what I didn’t want) was driving me insane and making me feel extremely frustrated.
In psychology they refer to this as having two states of mind (reasonable and emotional) or in science they say that the brain is using two systems to process information:
- System 1: Reasonable- conscious/ rational/ logical voice in the head (the one we think we are) capable of following instructions. It is lazy, slow and limited based on working memory, holding a limited amount of information.
- System 2: Automated- subconscious/ irrational/ survival responding fast to triggers (emotions) because it is processing a large amount of information coming in through our sensors keeping some information but discarding most of it based on long term memory built up over the years.
Using the reasonable part of the brain takes a lot of effort and that is why the brain turns these systems into automated responses in order to “preserve energy” for other things.
We can overcome the limitations of the reasonable mind if we group the information into chunks that make more sense to us (by comparing and grouping the information based on what we already know).
By learning new things (new habits), we build more chunks in order to be able to process the information and store it in the long term memory and create new automated responses.
But this can only happen after the rational part of the brain has actively and effortfully processed and analyzed the new information multiple times by repetition.
Just like when you first learn to tie your shoelaces and you have to concentrate on doing it using up a large amount of your working memory but after a few goes, this process becomes automated.
Or when someone learns to play an instrument, first it takes a lot of focus, practice and repetition but after a while, they play that instrument without effort as if they were born with it.
This is often referred to as “muscle memory” even though the memory is not stored in the muscles but in the brain.
So, in most cases what appears to be extremely challenging and often impossible (to stop overeating), can be achieved by repetition and deliberate practice in the working logical part of the brain (in a reasonable state of mind) until it can be stored and automated and replace the old pattern.
Once you create these new patterns, you will be able to take the right action (make better food choices, eat just as much as you need without overeating) automatically without effort.
And the automated part of the brain is very efficient at discarding the learned responses that are no longer useful when they get replaced with better ones.
In week 2, I also talked about separating emotions from actions by acknowledging and processing the emotions first and then becoming an observer that can take over control by accepting oneself as a whole.
Once I became the observer, I was able to separate the two systems using the rational part of the brain looking at my character and its actions which has allowed me to control them.
So, the observer in a reasonable state of mind was in control of the actions that my character in an emotional state of mind would take.
The problem is that most people let their character/ emotions control their actions even when the observer doesn’t want those automated actions because doing otherwise would take a lot of effort.
If I am an emotional eater (using my automated part of the brain), then I can’t stop eating when I am sad, tired, stressed because the emotions are controlling my actions.
But if I am an observer in a reasonable state of mind, I understand that I am not an emotional eater but it is simply the automated pattern I have created with my habits of eating when I feel emotional.
Then I can use the rational part of my brain to process the information and my emotions and create new habits over and over again until they replace the old habits and become automated.
So let’s say I go and eat at a buffet restaurant and I “pig out” (like everybody else), and then I go home and my character (automated brain in an emotional state of mind) is telling me to keep eating because it is using the same automated response in my head every time:
“I have already stuffed up my diet, so I might as well just keep eating and start fresh tomorrow- lying to myself that today is the last day ever that I can eat whatever I want because, from tomorrow, I am only going to drink veggie juices and eat plain chicken salad…”
So, then as an automated response, I would go ahead and just keep eating anything I find at home (the more sugary, fatty and salty the better) until I could not eat anymore and fall asleep from exhaustion…
But if I am an observer using my reasonable state of mind, I can catch that thought and say:
“No, no, no, no this is just my automated brain trying to “preserve energy” so I don’t have to make effort and think and use my logical part of the brain.
But my observer knows well (based on countless experiences), that tomorrow I will not be dieting with plain boring tasteless food (because I never do) and today is not the last day that I can eat all of this “forbidden” food (because it never is).
So, there is no need to keep eating, let’s have a cup of green tea, brush my teeth, and tomorrow I start the day the same as any other day without punishment and guilt because they only lead to more binging anyway.”
Let the observer practice this over and over again until it becomes automated and you will not get any urges to overeat ever again!
If we are not aware of what state of mind we are in and what systems are we using to make decisions, then we are more likely to respond by mindless automated actions.
And in our next lesson, we will talk about Mental feedback loops and the Science of consciousness.
Thank you for completing this lesson, here is today’s homework and check out the implementation tips tomorrow that will help you to put this into practice.