Believing and Biases

Our brains have very robust mechanisms to defend our belief systems. All our beliefs are strongly shaped by preferential ways of thinking in the brain called BIASES. We have hundreds of types of thinking biases to filter information, make sense of things, and just get things done.

Two common biases we use on a daily basis are confirmation bias and in-group bias.

With the help of cognitive biases, family, teachers, friends, and environmental culture my brain built its first beliefs about how the world works. My first 12 years of education pointed my cognitive biases toward conforming. I learned things by rote, explored subjects others thought important, and followed the accepted rules of behavior.

My nursing education also did not encourage me to think out of the box or approach problems from a different perspective. My nursing profession continued this habitual conformity of thinking by valuing a focus on completing tasks, checklists, and economies of motion.

Over time my brain effortlessly applied beliefs built in childhood, school and work to other areas of my life like health and nutrition. I particularly liked to glom onto beliefs that were advertised by “smarter” people, supported by “science”, or promised “instant” results. I thought following their rules and beliefs would get me where I wanted to go.

Here are other people’s beliefs I used to believe:

  • I have to keep track of every calorie.
  • As I get older my metabolism slows down.
  • It is hard to lose weight.
  • No matter what I eat I always gain weight.
  • Other people eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight.

All these old beliefs were holding me back from losing and maintaining my goal weight and these beliefs are so negative!

So I thought up these new beliefs and am working on making them real for me:

  • The hunger scale is the only tracking tool I need.
  • My body knows how to balance its metabolism.
  • Losing weight is easy with the 4 basics.
  • I can eat anything to satisfaction.
  • I am not other people!

Beliefs are built on thoughts. Find out what yours are and if you still like them because what we think is what we do!

Fasting

Many of my nursing co-workers have asked about fasting.

What is it?

Is it hard to do?

Why do it?

For those of us in the medical field we routinely have to deal with irregular meal times, skipping meals, speed eating during short breaks, and feeling a bit of food insecurity because of our jobs. I propose thinking and dealing with these situations in a different, more purposeful and even healthy way. I want you to consider fasting while at work!

If you think this is a crazy idea then consider this. Think about how many of our surgeons operate non-stop the entire day with out eating. They are excellent examples of fasting during the day and obviously have loads of energy to get through their busy schedule!

Here are some core fasting topics and concepts for you to explore. I am using one of the best resources on fasting I have found to date by Dr. Jason Fung on his Intensive Dietary Management website.

This may shock you but you are already doing intermittent fasting if you sleep at night!

When I realized this I extended the time between supper and the following breakfast from 8 to 16 hours every day and lost 5 pounds in a month all without changing what I was eating.

Remember, “breakfast” means when we BREAK our fast and is not set in stone to be early in the morning. If your body is not hungry in the morning why eat and put on more stored fat?

Fasting can be another FREE tool in your weight loss/weight maintenance toolbox. Along with drinking water, sleeping 7+ hours a night, planning meals, eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied you are set for life!

Diet Myths

Diet myths and even some nutrition science keep us confused and looking for the next thing that may work for us.

Here are some diet and food myths perpetuated by the sales and marketing arms of our current food, diet, and exercise industries:

  • Never skip breakfast.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  • I have to get a lot of protein in my diet.
  • Calories in = Calories out.
  • You must be on a diet to lose weight.
  • Fats are bad.
  • We need to look like models.
  • All carbohydrates are bad.
  • Eating 3 meals a day and 2 snacks is normal.
  • Skipping a meal means you can eat more at the next meal.
  • Skipping meals is bad for your metabolism.
  • You can eat more if you exercise more.

Think about each of these myths. If you believe in any of them search out how true they really are.

I am currently reading The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. She is an excellent investigative journalist who spent a decade tracking down why our culture vilifies fat in our diet. The book brings into question six decades of science that support the low-fat diet pushed by our own government.

We don’t need a diet fix based on myths built by marketing or incomplete science.

However, a diet that nourishes your body is a good idea. If you are keeping your body hydrated, rested, moving around, and nourished with food as Mother Nature made it you get rewarded by a body that works well. You are rewarded with good poops, strong joints, a clear mind, energy, and a feeling of wellbeing.

By contrast, a lifestyle absent these nourishing activities, full of sugar, processed foods, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or too much of anyone thing rewards us with fatigue, a foggy brain, sore joints, bad poops, gastric upset, and an overall feeling of imbalance.

“The iron rule of nature is: you get what you reward for. If you want ants to come, you put sugar on the floor.” (Charles Munger, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway)

If you want a healthy body, put healthy beliefs and habits in your brain!

Self-Care

If you have ever had a belief that food offers comfort then you may relate to my struggle to NOT eat and comfort myself with food.

In my 44 years of helping people as either a nurse’s aide or a nurse I have collected many stressful working days. People have died, suffered, yelled, cried, hit, and spit in front of me. I frequently hurt my back and routinely went without meals and pee breaks. I have seen co-workers get physically assaulted, cry, be humiliated, endure censure, not get credit for their excellent work, and do what ever needed doing to get the job done for their patients. Nurses routinely work with headaches, backaches, a sick child at home, low-wages, and a complete lack of gratification from co-workers, physicians, administration, and patients.

How do we shrug all this negativity off? How do we complete the transition from the often-brutal physical and mentally exhausting work environment to our completely different home environment? I have habitually done it by comforting myself with food.

But can I call food a comfort or a friend if it puts fat on my body? Nope. I need to care for myself better than that!

I do not have much mind power left after work. I love my job and the people I work with on a daily basis. I rarely encountered any of the situations I listed in the above paragraph at my current job. But work is still very physical, extremely challenging, and requires frequent intense concentration and mindfulness to keep our patients safe, physicians happy, and the work flowing forward. We do this for eight or more hours and then go to our second home jobs with very little willpower, ability to concentrate, or energy left over!

With this in mind I am going to make my transition from work to home easier. Instead of beating myself up for wanting to eat right after work I will allow myself to eat WHEN my primitive brain wants. I am going to consciously allow my emotional “hunger” from my primitive brain to eat as soon as I get home. However, my primitive brain needs to follow these steps I planned ahead of time:

  • Prep food on my meal plan
  • No tasting during meal preparation
  • Eat sitting at the table
  • No distractions while eating
  • Ask myself with each bite if a food is still giving me pleasure
  • If a food is no longer pleasurable then stop eating it
  • Wrap up leftover food or throw away

I am planning ahead of time to give my primitive brain the instant gratification of prepping and eating food. But then I do the more important work of focusing on not overeating the meal!

Am I just giving my inner toddler the candy it wants? Or am I being kind to myself?

I am choosing to think I am being kind! And being kind to ourselves is the best form of self-care.